Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado, about a 9-hour drive from Salt Lake City. The park is obviously most well-known for its large dunes, but there are also hiking trails which lead to forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Spring to early summer brings the unique Medano Creek and beach, located at the base of the dunes. If wanting to visit when the Medano Creek is flowing freely, be sure to visit during its peak in late May. In years with large snow melt, waves flow down across the sand, and people can float down on inflatables!
The first day was spent mostly driving, but we arrived to camp at a decent time, around 4 pm. We were lucky enough to snag a campsite within the park, which was so awesome. There is only one campground in the park (Pinon Flats Campground), so be sure to book your site in advance if you’re visiting during the peak season. After setting up camp and hanging out for a bit, we decided to go on a hike. We left from our campground and walked to the trailhead of the Dunes Overlook. This was a nice, easy to moderate hike that had some great views of the dunes, and we caught views of a beautiful sunset on our way down! After getting back to camp we prepared a delicious campfire skillet dinner of chicken sausage, zucchini, yellow squash, and mushrooms.
After having some breakfast and packing up camp the next morning, we were ready to explore more of the dunes! We headed towards the Oasis store near the entrance of the park to rent sandboards/sleds. At this store, you’re able to rent gear for a full day (9am-6pm) for just $20. If you are visiting the park in the summer months, I highly suggest getting your rentals as early as possible, as the sun heats up the sand by mid-day. We got some good runs in at the dunes, however it was hard to make it past noon, as the sand was almost unbearably hot. If you’re sandboarding, you’re not allowed to wear shoes, so unless you have no pain receptors on your feet, its hard to walk back up the dunes without your feet literally feeling like they’re burning.
After our sledding/boarding adventure we sought out a creek to stick our feet in for some relief! That night we had a campsite reserved at the Alamosa KOA just outside the park, however we decided to forgo it and drive in the direction of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and camp remotely on some BLM land. We primitive camped near a creek and woke up the next morning excited to explore the next park!
A fun fact I learned about Great Sand Dunes after visited was that the park is apparently a hotbed of paranormal activity, and is said to contain a portal to another universe?! Over 60 UFOs have been spotted there since 2000, and visitors of the park have reported seeing ghost cowboys, large discs of light, and hearing loud, unexplainable clicking sounds. I can’t say we experienced any of those things during our time there, but it was definitely interesting to read about!