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Robin Pfeifer

An endlessly curious travel writer who simply cannot sit still.

The jumping cholla will get you if you're not extremely careful. It's very easy to pick up a broken-off section of the plant along the trail, so be very diligent about where you step.

It was breathtaking to hike up and over the ridge and see such a vibrant patch of life spring from the rocks. If you've never experienced the magic of a real-life oasis, this is a must-see for any visitor to the park. Even the air feels and smells differently once you're inside the trees. Allow an extra hour to sit and linger.

Come for the waterfall, stay for the rest of the park. It's a great place to lay in the shade of a giant tree and watch the clouds float by all afternoon long.

Hikers get to enjoy HUGE views and big wildlife on the way to Grinnell Glacier. Mountain goats, moose and grizzlies all made an appearance in one afternoon. Remember to bring your bear bell and spray!

The hike to Booth Falls is very popular and the small parking lot fills up early. Vail does not allow parking on city streets and you'll get a ticket if you try (guilty). Avoid crowding on the trail and at the falls by arriving well before noon.

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.

This is a difficult hike, but if you're up for the challenge, the views are incredibly rewarding.