Trailhead: Just about anywhere (there really are no formal trailheads used to jump onto the Great Sand Dunes, although most people begin their hike near Medano Creek)

Activities: Hiking, Camping (paid campground or backpacking)

Closest City / Town: Blanca, Colorado

Driving Directions:

  • From Denver, Colorado Springs, or Pueblo, the fastest route is to start by heading south on I-25 to Walsenburg.
  • Head west on US 160.
  • Finally, swing north on state highway 150.
  • Colorado 150 will take you directly to the Great Sand Dunes.
Hiking Distance: As short or as long as you desire.  The Great Sand Dunes — encompassing 30 square miles — offer excellent free-lance hiking.

Description: We can’t provide you with too much information because there is no trail on the dunes.  What we can say is that visiting the Great Sand Dunes is a life experience that you will likely never forget.

Try to visit the Great Sand Dunes during the late spring or early summer when Medano Creek is flowing full-force.  Bathing in the creek is a great way to beat the heat.  It’s also a perfect way to keep your kids happy and fully entertained.

The “High Dune” is neither the highest in elevation nor the tallest in Great Sand Dunes National Park, but it looks that way from the main parking lot. It is approximately 650 feet high.  Note that its elevation is always changing due to the force of the winds that created it.  Cross the flats and zigzag up the ridgelines to reach the summit. The 360 degree view is inspirational. From High Dune, thef dune you see to the west is the spectacular Star Dune, rising 750 feet. Star Dune is the tallest sand dune in North America. To reach it from High Dune, journey another mile and a half up and down across the dunes to its summit.

Worth Noting: Keep your eyes peeled for lizards and tracks in the sand.  You never know what you might find.  Great Sand Dunes is home to a minimum of six endemic insect species.  An endemic species is one that is found nowhere else on earth. The Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle is the best known of these endemics.

Also, avoid the dunes on hot summer days.  Touching the scorching sand can lead to severe blisters, as Liz, one of the site authors, found out.  We recommend tennis shoes despite the fact that they’ll likely fill up with sand.

Lastly, dogs must be kept on a leash in Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Keep this in mind when preparing for your trip into the San Luis Valley to visit the dunes.  Like humans, dogs’ paws blister up when exposed to hot sand.

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