The Great Sand Dunes: Things to do & Lodging.

Posted: 12/24/2017 | 

The view of the sand dunes was as spectacular as the majesty of the name. The dunes were encompassed by short mountains, wet land, creeks and numerous wildlife. It was really amazing to find sand dunes in the middle of all these mountains. It is my very first time seeing a Sand Dune that was so huge. I never expected that I would actually see one. It was a beautiful sight. I had lots of various thoughts running through my mind such ss “Why was the Sand in the middle of no where?” , “Why was it so huge?” and “Why was it made up of sand?”.

These questions might be the lamest but I got it figured out when I was there!!

Below are the Amazing Things to do at Great Sand Dunes National Park:

The Great sand dunes national park map can be retrieved after paying for the park entrance fee or at the visitor centre.

1. Hiking

a. Montville Loop Trail (0.5mile round trip, average time: 30min)

b. Mosca Pass Trail (7mile round trip, average time: 3.5h)

c. Wellington Ditch Trail ( continue from Montville, 1mile)

We didn’t hike as it was raining and way too windy. If you do need any information regarding the hikes, you will be provided with a newspaper and a small information leaflet regarding the park. Most of the information are in it but should you require more information, you can always visit the visitor’s center. The rangers are very informative and knowledgable.

2. Camping & Lodging

a)(i) Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping: Poñon Flats Campground

Picture of our Campgrounds at Pinon Flats Campground:

Pinon Flats Campground: Our Campsite

Our campsite cost us about $20 per night without showers. Most National Park campsites do not have shower facilities. Do expect to pay more for campsites with shower facilties.

However, the view of the dunes from the National Park was just in front of us. At night, you might even be able to see the milky way. Well we didn’t, we were too tired but at about 2am, we woke up to use the restrooms and we saw the night sky… The view was astounding. It felt like the stars were emcompassing us due to its sheer abundance . I felt a little scared at that time because I had never seen anything quite like it. There were sooooo many stars that shined all so brightly.

It was also cold and windy at The Great Sand Dunes Park. Hence, we had a tough time setting up for the night. Our House Almost Flew Away like literally. Catch our video here!

Picture of the Oasis Shop near the Great Sand Dunes National Park:

It is about 5-10 minutes drive from the National Park. The Oasis is conveniently located with a restaurant, shops and cabin lodging as well. Cost: $20 USD per night for tents and $99 without taxes for Cabin Lodging.

The Oasis Shop Near The Great Sand Dunes!

b. Backpacking in dunes backcountry (you would need a permit from the visitor center, first come first serve basis)

c. Camping in Dunefield at Night (min hike: 1.5m)

Wouldn’t it be cool to spend the night in the Dunes watching the stars that shine so bright fill up the entire sky, the beautiful moon with many wild life participating in their night life and experiencing something that one would have never imagined?

Camping in the dunes is made possible in Great Sand Dunes! You will need a permit from the visitor’s center.

Do note that it gets really windy and there maybe thunderstorms so do check the weather forecast before deciding to stay there! (We really wanted to experience it but the wind was too strong that my sister had a flu in just 5 minutes in the dunes! )

We would love to do it. Camping in the middle of the Dunes and enjoying the night sky but to be honest, wen were afraid. I can’t imagine ourselves being the only one out there with no toilets available. In addition to that, the wind over at Great Sand Dunes was too strong… I can’t imagine ourselves staying there (Unless we have a Guy to help us out, then it is fine). Haha

Picture of the strong winds at Great Sand Dunes National Park:

We almost got blown away at the Great Sand Dunes!

3. Sand Sledding & Sand Boarding

Pictures of People sand Sledding:

Sand Sledding: FUN!

 ( Finding fun things to keep your children busy? or wanting to feel like a child again? Sand Sledding or Sand Boarding is definitely a way to bring out your inner child-like nature! Rentals are available outside the park.

The nearest rental store is in Oasis Sand Dunes Lodge and it cost approximately USD 20 for the entire day Rental.

4. Grassland Exploration

Mixture of Both Dunes & Mountain! Beautiful!

Beside the arid Great Sand Dunes, there exists a grassland. It was really cool to be able to see the contrast of the wet and arid environments in just one place!

On top of just viewing these greenland, as a whole, If you have the leisure of time, do explore it. You might be able to see wildlife like the Elk, Rabbits, Mule Deers and many more! (We were lucky enough to see a mule deer on the way out of the park!)

I was driving along the roads and as I turned my head to talk to my Sister, I literally caught the deer looking at us. I guess it was trying to cross the road. It was really hilarious. The Mule Deer acted like any normal Human Being trying to cross the road. I could still remember its face very clearly till today. Sadly, we didn’t catch a video at that moment of time but we did catch a video of it eating and enjoying itself! 🙂

5. Swimming ( Seasonal )

Seasonal water flows from the mountains during summer, autumn and falls! In the winter, water freezes in the mountains and thus, no or little water flows down to the dunes. In other seasons, the ice melts and water flows down to the dunes and thus, creating a flow of water down to the dunes. Thus, creating a flow of water between the parking lot and the dunes that allows you to dip in! The waters are usually, swift but shallow so it’s relatively safe to swim but just in case, check with the rangers first!

We did not see anyone swimming when we were over at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was cold and windy when we were there. The view was gorgeous but the Sand kept flying towards our faces when we stand in opposition to the wind.

This may look easy but it was definitely not. It was fun but tiring. Really tiring. We were literally battling against the wind and trying very hard to hike steep slopes of the Sand. Our shoes kept sinking into the sand. It was a tough hike.

Steep slope sand pictures:

My Sister standing in the middle of the Great sand dunes!

5. Enjoying the Scenic Drive as you come into Great Sand Dunes National Park

It was beautiful as we were driving the CO-150N highway into Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Driving down the highway to the Great sand Dunes!
The Scenic View while driving to The Great Sand Dunes!
The Scenic View while driving to The Great Sand Dunes!
The Scenic View while driving to The Great Sand Dunes!

Other questions you might ask!

Why is it located strangely in the middle of all these mountains?

Due to erosion of the mountains surrounding it, prevailing wind that reflects the sand. (Yes, its so rare that it is found in only a few places!)

Won’t it be eroded by the water?

You would probably think that the water flowing down from all these mountains would erode these dunes, but ironically, it being seasonal, swift and shallow has help kept the dunes in shape and thus, resulted in it being the tallest dunes in North America.

Just an advice, lots of people did not expect it to be cold and windy here in Great Sand Dunes. If you are coming, it would be best to prepare more cold weather clothing like Jackets and Sweaters with long pants. You may want to wear water shoes as you need to walk across the water to experience the Great Sand Dunes!

Crossing to the Great Sand Dunes! So much Water!

All in all, there are many things to do for anyone of any age. It was a pleasant experience and if i were to go back again. I would definitely bring more clothes and hike up to the very top of the dunes, try the Sand Sledding and try staying in the dunes for the night! It was raining and way too cold that day but we still enjoyed the magnificent view of the shadows of mountains, grassland and the sun.

The sunset was really beautiful as well from our campsite. We managed to catch it and we were really lucky.

Beautiful Sunset from Põnon Campgrounds!

Do let me know if i have missed anything out.

To your Happiness and Success!

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