Colorado truly has so much to offer! There is something here for everyone, and the Sand Dunes is one of them! I had originally gone when I was very little but never remembered it! So when I finally got to be the age, and had the opportunity to go, I was STOKED!
To start the Sand Dunes are located in Southern Colorado about 45 minutes outside of Alamosa and 2 hours from Pueblo. So from the Denver area it will take about 4 hours to get there (but add a little extra time for stops)! It is one of our National Parks, and one I recommend for everyone becuase it is such a unique place.
The drive is SO beautiful, honestly it alone made it worth it for me! For a while you are just driving through rows and rows of sunflowers and it is sooo dreamy! I may be biased growing up in Colorado, but it truly is such an amazing state. Plus there is beauty at every turn.
To get into in the park it does cost, but I found it very reasonable!
- For a regular car to enter it costs $15
- For an annual Family Pass (if you are planning to go more than twice its worth it)! $30
- For Motorcycles and Riders it's $10
- Or you can purchase an annual National Park Pass for $80 which gets you entrance TO ALL National Parks in the US
More detailed pricing can be found here! Also your pass is good for seven days!! Which is super great if you want to do a lot here, you can easily break it down by days!
The best time of year to go is between April and June becuase this whole area is a full flowing creek! Which will make your trip super enjoyable because it is HOT! In the summer the sand can reach up to 150 degrees. So if you are planning to go any time not in the 'wet' season I would advise trying to go early morning or late afternoon when the sun isn't going to be beating down to hard. Lots of people bring floaties and various pool toys when the creek is flowing! We missed the wet season but little kids were still splashing around in these puddles.
Once you get to the Sand Dunes it is all about picking what to do! There are lots of hikes and trails to follow both at the dunes and near by. There is also a Waterfall, Lake, and Wetland in this National Park, but access and visibility depends on the time of year! You can find more information on that and the hikes in this PDF!
But of course the most popular activity at the Dunes is of course playing on them! They are SO massive it is truly mind blowing. In the picture above you can make out the people walking along the ridge, I was only on the dune across from them and they look like ants! It is super easy to go off and have what feels like miles of dunes to your self!
I loved that aspect of it becuase then you can truly appreciate the beauty of the Sand Dunes and have a more personal experience without tons of people around you! We hiked about 3 of the dunes, just on the 'first level' but we saw people at the way at the top of the highest dunes! There are no trails so it is all up to you what you want to explore and where to go.
Here are some tips I wish I would have known before going:
- Like I said this sand is HOT! So wear close toed shoes and socks to avoid burning your feet. I only brought sandels, and someone warned me in the parking lot that I was going to burn my poor feet off! Luckily Rashawn was nice enough to lend me his socks :)
- Bring TONS of water!! We only had brought one Hydroflask with us and guzzled it up sooo fast.
- Another helpful item is an Umbrella! There is NO WHERE to escape the sun let me warn you! I saw a few people carrying them and was sooo jealous.
- Go slow and take your time walking or running on the dunes. The sand is deep and steep! My calves were on fire walking up them, so just take your time! Its not about the destination but the journey am I right?! Ha!
Being by all this sand sure made me miss the beaches in Hawaii! But it was pretty neat to still play in the sand with no beach in sight. It was so warm, so pretty relaxing for me! A few people had brought there folding chairs and I thought that was genius becuase the sand sure warms your bum up!!
Another thing to be cautious of is that, especially in summer, the dunes are prone to afternoon thunderstorms! Lighting does strike the dunes so always keep a watchful eye on the sky. We left just in time becuase we saw a storm coming in the distance. If one thing is certain, you do not want to be stranded on top of a dune when a storm comes!
Of course the best part of the dunes is the sand sledding!! It was soooo fun! You have to rent a special sand board or sled becuase normal snow sleads, skis, and snowboards will not glide down the mountain! They are made for wet surfaces so they do not like the sand. Luckily the Oasis Store right in the Sand Dunes Park rents them for great prices! They are $20 and are yours all day until return time at 6:30pm!
They also give you your own wax and show you how to wax the board down for each run. It really does help so much! Once you get the hang of it sliding down the dunes is sooo fun! If you are coming from the Alamosa area you can also rent these boards in the summer from Kristi Mountain Sports for only $18! However, it is 45 minutes away from the Dunes so it's really only worth it if you are coming from that direction.
It goes pretty fast, It took us a few tries to get the hang of it but once we did we couldn't get enough! However the worst part is the walk up!! Like I said above take your time becuase it is not an easy task!
For our final ride of the day, we were gonna rock paper scissors for who had to run down and who got to ride...but then we just decided to try and go together and it was SO FUN! Probably our best run of the day, the extra weight helped us just zoom down!
A lot of people make use of the seven day passes and stay in the Oasis Lodge! It is a super cute mom and pop, with a general store (where you get the sandsleds), restaurant, and of course lodging! You can find more information on their website here! Other people stay in Alamosa where there is lots of lodging and food options and just drive to the park each day! And the last option of course is camping! More info on that here.
Of course like all National Parks, it comes with lots of Wildlife! We saw these two beautiful dear right off the road on our way out!
how to get here
Getting to the Great Sand Dunes from Denver you will be taking 1-25 and CO-150. Plugging it into your GPS will take you right there! Park rangers can help you find and specific areas of the Dunes you want, but they also have lots of clear signs throughout to help!
Like mentioned, in the summer is can get upwards of 150 degrees on the sand so wear the proper shoes and bring LOTS of water. Avoid middle of the day and late afternoon at the dunes. Always be smart when sledding and use your best judgement. If you start to feel ill make your way off the dunes and to the closest ranger to prevent any heat exhaustion.