Where is Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park is located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado. The national park also lies adjacent to a nature preserve that bears the same name. The park is most known for the series of sand dunes it contains that provide visitors with several recreation opportunities. The park also contains a campground, visitor center, and a series of hiking trails. The closest city to Great Sand Dunes US National Park is Alamosa, Colorado. The national park lies 234 miles and just under a four-hour drive north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And the park is about 223 miles and just under a four-hour drive south of Denver, Colorado. The national park is one of four national parks in the state of Colorado. The other three are Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
How Large is Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park is the second largest national park in the state of Colorado. The national park covers 149,028 acres and is only outsized by Rock Mountain National Park. Of these near 150,000 acres the national park protects around 107,342 acres whereas the adjoining nature preserve protects the additional 41,686 acres. The sand dunes contained with the national park are the park’s most impressive feature. The largest sand dunes in the park tower to heights over 750 feet tall. These sand dunes are the largest sand dunes in the United States. Great Sand Dunes National Park also contains several mountain peaks that reach a height of over 13,000 feet.
Great Sand Dunes National Park Weather
Great Sand Dunes National Park and its surrounding area possesses a cold semi-arid climate. Locations equipped with this climate normally experience warm summers and cold to freezing winters. The average temperatures of Great Sand Dunes National Park fluctuate between 50 and 85 degrees in the summer and between 5 and 40 degrees in the winter. The warmest month in the park is July and the coldest is January. The area only receives around 11 inches of rainfall per year. Snowfall happens upon occasion in early spring, late fall, and winter. March is the snowiest month in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Nighttime temperatures in the park cool considerably from their daytime counterparts.
When did Great Sand Dunes Become a National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park first became a national park in the year 2000. The park also received its designation as a nature preserve during the year. However, the initial designation of the area occurred in 1932 when the sand dunes were protected and preserved by President Herbert Hoover. On March 17, 1932, the president established the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. The redesignation of the monument to a national park also conceded with a land increase. The national park gained more than an additional 100,000 acres. In 2019, Great Sand Dunes National Park received a total of 527,546 recreational visitors.
Things to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers visitors the opportunity to participate in several outdoor recreation opportunities. Our National Park Visitors Guide outlines the most popular adventures and experiences found within Great Sand Dunes National Park below.
Participate in a Ranger Led Program
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers visitors the opportunity to participate in a variety of ranger led programs during their trip to the park. These programs normally discuss topics related to the park’s geology, geography, ecology, or history. Each of the programs offered at Great Sand Dunes National Park are led by an experienced park ranger or qualified volunteer. These park rangers also are great resources visitors can utilize to learn more about the park or to answer specific questions they have.
Hike a Trail in the Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park contains two different styles of hiking. On the sand dunes, visitors do not need to follow a specific trail or path. In fact, they can hike wherever they like across the 30 square mile dune field. The national park also contains several hiking trails that descend through the park’s forests. Popular trails found in the park’s forests are the Mosca Pass trail and the Sand Ramp Trail. Visitors can obtain more information related to the hiking trails found in Great Sand Dunes National Park at the visitor center.
Go Sandboarding or Sledding
Two of the more unique and popular recreational activities practiced within Great Sand Dunes National Park are sandboarding and sand sledding. While the national park does not rent sandboards or sleds out to visitors, visitors can rent boards and sleds from several private retailers near the national park. The practice of these sports is permitted anywhere on the dune fueled as long as it is not in the path of vegetation. Visitors recreating on the dune field should be cautious of dehydration and the surface temperature of the dunes. On severely warm days, the surface temperature can reach upwards of 150-degree Fahrenheit.
Recreate on Medano Creek
Medano Creek is a popular stream that appears seasonally in Great Sand Dunes National Park. The stream reaches peak flow in late May and early June. Visitors in Great Sand Dunes National Park use the stream to practice a variety of recreational activities including surfing, skimboarding, wading, floating, and swimming. The success of these activities normally relies on the depth and flow rate of the creek. The park’s website maintains a peak flow chart that reveals when Medano Creek is expected to be the strongest.
Wildlife Viewing in the Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park contains a vast list of wildlife species present in the park. These species range from mammals to amphibians. Species found in the park include black bears, mule deer, mountain lions, pronghorn, elk, ptarmigan, rosy finches, trout, bullsnakes, and a variety of other songbirds, amphibians, and reptiles. The park’s visitor center can supply visitors with additional information related to the flora and fauna of Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Pinon Flats Campground contained within Great Sand Dunes National Park possess 88 campsites suited for recreational vehicles and tent campers. Each campsite in the park requires a reservation. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to camp in Great Sand Dunes National Park in the summer should make their reservations well in advance. The park also contains several dispersed campsites found in the park’s backcountry.
When to Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park is open throughout the entire year. Visitors looking to visit the park do so during every season. In the winter, snowstorms and freezing temperatures occasionally cause portions of the park, including roads and facilities, to close as a safety precaution. Summer is the best time to visit the park. During the season activities like hiking, camping, and sandboarding are best practiced. However, visitors recreating on the sand dunes should be careful to avoid dehydration in the park’s warmer summer temperatures.
Must Have Items to bring to Great Sand Dunes National Park
A trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, like most outdoor recreation trips, requires supplies, equipment, and other items. Visitors packing for the park should use the following list as a guideline for the items they should bring to the park.
List of Parks advises water is the most essential item for every outdoor trip. However, peak temperatures at Great Sand Dunes National Park will require visitors to bring additional supplies of water. During the summer the dunes surface temperatures can reach excess of 150 degrees fahrenheit. Caution should be used when recreating in the park. Campers visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park will also want to bring additional quantities of water with them to the park and a variety of high energy snacks. These snacks will assist campers and hikers who needed an additional boost after a long hike or day recreating in the park.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
Visitors planning to hike the park’s forest and mountain trails will want to bring a pair of sturdy hiking boots along with them to the park. These boots will allow visitors to successfully traverse the various terrains present in the park. Visitors looking for added comfort and protection should look to purchase a lightweight and waterproof pair of hiking boots.
Sandboard & Sleds
Visitors planning to sandboard or sled on the dune field may want to pick up their boards and sleds before arriving at the park. Most outfitters are at least a thirty-minute drive away from the park. Great Sand Dunes National Park does not rent out any supplies for either of the two activities.
Swimsuit & Sunscreen
A swimsuit and sunscreen will come in handy for visitors planning to recreate in and around Medano Creek. The sunscreen can also be utilized by adventurers recreating elsewhere in Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Field Guides & Park Maps
Wildlife enthusiasts visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park will mostly likely enjoy identifying and learning more about the various species present in the park. A wildlife field guide contains pictures and descriptions that make species identification easier. Visitors can obtain a Great Sand Dunes National Park map from the park’s visitor center.
All visitors planning to camp with Great Sand Dunes National Park should create and utilize a camping checklist. This checklist will keep all of your camping gear organized and accounted for.
Where to Stay in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers visitors the opportunity to camp within its boundaries at the Pinon Flats Campground. The campground requires campers to make a reservation. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay outside of the national park can find several hotels and motels in and around Alamosa, Colorado.
Food Near Great Sand Dunes National Park
The closest restaurants and convenience stores to Great Sand Dunes National Park are located in Alamosa, Colorado. Visitors looking to dine in a larger city or find more options may want to make the drive to either Denver, Colorado or Albuquerque, New Mexico. Each of these two cities are about a four-hour drive away from the park.
Airports Near Great Sand Dunes National Park
The closest international airports to Great Sand Dunes National Park are located in Denver, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Denver International Airport and the Albuquerque International Airport are each located about four hours away from the national park.