The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado have been on my bucket list for a long time. These dunes are the tallest in North America, rising to about 750 feet, and were formed more than 400K years ago. To read more about how the dunes formed and about Medano Creek, click here.
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When To Visit
Previous to our visit, I learned through their website that the Sand Dunes are extremely crowded at the end of May and beginning of June, which is peak flow for Medano Creek. Because we wanted to avoid the weekend crowds, we decided to visit on a Friday. We drove from Fort Collins to the Sand Dunes, about a 5 hour drive, arriving shortly after noon.
We stopped at the Oasis Store, located immediately before the National Park entrance, to rent sand sleds. There were no signs advertising that they rent sand sleds, so thankfully I had done my research ahead of time. It was about $20 to rent the sled for the day, which came with some wax to make it more slick.
Then we headed to the Sand Dunes Visitor Center, which had a small museum and a movie, explaining why the tallest sand dunes in North America are located in the middle of Colorado. The National Park and Preserve was different than many other National Parks we had visited, because there weren’t really too many places to drive, hike, or stop at overlooks. The dunes were the main attraction, and that alone was worth it!
The Dunes Experience
We were able to find parking with no problem and head directly to the dunes, but not before crossing Medano Creek. There was no way to walk around it, so we had to take off our shoes and wade through it. The creek was mostly ankle deep, but knee deep in a few spots, and the water was actually pretty warm, thanks to the bright sunshine overhead.
Walking through the dunes was absolutely exhausting, and although I had my mind set on climbing to the top, my body had other ideas. As we climbed, the boys would wax up the bottom of their sled, and then slide down. But between the weight of carrying the sled and the exhausting climbs, the sledding did not last very long. However, we did experience it, so that is what counts! Pictured below, my youngest collapses on the sand, and my hubby ends up carrying the sled most of the time.
After we could trudge through sand no longer, the boys played in Medano Creek, while we sat and enjoyed the views.
We opted to stay overnight in Alamosa, about 30 miles from the Dunes. I would suggest staying nearby, as the area was a little desolate for night time driving.
What to Bring:
- Shoes and Socks
- Sand Toys
- Sand Sleds
I was very glad that I had researched and prepared ahead of time, otherwise we may have had an unpleasant visit. There is no way that you want to climb these sand dunes in either flip flops, sandals, or bare foot, because the sand gets extremely hot, especially in the afternoon. We climbed the dunes with shoes and socks, which seemed crazy at first, but as we felt the heat of the sand, it all made sense.
I’d suggest bringing sandals along for a dip in the creek afterwards. Also, sunglasses are really important because of blowing sand, and a hat to shelter sensitive skin from the sun. I’d also suggest chairs and towels to enjoy sitting by the creek, because all the sand surrounding the creek is wet, and you don’t want to sit on wet sand.