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Great Sand Dunes National Park Near Pueblo – Colorado Trip Advice [GUIDE]

Sand Dunes
David McNew, Getty Images

Location: South of Pueblo, CO, North of Alamosa (Map)
Cost: Gas, Entrance Fee ($3), Campsite ($20 a night), Other camping costs.
Age Range: Requires an adult Trip Time: Full day to entire weekend

Best Time of Year To Visit

The actual Sand Dunes are ‘open’ year-round, but when you go could affect the kind of activities that you would want to try. Because the temperature during the summer can become dangerous, early Fall or late Spring is recommended. According to the National Parks Website, Spring tends to be the windy season; with anything from blizzards to Spring temperatures to something a little cooler. During Summer it can reach up to 80 degrees F during the day while dropping to 40 F during the night, because of the high elevation (8200 feet). Also go prepared for Summer thunderstorms. The Fall is similar to Spring except its getting colder, not warmer. Go prepared for many different temperatures. The trees will also be peaking in their color from late September to early October. Winter brings clear cold days, and probable sub-zero temperatures during the night and evening.


 Where are the Dunes?

Hop on I-25 and drive South, for three hours or so. Take the Exit for Red Rock Road and Highway 69 (don’t laugh) after you pass Colorado City. Take Highway 69 North-West to the Dunes.

Google Maps

Activities

The Sand Dunes create plenty of activities to keep people occupied after a long car ride.

Sandboarding

Sandboarding is only possible in a place with lots and lots of sand. This National Park has you covered. Sandboards work best (you can rent them in Alamosa here), and regular sleds and snowboards work well after it rains or snows (obviously). The National Park also recommends going in the morning or evening to avoid the 150 F degree sand during the day.

You can sandboard anywhere on the dunes where there is no vegetation. If you have an off-roading vehicle, you can also take the Medano Pass Primitive Road around the Dunes.

Hiking

As with any other National Park in Colorado, hiking trails abound. You can go anywhere on the sand, however there are no trails. There is High Dune, a two hour hike from the parking lot. There is the Eastern Dune Ridge, which takes you to the Castle Creek Picnic area, featuring a steep and tall dune face.

There are also a couple of forested trails to escape from the sandy heat of the day. Check out the Montville Nature Trail and the Mosca Pass Trail for hikes that will take you near the mountains and across the streams to Grandmother’s house.

4WD Roads

The Medano Pass is a 4WD road that will take you up the scenic pass to some of the more remote areas on the map. Some of these trails will take you up to alpine lakes, longer trails going around the scenic area, or to the top of some of the mountains. Make sure that you check with the Ranger if your truck can go up the trail, as there are water conditions and parts of the road that are not easy to get through.

Backpacking

If you are looking for something a little more ambitious than a day hike, the Sand Dunes National Park still has you covered. You can get free backpacking permits through the National Park, and you have to camp at the designated camping spots. However, follow those rules and you can traverse much of the 33,000 protected wilderness acres. Check out the PDF of the backcountry campsites here.


Safety

Camping and hiking should always be taken seriously. When you visit the Dunes, make sure that you go with enough water, food, and fuel for everyone in your party. It is not located in a town, and the small towns in the area are not always open. The last thing you want is not to be able to get home. Go prepared with the right clothing as well. Sunscreen can make the difference between a fun trip you will remember and a painful and agonizing next week at work. That being said, go prepared and know your limits and you will be fine. The Colorado Sand Dunes are waiting.

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