Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Date Hiked: August 18, 2012
Distance: As long or as short as you wish
Elevation Gain: As much or as little, Star Dune is about 800ft gain (through sand!)
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Website (NPS)
Directions: Great Sand Dunes NP&Pres. is located in the San Luis Valley, at the western foot of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. The Park visitor center lies 19 miles north of the turn off from Hwy 160. The hike in the Dunes, starts from the parking area just past the visitor center, it is impossible to miss.
Hiking through the Dunes at Great Sand Dunes is a singular experience. There are no trails and no closed areas, truly a choose your own adventure situation. You can climb up to the top of High Dune or Star Dune or you can just play in Medano Creek a the foot of the Dunes. You are allowed to camp up in the dunes which is fantastic but requires carrying your camping gear up the dunes. Hiking up the dunes is not an easy task but is a worthwhile endeavor.
Just hiking 20 minutes into the Dunes is generally enough to get away from any crowds of people and gives you a great perspective on this incredible resource. You are rewarded with amazing views of the Cristos, Mount Herard is the big peak directly to the North and the Crestones are just beyond that. If you wished you could backpack for days through the dunes but keep in mind that there is no shelter and no water, think Lawrence of Arabia.