Discover Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Welcome to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, a captivating wonderland nestled in the heart of Colorado, where the landscape is a canvas painted with golden sands and towering peaks. This remarkable destination, often referred to as a “natural sandbox,” is a testament to the diverse and awe-inspiring beauty of the American wilderness.

Encompassing over 30 square miles of pristine dunes, the park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, with some rising to heights exceeding 750 feet. But the majesty of Great Sand Dunes extends far beyond its towering mounds of sand. Embracing a rich tapestry of ecosystems, from alpine tundra to lush forests, the park is a haven for biodiversity, hosting a myriad of plant and animal species.

Visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are treated to an array of outdoor adventures, from hiking and sandboarding to stargazing beneath the vast expanse of the Colorado sky. Whether you’re seeking solitude amidst the shifting sands or embarking on a journey of exploration with family and friends, this enchanting sanctuary promises unforgettable experiences at every turn.


Top 3 Facts About Great Sand Dunes National Park


Tallest Dunes

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America, with some reaching heights of over 750 feet, equivalent to a 75-story skyscraper.


Diverse Ecosystem

Despite its desert-like appearance, the park harbors a diverse range of ecosystems, including alpine tundra, forests, wetlands, and grasslands, making it a hotspot for biodiversity. Over 1,000 plant species and numerous animal species call the park home.


Unique Geology

The formation of the dunes is a fascinating geological phenomenon. The sand originates from the surrounding mountains and is carried by wind and water to form the expansive dune field, creating a surreal landscape unlike any other in the United States.

Camping and transportation in Great Sand Dunes National Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Getting to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is an adventure in itself, offering various options for travelers. Here’s how to reach this natural wonder:

  • By Car: The most common way to reach the park is by car. Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado, approximately 35 miles northeast of Alamosa. From major cities like Denver or Colorado Springs, take Interstate 25 south to Walsenburg, then head west on US Highway 160 to Alamosa. From Alamosa, take US Highway 160 to Colorado Highway 150, which leads directly to the park entrance.
  • By Air: The closest major airport to Great Sand Dunes is located in Alamosa – San Luis Valley Regional Airport (ALS). However, this airport has limited commercial service. Alternatively, travelers can fly into larger airports such as Denver International Airport (DEN) or Colorado Springs Airport (COS) and then rent a car to drive to the park.
  • Public Transportation: While there is no direct public transportation to the park, visitors can take a Greyhound bus to Alamosa and then arrange for a shuttle or taxi service to the park entrance. Additionally, some tour companies offer guided excursions to the park from nearby cities.
  • RVs and Campers: For those traveling with RVs or campers, the park offers several campgrounds with RV-friendly sites. Many visitors choose to combine their visit to Great Sand Dunes with other nearby attractions such as Mesa Verde National Park or Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Places to Stay Near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve offers a range of camping options within the park itself, but there are also several accommodation options nearby for those who prefer lodging or camping outside the park boundaries. Here are some places to stay or camp near Great Sand Dunes National Park:

  • Piñon Flats Campground: Located within Great Sand Dunes National Park, Piñon Flats Campground offers both tent and RV camping. It features 88 sites with fire pits, picnic tables, and restroom facilities. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak season from May to October.
  • Zapata Falls Campground: Situated approximately 11 miles south of the park entrance, Zapata Falls Campground is a rustic campground offering tent camping. It provides basic amenities such as vault toilets and picnic tables. The highlight of this campground is its proximity to Zapata Falls, a scenic waterfall nestled within a narrow canyon.
  • San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area: Located about 15 miles southwest of the park, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area offers primitive camping opportunities along the shores of several picturesque lakes. While amenities are limited, visitors can enjoy fishing, birdwatching, and stargazing in this serene setting.
  • Hotels and Lodges: Nearby towns such as Alamosa, Mosca, and Hooper offer a variety of hotels, motels, and lodges for those seeking more comfortable accommodations. These options range from budget-friendly motels to cozy bed and breakfasts, providing convenient access to the park.
  • RV Parks and Resorts: For visitors traveling with RVs or trailers, there are several RV parks and resorts in the vicinity of Great Sand Dunes National Park. These facilities typically offer full hookups, amenities like showers and laundry facilities, and sometimes recreational activities such as swimming pools or hot springs.
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Best Time to Go to Great Sand Dunes National Park



Summer is the busiest time of year at Great Sand Dunes National Park, attracting visitors with long days and warm temperatures. While daytime temperatures can be hot, especially on the sand dunes, mornings and evenings offer pleasant conditions for outdoor activities such as hiking, sandboarding, and stargazing.

