Top Things to Do in Great Sand Dunes National Park
If you are a fan of stunning natural landscapes and outdoor adventures, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is a must-visit destination. From towering sand dunes to alpine lakes and diverse wildlife, this park offers something for everyone. Here are the top things you should not miss during your visit:
1. Hike the Sand Dunes
The largest sand dunes in North America are the main attraction of this national park. Embark on an exhilarating hike to discover the unique ecosystem formed by the sand dunes. From easy hikes like the Dunes Overlook Trail to more challenging ones such as the High Dune or Star Dune trails, there are options for all fitness levels. Don’t forget to bring water and sunscreen!
2. Camp under the Starry Sky
Experience the beauty of the park at night by camping in one of the designated campgrounds. Set up your tent, listen to the soothing sound of sand blowing in the distance, and gaze at the spectacular night sky. The Great Sand Dunes National Park is known for its dark skies, making it a perfect spot for stargazing and astrophotography.
3. Medano Creek
During the spring and summer months, Medano Creek provides a unique opportunity for visitors to relax and play in the water. As the snow melts from the surrounding mountains, the creek swells into a shallow and gentle stream. Grab an inflatable tube and float downstream, build sandcastles, or simply soak your feet in the cool mountain water.
4. Sandboarding and Sledding
Add some excitement to your visit by sandboarding or sledding down the sandy slopes. Rent sandboards or sleds from nearby shops or bring your own gear. The dunes offer the perfect playground for adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers. Enjoy the exhilarating ride and remember to pick up any trash to keep the park pristine.
5. Explore the Backcountry
If you enjoy backpacking and wilderness exploration, the backcountry of Great Sand Dunes National Park is waiting to be discovered. Obtain a free permit from the Visitor Center, pack your essentials, and embark on a multi-day adventure. Experience solitude as you traverse the Sangre de Cristo Mountains or camp near remote alpine lakes.
6. Wildlife Watching
The diverse habitats within the park support a rich variety of wildlife. Keep an eye out for animals such as mule deer, elk, black bears, coyotes, and various bird species. Binoculars and a camera will enhance your wildlife-watching experience. Remember to maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing the animals.
7. Visit Zapata Falls
A short drive from Great Sand Dunes National Park, Zapata Falls is a hidden gem worth visiting. Embark on a short hike to reach the falls, which cascade over a towering cliff into a picturesque pool below. Marvel at the beauty of the cascading water and enjoy a refreshing spray on a hot day. Be prepared for some slippery sections along the trail.
8. Scenic Drives
Explore the stunning landscapes surrounding the national park by taking a scenic drive along the designated routes. From the Medano Pass Primitive Road to the Baca Wildlife Refuge, you will encounter breathtaking vistas and may even spot wildlife along the way. Plan your route in advance and take your time to soak in the natural beauty.
9. Attend Ranger Programs
Make the most of your visit by participating in the ranger-led programs offered by the park. These programs include informational talks, guided hikes, and interactive activities suitable for visitors of all ages. Learn about the geology, plants, and animal life of the park while gaining a deeper understanding of the park’s ecological significance.
10. Photography Opportunities
Great Sand Dunes National Park presents endless photography opportunities. Capture the play of light and shadow on the dunes during sunrise or sunset, and experiment with capturing the intricate details of the sand patterns. Bring a wide-angle lens to capture the vastness of the dunes, as well as a telephoto lens for wildlife and landscape shots.
With its majestic sand dunes, diverse wildlife, and serene surroundings, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a range of activities and experiences for any outdoor enthusiast. Plan your visit, explore its wonders, and create memories that will last a lifetime.