This Colorado National Park is home to America’s largest sand dunes
Colorado is home to the largest sand dunes in the United States, and there is plenty to do in this national park where they can be found.
When we think of sand dunes, we can think of the great Sahara Desert in Africa. But sand dunes can be found in some of the most unlikely places. In America, the largest sand dunes are not found in deserts like the Mojave Desert, but in the mountainous state of Colorado.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park preserves America’s largest sand dune and is a must-see for anyone visiting the state. If you’re passing through Colorado Springs, take a look at the beautiful Garden of the Gods, and if you’re planning to come skiing in the mountain state, consider staying at the luxurious Deer Valley Resort.
About large sand dunes and their formation
These natural wonders were formed by sediments from the surrounding mountains filling the valley over geological time. In the past, there were lakes in the valley, but after they receded and disappeared, the sand remained exposed. The sand was then blown by the prevailing southwesterly winds towards the Sangre de Cristos. For tens of thousands of years, sand has accumulated here to form the immense fields of dunes that baffle visitors today.
- Height: Up to 750 feet or 230 meters
- Annual visitors: 527,000
- ATV and UTV: They are not allowed anywhere in the Great Sand Dunes (all vehicles must be allowed on the road in Colorado)
The parts that make up the large sand dune system are the dune field, the sand sheet, the sabkha (a mud or sand dish where minerals and salts accumulate through evaporation) and the watershed of the Mountain.
Today the main activities in the Great Sand Dunes are hiking, sandboarding and sand sledding. Other activities available in the park include camping, horseback riding trails, four-wheeler driving, and climbing the surrounding mountains.
To get to the dunes in spring and summer, visitors have to cross the wide but shallow Medano stream. After July the stream is low if there is any water at all. A bonus of the park is that at 8,200 elevation it is perfect for stargazing at night.
Primitive route of the Medano pass
It is a must see for those who are 4×4 fans. To drive on this road, you must have a 4×4 vehicle. Conditions on this road vary and it closes, check with the National Park Service for up to date information.
- Advice: To get through soft sand that may be needed to reduce tire pressure, bring an air compressor
- 4-wheel drive vehicles: Required for this route – Mini-SUVs, all-wheel-drive vehicles, wagons, etc. with low clearance can get stuck in deep sand
- Annual closure : From November to mid-May, the road is closed for winter
Sand sled and sand board
Imagine the thrill on your children’s faces as they hurtle down the 750-foot-high dunes on a sled. These are arguably the most fun family activities in the park.
It is important to note that the national park does not rent sand sleds or sandboards. You can’t rent them inside the park, but there are plenty of retailers nearby in the San Luis Valley. Rent the equipment before arriving at the park.
Sand sleds are covered with a special smooth material at the bottom of the boards. To protect their equipment. Some rental companies will not rent the boards when the dunes are wet, frozen or covered in snow.
- Or: 4 miles away near the park entrance
- Open: From March 1 to October 31
- To note: Oasis will not rent sleds when the sand is wet
- Camping: They also offer camping
Spin Drift sandboard rental
- Or: 25 miles to downtown Blanca
- Open: Rent sand sleds and sandboards from March to October
Swimming pool and recreation in the sand dunes
- Or: 32 miles away near Hooper
- Open: Rent sand sleds and sandboards all year round
- To note: They also offer accommodation and a restaurant
Mountain sports Krisiti
- Or: 40 miles to Alamosa
- Open: rents sand sleds and sandboards all year round (will not rent them when the sand is frozen or covered in snow)
Campsite next to the park
If one wishes to camp in the national park, there are a few options. Inside the park, there is only one campsite, the Piñon Flats Campground. Additionally, there are also high clearance 4×4 campsites along the primitive Medano Pass route, as well as hiking campsites elsewhere in the park.
Camping in the plains of Piñon
- Reservation: All sites are bookable
- Or: One mile north of the visitor center
- Open: April to October (closed from November to March)
- Installations: Nearby toilets with flush toilets and sinks, fire ring and grate, picnic table, dump station, potable water
- Cost: $ 20.00 per individual site (tents and motorhomes allowed)
Next: This New Mexico Park Is Home To More Than Just A Hike, Here’s Where You Can Sled Through The Dunes
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