Explore the Great Sand Dunes
Colorado › High Dune
Added by Justin Ritucci
Explore Colorado's most unique landscape and photograph North America's tallest sand dunes. Slide down the massive dunes on a sand board or sled and then cool off in the Medano Creek, right at the base of the dunes.
The Great Sand Dunes are one the most unique landscapes in Colorado. These massive dunes are the tallest sand dunes in North America. Hiking these dunes can be very difficult, but well worth the amazing views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. If you plan on visiting in the summer, be sure to wear closed footwear. The sand can get up to 140 °F in the summer months.
Be sure to bring a sled or rent a sand board at the Oasis shop right before the park entrance. The dunes can be very fun to sled down. It slides best when it is a little bit wet right after it rains. After hiking the dunes be sure to cool down in the Medano Creek, right at the base of the dunes.
- Sled/sand board
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Chillin, Hiking, Photography
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Great Sand Dunes is amazing. It feels so out of place if you're used to the open plains and towering mountains of Colorado, but have spent your summers wandering the dunes at Outer Banks - sand dunes belong at the ocean, not next to snow capped mountains, right? Make sure you take time to go to the Visitor's Center and learn about how these marvels were formed. It gives you a much grander appreciation for what you're climbing on. Also - sand is HARD to walk in. Prepare to struggle uphill and leave with boots filled with sand. It's been mentioned, but MAKE SURE you have coverage if it's going to be windy. We passed a man who grunted "it feels like I'm being attacked with millions of needles" as he struggled along in shorts. It's beautiful, especially so in the winter, and it is a must-see if you're in Colorado.
We drove here in the dark, and got such an amazing surprise waking up to the sun rising over the sand dunes. Had so much fun wandering around in the sand and the views are amazing. Definitely worth adding to a road trip!
So Much More Beyond
Seconding comment about not realizing the immense beauty until you're at the base looking up. But definitely work your way up-- two steps up one slide down at a time. The views from the top peak over the dune valley are amazing. The juxtaposing sand dunes against snow capped mountains are breath taking. Soft sand. Warm rays. And a cool creek to splash in after summit. Bring a beer to crack at the top and double check for sand critters that like to crawl into your pack or socks-- though some even climb shoeless.
I'm not gonna lie, rolling up to the dunes I was a little disappointed. From a distance it doesn't look like much. But once I got out into the park and onto the dunes it was incredible. Such a cool spot to check out
Hike High Dune
At 700ft tall, High Dune is the second tallest dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park. It takes about three hours to hike to the top and back, depending on your fitness level and how well acclimated to high altitude you are. Every step forward is also a half-step back in soft, steep sand. There are no marked trails, so you'll have to eyeball your route. Here's the easiest way to get to the top. Park in the lot adjacent to the dune field. Cross over the flat portion of the sand and as you approach the base of the dunes, look for the highest peak visible. That's the top of High Dune. Stay to the right of the first major depression in the sand. Climb to the top of the peak about mid-way up the dune. Follow the ridge that curves to the right, then back over to the left all the way to the top of the dune. If you get out there early enough, you'll have the dune and surrounding 360-degree view of the entire dune field to yourself. You'll quickly forgot how much work it was getting up there once you check out this view. Plus, getting down is much faster and much more fun.
Spring and early summer are the best times to catch Medano Creek when it's high, just be aware that this is the windy season in the San Luis Valley. Pack layers and eye wear to guard you from getting sandblasted.
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