Great Sand Dunes National Park encompasses two distinct natural areas, the sand dunes and the mountains. Take a minute to look through the information below to gain a quick understanding of how the park is laid out and other pertinent information that will help you with your visit to the park.
Great Sand Dunes is currently making the transition from a National Monument and Preserve to a full National Park. A new Visitor Center with upgraded exhibits and information is scheduled for completion in 2004. The park remains open during the renovations.
After paying the $3 fee at the south entrance, tourists arrive at the temporary Visitor Center east of the dunes. Just up the road is the Pinyon Flats Campground, with 88 sites. The campground often fills on summer weekends. During summer in wet years, nearby Mosca Creek offers opportunities for sand castles and other beach-like fun for kids and pets.
From the campground, a four-wheel drive road heads farther north, leading to more remote campsites, picnic tables, and trailheads. The road eventually turns east and heads over Medano Pass and out of the park.
Some 30 square miles of untouched dunes make up the majority of the National Park. A free permit is required to hike and camp through the dune fields. Several varieties of animal, plant, and insect life can be seen on the open dunes, including the rare Giant Sand Treader Camel Cricket. At night, the park's distance from large cities and light pollution results in spectacular views of the stars.
Portions of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range were recently added to the park. Several trails lead up into the mountains following historic settler routes, including the Mosca Pass Trail. Hikers and campers can gain access to some of the most striking high country scenery in the Colorado Rockies. Wildlife is plentiful and hikers will be in relative solutide, free to enjoy the breathtaking vistas and cool air of the mountains surrounded by peaks over 13,000 feet high.
Some Other Things To Know
The park is open year-round. The Visitor Center is open from 9 am till 6 pm in summer, and till 4:30 pm in other seasons.
Pets must be on a leash and attended at all times to prevent encounters with wildlife. Pets succumb faster to heat than humans; sand surface temperatures can become hot during summer days and can burn pet's feet. Never leave a pet in a car on a summer day; temperatures can reach 100+ degrees within minutes.