Great Sand Dunes National Park: 5 Things to Know BEFORE You Go

Great Sand Dunes National Park is situated in a quiet little area in the southeast corner of Colorado.   We stopped at Great Sand Dunes National Park while on our road trip to Utah.  I’ve wanted to see Great Sand Dunes for some time and was eager to have an opportunity to visit.  We altered our route slightly, so that we could stop at the Dunes.  It far exceeded my expectations!

If you are considering a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park, here are 5 things you need to know BEFORE you go.

  1. Consider the Sand Temperature: The surface of the sand can be warm or even hot depending on the time of year! In terms of footwear, we saw a variety of choices. Some people had on hiking shoes while others went barefoot.  We wore outdoor sandals (Teva, Keen, etc) which have a sturdy bottom and can get wet.  I would not want to walk barefoot.  Some portions of the dunes have small sticks and other vegetation which I would have found uncomfortable.Great Sand Dunes National Park trip11 Great Sand Dunes National Park trip
  2. You might ALSO get wet:  Or, your kids might. I’m sure you already expect to get a little dirty at someplace called Great Sand Dunes.  But take note, there is also a chance to get wet!  Medano Creek runs across the main access to the dunes. The level of Medano Creek varies.  Depending on the temperature and time of year, you or your kids may even want a swim suit.  Regardless, I suggest you have a towel in the car, so you don’t end up taking some of this National Park with you in your vehicle.Great Sand Dunes National Park13 Great Sand Dunes National Park trip
  3. Walking on the Sand is Strenuous:  We all know from walking on the beach that sand can be hard on your calves.  Great Sand Dunes makes a walk on the beach seem easy.  These dunes are MASSIVE!  I expected them to be big, but it is hard to comprehend the shear size of these sand dunes until you stand beside them. The ranger told us that it takes about 2 hours to climb to the top.  We wouldn’t know, because we decided we’d enjoy our visit more without a hard core climb!Great Sand Dunes National Park5 Great Sand Dunes National Park trip
  4. Allow Extra Time:  Like so many of our National Park treasures, there is always more to enjoy than expected.  Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of those places where you should plan more time than you think you’ll need.  For example, it is quite enjoyable to dig yourself a “lounge chair” in the sand and just relax – no beach chaise needed!  More time would also provide the opportunity for additional hiking, playing on the dunes, and taking pictures.  Viewing the sand dunes from various positions offers unique perspectives on their size and scale!Great Sand Dunes National Park7 Great Sand Dunes National Park trip
  5. Look Out for Wildlife:  The wildlife was a surprise to me! I did not expect to see a herd of mule deer right by the Dunes Parking Area.  Yet, to my amazement, there they were grazing as if no one was around.  Other large mammals in the park and preserve include black bears, pronghorns, bison, elk and mountain lions.  Not to mention the countless birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians which inhabit the area.Great Sand Dunes National Park Mule Deer

    15 Great Sand Dunes National Park trip
    Mule Deer

Great Sand Dunes National Park is a real treat for kids and adults!  Don’t miss the movie at the Visitor Center.  It provides a great explanation of how these massive sand dunes ended up in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.  And, of course, don’t forget to pick up a park tee shirt while you are there!

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