Top Things to Do in Great Sand Dunes National Park
1. Hiking and Photography
One of the best ways to experience Great Sand Dunes National Park is through hiking. The park offers various trails that cater to different skill levels, from easy walks to more challenging hikes. As you explore the dunes, make sure to bring your camera along, as the unique landscape provides incredible photo opportunities. Capture the contrast between the stark dunes and the magnificent mountains in the background.
2. Sandboarding and Sand Sledding
Another popular activity at the park is sandboarding or sand sledding. Rent a sandboard or sled from the Oasis Store located near the park entrance and experience the thrill of sliding down the massive sand dunes. It’s a fun and exciting way to enjoy the unique terrain of Great Sand Dunes National Park.
3. Medano Creek
During the spring and early summer, Medano Creek offers a magical experience in the park. As the snow melts in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the creek swells, creating shallow pools and small waves. Many visitors enjoy wading in the water or building sandcastles along the creek’s sandy banks. Be sure to check the park’s website for the best time to visit and experience the beauty of Medano Creek.
4. Backpacking and Camping
For those who wish to spend more time immersed in the park’s tranquility, backpacking and camping are excellent options. Great Sand Dunes National Park offers designated sites for backpackers, where you can spend a night under the starry sky surrounded by the peacefulness of nature. Remember to obtain any necessary permits and adhere to the park’s regulations for camping.
5. Wildlife Viewing
The diverse ecosystems within Great Sand Dunes National Park support a wide array of wildlife. Take some time to observe and appreciate the park’s inhabitants. Look out for mule deer, elk, prairie dogs, and an assortment of bird species. Remember to keep a safe distance and respect the animals’ natural habitat.
Due to its remote location, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers incredible opportunities for stargazing. The absence of light pollution allows for clear and breathtaking views of the night sky. Bring your telescope or simply lay down a blanket and take in the wonders of the universe above you.
7. Ranger Programs
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers ranger-led programs that provide educational and interactive experiences for visitors of all ages. Join a guided nature walk, attend a campfire program, or participate in one of the many activities organized by the park rangers. These programs offer a deeper understanding of the park’s natural and cultural history.
8. Sand and Water Play
Kids (and kids at heart) will love playing in the sand and water at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Bring your buckets, shovels, and floaties, and let your creativity run wild. Dig in the sand, build sandcastles, or if the conditions are right, bring an inflatable tube or a boogie board and ride the small waves of Medano Creek.
9. Zapata Falls
Located just south of Great Sand Dunes National Park, Zapata Falls is a hidden gem worth visiting. This picturesque waterfall is nestled in a narrow canyon and requires a short hike to reach. The icy waters and stunning surroundings offer a refreshing break from the sand dunes. Remember to wear appropriate footwear as the trail can be slippery.
10. Scenic Drives
If you prefer to take in the beauty of the park from the comfort of your vehicle, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers scenic drives that allow you to appreciate the breathtaking landscapes. The Medano Pass Primitive Road takes you through forests, meadows, and high alpine terrain, while the Dunes Overlook offers a panoramic view of the sand dunes and the surrounding mountains.
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a variety of activities that cater to every visitor’s interests. Whether you enjoy hiking, photography, sandboarding, wildlife viewing, or simply immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the park, there is something for everyone. Plan your visit, explore the dunes, and create lasting memories in this unique and awe-inspiring national park.