Great Sand Dunes National Park: A Colorado Wonder

Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of the newer ones in America as it was established just in 2004. It’s close to 150,000 acres in total size and is quite a scenic area to explore. When you’re in the park you’ll see the huge sand dunes in the distance and they don’t actually seem too big until you’re close up. The main reason for this is because the Sangre de Cristo Mountains which sit in the background have peaks of up to 13,000 feet.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

As you get closer you’ll suddenly realize how large these dunes are with many of them reaching up to a remarkable 750 feet in height. The dunes basically just go on for miles and you get the feeling that you’re witnessing an ocean of these sand hills. The scene is quite remarkable and it stretches as far as the eye can see.

The sand dunes reach out across the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. This is an arid region that lies between the magnificent San Juan Mountains and the equally astounding Sangre de Cristos. The San Juan Mountains are home to numerous creeks and streams and the water forms and flows into several shallow lakes down in the valley. When the lakes dried up, the sand was swept by the wind over to the Sangre de Cristos and built up around the foothills of the mountains. And this is basically how the highest sand dunes in North America were formed.

In total there are about 30 square miles of sand dunes and they attract many hikers who love to explore them and gaze at the beauty they create. Of course, when children visit these huge sand hills they can’t wait to climb and then slide down them. The winds in the park area mean that the shape of the sand dunes is actually changing quite a bit of the time. The government has purchased some private land in the area to make sure the areas small waterways and the sand dunes are properly protected.

As well as the dunes, visitors to the Great Sand Dunes National Park will find several different habitats. There are numerous types of trees to be found here including cottonwoods, pinyon pines, aspens, and spruce-fir. The terrain is quite unique, especially for a national park and it’s well worth a trek across the southern region of Colorado to check it out. There’s also an airport nearby at Colorado Springs if you’d prefer to fly.

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You can visit the park at any time of the year with the fall and spring being among the most comfortable periods. This is because the summer months can get quite busy and the sand dunes can become very hot when being baked by the sun. You may want to visit earlier or later in the day when the sand’s a bit cooler. The mountains will be snow capped during the winters, but you can still visit the dunes.

Some of the best hiking trails include Mosca Pass Trail and Montville Nature Trail. Some people like to visit in four-wheel-drive vehicles, which is also an ideal way to explore the beauty of the park and surrounding area.