Weekend in the Great Sand Dunes

The Great Sand Dunes is a wildly unique national park nestled against the Sangre de Cristo mountains in south central Colorado. My friends and I road tripped down to this park from the Denver/Golden area back in mid-June. We spent the day climbing High Dune, "sand-sledding", and burying each other in sand. At night, we set up camp out in the dunes, watched the sunset, and saw some crazy stars. Below is a video from our trip. Enjoy! (Scroll down for a brief history of the Dunes and trip tips).

Brief History of the Dunes

Geologists believe the dunes were formed after a large lake in the San Luis Valley receded, leaving behind sand to be blown towards the Sangre de Cristo mountains by predominant winds. Storm winds opposed the direction of these predominant southwestern winds, causing the dunes to grow. The Dunes, and the story of their formation, continue to develop today, some hundred of thousands years later. Read more about the history here.

Trip Tips

  • If you're driving from the Denver area, consider staying at the Circle the Wagons RV Park in La Veda, CO. We met some fascinating characters and had a riotously good time here, and it's just about an hour away from the Dunes.
  • If you plan to backcountry camp, arrive at the visitor center before it opens to secure a permit. It is a popular park with many people wanting to camp out in the dunes, so they run out of permits quickly. Yes, the rangers will check for a permit.
  • Bugspray is a must if camping out in the dunes. Dune mosquitoes are relentless little creatures.
  • The Medano Creek is great for stream-side relaxation after climbing all over the sandy hills. It is a seasonal stream that only flows during the warmer months of the year, so check out conditions before you visit.
  • Hike to Zapata Falls on your way to or from the park. It's a short hike and the waterfall is absolutely breathtaking (so is the frigid water).