Visitors can also enjoy swimming and picnicking along the shores of Medano Creek, which typically reaches its peak flow in June and July.



Winter transforms Great Sand Dunes National Park into a peaceful and serene wonderland, blanketed in snow and devoid of crowds. While daytime temperatures can be chilly, the park’s low humidity and clear skies make for crisp and invigorating conditions for hiking and photography.

Winter visitors can witness the stark beauty of the snow-covered dunes, embark on cross-country skiing or snowshoeing adventures, and marvel at the dazzling night sky during the park’s darkest months.



Spring, particularly April and May, is an excellent time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park. During this season, the weather is mild, with temperatures ranging from comfortable to warm, making it ideal for hiking and exploring the dunes.

Spring also brings the melting of snow from the surrounding mountains, resulting in the seasonal flow of Medano Creek. This ephemeral creek creates a magical scene as it winds its way through the dunes, providing opportunities for wading and splashing amidst the sandy landscape.

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Must-See Attractions

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The Sand Dunes

The towering sand dunes are the highlight of the park and a must-see attraction. Visitors can hike, sled, or sandboard down the massive dunes, offering exhilarating experiences and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Medano Creek

During the spring and early summer months, Medano Creek flows at the base of the dunes, creating a unique and ephemeral oasis amidst the desert-like landscape. Visitors can wade, splash, and relax in the shallow waters of the creek, offering refreshing relief from the sun and a picturesque setting for outdoor activities.


Great Sand Dunes National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, making it an ideal spot for stargazing. On clear nights, the sky is filled with countless stars, providing a breathtaking view of the cosmos.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Plan Ahead

Check Weather Conditions

Weather in the park can be unpredictable, with temperatures varying widely between day and night. Be prepared for hot temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night, especially during the shoulder seasons. Additionally, thunderstorms are common in the summer, so check the forecast and be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

Pack Appropriately

Bring Essential Gear

When exploring the sand dunes, wear sturdy closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from the hot sand and sharp plants. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat are also essential for sun protection. Consider bringing a backpack with plenty of water, snacks, and a first aid kit, especially if you plan on hiking into the dunes.

Respect Wildlife

Respect Wildlife

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to a diverse array of plants and animals, so it’s important to respect their habitat. Stay on designated trails to minimize damage to fragile vegetation and avoid disturbing wildlife. Keep a safe distance from animals and refrain from feeding them.

Stay Informed

Visit During Off-Peak Times

To avoid crowds and secure campsites or accommodations, consider visiting the park during off-peak times, such as weekdays or the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Additionally, early mornings and evenings offer cooler temperatures and stunning light for photography.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Yes, pets are allowed in certain areas of the park, including roads, parking areas, and the campground. However, they must be kept on a leash at all times and are not allowed on trails or in the dunes.

Camping in the sand dunes themselves is not permitted. However, there are designated campgrounds within the park where visitors can camp, such as Piñon Flats Campground, which offers both tent and RV camping.

Yes, visitors can swim and wade in Medano Creek during the spring and early summer months when water flow is sufficient. The shallow waters and sandy bottom make it a popular spot for cooling off and enjoying the water.

The best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park depends on personal preferences and interests. Spring and fall offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds, while summer is popular for Medano Creek’s flow and warm weather.

Yes, visitors can rent sandboards and sleds from various rental shops in nearby towns like Alamosa and Mosca. Some rental shops also offer sandboarding lessons and guided tours.

No, drones are not allowed in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The use of drones is prohibited to protect wildlife, prevent disturbance to visitors, and preserve the park’s natural quiet and tranquility.

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