A Visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Good morning! I’m jumping into this week with both feet after having an amazing weekend with friends in the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Brian and I have a Colorado “bucket list” that we have been actively trying to accomplish since we moved out here nearly two years ago.  Visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park was on the list and this weekend we gave it a BIG check off.

The Sand Dunes are the result of wind and water driving debris into the mountains, and they are absolutely stunning.  We spent the weekend hiking, enjoying the natural beauty of the dunes, and having a blast with our friends.

On Saturday, we left Denver around 7am so that we could get to an area called Zepata Falls around 11am.  Since the dunes are sandy without any tree shade, they get extremely hot during the day and hiking is not recommended.  Because of this, we decided to check out the falls earlier in the day and hike the dunes at night.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The hike up to Zepata Falls is only about a half mile.  When you get to the falls, be prepared with proper shoes!  You will literally be walking in the water and on rocks to get into the cave and view the 20 foot falls.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Brian and Tara

The snow melt water was very cold (which is why Bernie looks so uncomfortable in the photo above), but our feet got used to it after a bit.  Because of the heat, the cold water actually felt very good and the dogs made sure to get their fill by drinking it.

We then checked into the Pinon Flats Campground where we had two sites reserved in loop 2.  There were 9 friends total enjoying the weekend with us, so two sites allowed us to have enough tents for everyone to sleep in.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We grilled, hung out, and played Yard Yahtzee (made by my mom) all before getting ready for the highlight of our trip…hiking to the top of High Dune for sunset.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The mosquitos were plentiful and the winds were picking up, so we made sure to layer on bug spray and pack long sleeve and pant layers to put on during the hike.

Initially, the hike was very flat just like walking on sand at the beach.  We crossed the Medano Creek, which was nearly dry (it flows high enough to swim and float in during May/June!) and trekked on toward the High Dune.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

This hike was SO different than any other hike because there are absolutely no trails.  It’s recommended to hike in other footsteps and up the ridges so that was our strategy as we made our way to the top.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

It was definitely a challenging hike, and we were all short of breath and took many breaks but we ended up making it to the top in about 40 minutes.  We were the first group up to the summit of High Dunes, so we were able to get prime sunset viewing spots.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We then spent the next 30ish minutes taking photos, taking in the view, and enjoying the unique and magical scenery.  The winds picked up as the sun went down, so we added layers so the sand wasn’t hitting our skin with the wind.  We were all thankful for jackets with hoods and pants.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Once the sun had set, it was time to make our way down the dunes.  This was unexpectedly the MOST fun part of the trip.  Instead of carefully following the ridges down, we all literally ran down the steepest parts of the dunes.  The sensation was unlike anything I’ve ever felt!  The sand squished under my feet creating a bouncing feeling as I ran down the dune.  It honestly felt like I was walking on the moon!

We then made it down to the bottom and back to camp for smores and campfire stories.  Such a perfect way to end the night.

Sunday, I was up early and took the dogs on another walk back to the dunes.  Once the group was up we all enjoyed breakfast, packed up camp, and then headed back to Denver.

I am SO thankful for our friends out here in Denver.  This trip greatly exceeded my expectations, and I would so recommend adding it to your bucket list too!

While the trip was so fun and memorable, I am happy to be back in my sand-free apartment 😉

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend too!

Your Turn:

  • Tell me one highlight from your weekend!
  • Do you have a travel bucket list? What’s on it?

Comments

  1. Oh wow!! How neat is that! Looks like you guys had so much fun!! Bali and Thailand are on my bucketlist!! Have a great week!

    • Tara Deal Rochford says:

      Yes! I’ve been to Thailand and love it, but Bali looks incredible! I think I have the travel/adventure bug!

  2. Oh wow this places looks amazing! I went to a similar area in the Outer Banks a few years ago and it was so beautiful. Sounds like a great way to spend the weekend!

  3. This looks incredible! Such a fun trip. There is so much I need to do when I finally get to visit Colorado! 🙂

  4. This looks incredible! Definitely going on my Bucket List! Quick question, what did you do with Bernie when you went to the Dunes? We have a couple of pups of our own so it would be helpful knowing what our options are with them. Thanks!

  5. O wow, I’ve never heard of them!! That sounds so fun!

    • Tara Deal Rochford says:

      It was so fun. If you come out to Colorado I highly recommend adding a trip to the Dunes on your list 🙂

  6. I want to take a snowboard up there – well I guess, sandboard? and coast down those dunes!!! So awesome! And um, AWESOME leg work out!

  7. We camped there as a family a few summers ago. Isn’t it incredible?! Another great hike is Mosca Pass — shady and peaceful. Sandboarding is scary at first, but lots of fun once you get the hang of it. And we did the same as you, running down the dunes and even long-jumping down them. It sounds like your night was more peaceful than ours though — we had tons of wind and intermittent rain. Thanks for sharing your trip recap and photos — so much fun to see and reminisce about our own trip there.

    • Tara Deal Rochford says:

      SO incredible!! The sand boarding looked fun, but with only one night we had to pass. Also, the Mosca Pass hike really looked awesome! We will have to make the drive for that one!! 🙂

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