Plan your Visit to
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Desert Sands and Mountain Ranges All in One Area
Here you can see almost unimaginable sand dunes in the same shot with snowcapped mountains. Great Sand Dunes National Park is among the newest national parks in the nation. It has only been a part of the registry since 2004, but since that time this 86,997-acre park has boasted almost 300,000 visitors each year. Families come from all over the experience the diversity and true fun that the park offers guests.
When to go
April – May – June – July – August – September – October
Wildlife – Stunning Vistas – Hiking – Scenic Drives – Fishing – Bird-Watching
When you think of sledding you obviously think of bundling up to keep the cold at bay and hauling you and your sled up a very slippery slope for the joy of flying down the hill on the snow, but in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, you can sled in shorts and a t-shirt in midsummer without the fear of frostbite. Sand sledding has quickly become a favored family activity. Sand sled rentals are available at the visitor’s center and for the older kids in the group, sand boarding offers a bit more adventure.
Safety is always a key component in any activity, so it is recommended that you plan your sand adventure for the early morning hours, as temperatures can become very hot during the summer and the temperature of the sand is even hotter than the surrounding air temps. This also allows you the chance to miss out on the random thunderstorms that can get in the way of that family fun during the middle of the day.
Visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park at any time is an adventure, but if you come to the park during the summer months you will be able enjoy Medano Creek. That may not seem like much of an adventure, but the beginning of the creek starts way up in the Rocky Mountains and trickles down to the dunes below. The dunes make a natural barrier that water breaks through creating waves that wash across the base of the sand dunes. This makes for a shallow creek bed that gives kids the fun of playing in the water without some of the danger involved in river flows. Riding the waves as they wash across the sand during the summer is the perfect activity for all ages.
Get the Most from the Park
The experience of going to Great Sand Dunes National Park can be great when exploring all that the park offers during the day, but if you want to truly immerse yourself in all that the Great Sand Dunes National Park has to offer, you must visit at night. The park comes alive at night with many nocturnal species coming out of hiding for a little adventure of their own.
Camping in the park not only allows you to see and hear many of the animals that are not visible during the day, but as an added bonus you get the chance to see the night sky like never before. Because of the lack of artificial light as well as the fact that the high elevation of Great Sand Dunes National Park makes for clearer skies, the park is one of a handful of Dark Sky parks in the nation. To get the full experience however you need to take a few precautions. The most important is to utilize red light when traveling to avoid any hindrance that fluorescent lights can have on the view. Also, maintain your distance from the animals. Even non-aggressive animals can become aggressive when they feel threatened.
Things to Know
Great Sand Dunes National Park has to maintain their staff as well as the normal operating costs of the park, so they do charge an entrance fee. The fees are $15 for a passenger vehicle and $10 for motorcycle riders. There is an option to purchase a family annual pass for $30 and this is the most affordable option if you are planning on making the trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park more than once per year.
Camping is an affordable and spectacular way to get the most from your trip. Camping within Great Sand Dunes National Park is permitted within Pinon Flats Campground. There are a limited number of campsites within the campground and they are all on a first come first serve basis, so arrive early to ensure you get the spot you want. Spots are $20 per site and some can accommodate RVs up t 35 feet. Limited supplies are available in the Mosca Pass Outpost and that includes firewood, so you need not bring your own. Always remember to keep the park clean so clean up after your group to leave the campsite as clean as it was when you arrived.