Thursday, January 12, 2017

Great Sand Dunes National Park

It was really hard to believe as we were driving on Colorado 150- passing tumbleweeds and pretty much nothing in sight but open land - that we would be arriving at the tallest dunes in North America. When you finally start to see the dunes - and I didn't realize that's what they were until they were pointed out to me - you think it's a mirage. Or maybe just some bald, tan mountains. And when you finally come close enough to really see them, it's almost surreal.









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!











21 comments:

  1. This is such an unusual and interesting place. I love that it is still growing every day and it seems so unspoilt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad that they had the foresight back in the 1930's to save it! Thanks for dropping by, Jan!

      Delete
  2. I didn't see them initially on your first two pictures. They look like mountains on the distance! Then, I figured out they were there. Such a beautiful place. I have to visit one day. #TPThursday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you make it there someday, Ruth! Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. I love sand dunes and I love National Parks so I think that I absolutely must visit this magical place! I can't believe I've never heard of it before!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had never heard of them before either - quite a hidden gem! Thanks for visiting, Lynne!

      Delete
  4. I would definitely visit. Your pictures are beautiful. They really do look like mountains. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Anisa! And thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road!

      Delete
  5. I've heard a lot about this place and I imagined it differently. Now that I read your post and see the pictures I realize it's less impressive than I thought. These sand dunes look like big hills. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's definitely not for everybody! It's not easy to get to but I'm still glad we stopped. Thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road!

      Delete
  6. Hmmm. I never knew these existed. I've been to sand dunes in a number of countries and they always provide interesting entertainment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's quite an under-the-radar place, especially being that it's a national park. Very interesting place. Thanks for visiting, Rhonda!

      Delete
  7. How hot was the sand when you were there? The time that we visited -- in early June, I think -- we didn't last very long on the hot sand. Even though we wore sneakers, the sand would pour into them as our feet sunk into the sand as we walked. We also brought the wrong stuff for sledding. Cardboard does not work. So, we spent most of our time splashing in Medano Creek which was still flowing at that time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I'd love to visit when the creek was flowing. In fact, I think my son is going back sometime in the spring so they can play in the creek. The sand wasn't that hot but the day we were there wasn't that hot either even though it was July. We stopped on our drive from Durango back to Denver so we knew it would be a road trip stop and just a short visit so we didn't attempt any sledding. Still, I'm glad we did it! Interesting place!

      Delete
  8. I love sand dunes, and these are beauties. You captured them beautifully. Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! And thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This sounds like an awesome place! For some reason I expected it to be in Australia as I think there is a National Park here with the same name. I am surpised to know you can just go wandering where ever you want and even sandboarding is allowed. Do you know if any camping is allowed for these night stars?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Camping is allowed but I don't believe on the dunes - there is a campground in the adjacent trees. But since the park is open 24 hours I guess you can just go stargaze whenever you want. I'll have to look into visiting the park of the same name in Australia!

      Delete
  11. We visited the Great Sand Dunes NP a few years ago in January. We loved sand sledding and sand boarding here and practically had the park to ourselves. It is such a surreal place to find in Colorado. It would be so neat to return and see the creek one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! You had it all to yourself - that would be great. And I, too, am going to try to see it when the creek is flowing. Thanks for visiting, Mary!

      Delete