Most people don’t know Colorado has sand dunes. If you haven’t been, it’s about time to put it on your to-do list. Great Sand Dunes National Park is around a 4 hour drive from Denver depending on the route you take. My friend Nicole had never been to Colorado, so we opted the more scenic route through 285-S where there was plenty of mountains and weird places to stop on the way there. On the way back, we took 25-N through Colorado Springs and stopped at Garden of the Gods.
First of all, this National Park is awesome. Even though I lived in Michigan for 7 years, this setting unlike anything I’ve seen. Imagine a seemingly infinite abyss of sand lying in the San Luis Valley surrounded by grasslands, wetlands and mountains. If you’re looking to be in the middle of no where this is it. Hiking the sand dunes was more exhausting than anticipated, as you sink with every step, even if you stick to the ridges. It’s like taking one step forward and a few steps back. Trust me, you’ll be pouring sand out of your shoes for a while. I found a new appreciation for anyone that has ever trekked across the desert in the boiling sun..I definitely didn’t need leg day after this. Had I thought of it, I would have taken a sand board or sled to slide down. It would have been a fun reward after the hike up.
Within the Great Sand Dunes National Park, lies the tallest sand dune in North America, sitting at 750ft. Here (and actually pretty much everywhere) you have the most magnificent view of the sunset and the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. Nicole and I had plans to sit at the top of the highest dune and eat our dinner while watching the sunset, but the wind began to pick up, and soon enough our food became covered in sand. I convinced Nicole to do a quick photo shoot instead. I love pushing people outside of their comfort zone and watching them enjoy trying new things.
As soon as the sun went down, it became dark rather quickly and the wind picked up even more. The hike back became increasingly difficult with the wind whipping sand across our face and bodies. It felt like shards of glass, but we really had no choice other than to keep going. We kept our sunglasses on to shield our eyes, and covered the rest of our faces the best we could. I was thankful I brought my head lamp to guide us back to our car. From here, we drove another hour or so to our final destination, Valley View Hot Springs. (Read about our other adventure here)
The park has a lovely visitor’s center and offers camping, RV sites and even a heated spring pool to swim in. In case you were wondering about the middle of nowhere comment, once you have your park pass, you’re free to stay as long as you’d like to catch some stars. I highly encourage this.
-Bring a headlamp, it gets dark quickly after the sun goes down
-Bring glasses of some kind in case of sand storms to protect your eyes
-Bring something to cover your face in case of sand storms
-This is a nice pit stop on the way to New Mexico, or the long way to other parts of southern Colorado; you can make it as long or short as you want
-Bring plenty of food and water the nearest town is rather far
-Bring a sand board to slide down!
-visit the NPS for more details