According to the national park website, people have "known about, visited or lived near the Great Sand Dunes for a long, long time. About 11,000 years." Alarmed by the thought of the dunes being destroyed by gold mining or concrete making, area residents applied for the Great Sand Dunes to become a national monument in 1932 and it became a national park in 2002.
The sand dunes rise to a max height of 750 feet and were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande River. As time passed, sand particles from the river and it's tributaries were picked up by the wind and deposited on the edge of the river valley. It's still happening and the dunes grow daily.
There is a $15 fee to enter the park and it is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. There is a visitor center to learn the history and nature of the dunes. (However, the visitor center is open from 9-5) And you can start your walk to the dunes from there and you can drive to a closer parking lot for a shorter trek.
Medano Creek flows between the parking lot and the dunes. It usually starts flowing in April, with peak flow in May and is usually dried up by June. When it's flowing, you can actually splash and play in it and there are even waves. We were there in late July, and it was just a trickle. But we still enjoyed squishing our toes in the mud and splashing in the little bit of water. There were a few groups of people with their beach chairs sitting in the sand - land locked Colorado's "beach".
You may explore any part of the dunes that you would like. There are no trails - just climbing and wandering in the sand. (There are a couple of trails off of the dunes where you can escape the summer heat) You may also go sandboarding, sledding or skiing anywhere on the dunes except near the vegetation. (Note: The website will tell you what works on the sand and what doesn't. The visitor center does not rent any sleds or sandboards but they can tell you where to rent or purchase them.) And Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of the best places around to stargaze and view the night sky. No light pollution around, that's for sure. In fact, there's not much around at all.
If you want to experience someplace really unique, totally off the beaten path, isolated, but fun, Great Sand Dunes might be your kind of place. Let me know if you go - I'd like to know your thoughts!
This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Malaysian Meanders and the Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!