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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Jennifer Cook

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

This weekend David surprised me with a trip to play in the biggest sandbox ever! Ok- maybe not officially, but technically the Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest sand dunes in all of North America! In fact, the park encompasses 30 square miles and boasts a dune that is 750 feet high and is a mile and a quarter hike to reach the top. That's a LOT of sand!

The park does recommended that if you are going to visit the dunes to do so early in the morning or early in the evening. This is especially true in the summertime when temperatures on the sand can approach upwards of 150 degrees in the afternoon. Since we waited until September to visit, the temperatures were not nearly as hot, but the sand was still uncomfortable due to the elevated temperatures. This park does allow dogs, so pet owners must be mindful to either carry their dog or make sure they have boots on. Their paws will burn in a heartbeat. 🐾

We were so excited as we approached the first massive dune. In this picture we still had half a mile to go to reach the bottom of the dunes. Whew!

Once we reached the dunes up we went. This is when things got real for us. The sand is extremely soft and our feet sank to our ankles with every step. My husband told me his heart was pounding as he trudged up one of the higher dunes (I smartly decided to avoid that one and focus on other more manageable dunes). To give you some perspective on how massive these dunes are the tiny dots in this picture are people. Massive does not come close to describe just how big these dunes are.

I will add that you really can not get lost in these dunes. All you need to do is climb one and the Rocky Mountains are visible as a reference point on which direction you need to go to get back to the visitor center. Just be prepared to get a good workout no matter where you are in the dunes.

As you can see in the picture below there are slide marks in the sand. That is because the visitor center gives out mats for people to use to slide down the hills. Of course some people bring their snow boards and other gear too. It is all open for anyone to enjoy however they like.

Aside from the sand dunes there are a number of trails you can hike around the area. They will take you into Aspen forests, the lower ranges of the surrounding mountains, and even follow a few creeks. One of the most famous creeks is the Medona Creek. When it is flowing it glides right over the sand near the dunes. It is a sight to behold. Sadly, it was dried up on our visit, so I guess we will have to come back another day.

Finally on the perimeter of the park there are a number of areas where you can pull off to get a better overall view of the dunes. They are truly breathtaking to see in person. The sheer size makes a person feel very small in stature!

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