Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve | Colorado | 07/27/19

Sand Dunes/Medano Creek Loop | Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Duncan, CO | 07/27/19 | 2.34 miles | 521′ gain

While Day 1 of our San Luis Valley trip was super eventful, on Day 2, we finally got to the main reason for our trip, to see the sand dunes!

The Great Sand Dunes from afar.
A closer look.

Our only real plan was to climb up on the dunes and walk along Medano Creek. Other than that, our morning was open for whatever else we may find in the park.

We arrived pretty early, earlier than the crowds and the heat. We set out from the parking area across Medano Creek, heading for the dunes. There was more water in the creek than I was expecting, but I suppose that’ll happen after a year of high snow-pack.

Medano Creek
Crossing Medano Creek (Photo by Nicholas)

The water was never more than a few inches deep, and we were easily able to cross with dry feet. Once we got closer to the dunes, the walking became more difficult in the dry sand. We walked along a dune ridge, stopping to take pictures every few minutes.

Nicholas crossing the dune ridge, Medano Creek in the distance.

I traversed to a patch of sparse grass to investigate. Such a unique ecosystem. I was amazed that anything grew at all!

Indian Ricegrass
Climbing higher! (Photo by Nicholas)

There are no “trails” on the dunes, one can just walk wherever they please. However, there was no wind today so we could easily follow a track all the way to the top of a high dune!

At the top of the lower dune ridge, looking at the majority of the route. (Photo by Nicholas)

The track got steeper towards the top of the dune, and we huffed and puffed our way up. (Okay, I huffed and puffed. Nicholas was fine.) Turns out sand makes for pretty strenuous walking!

From the “summit”, looking back at our route.

Even though it felt like we stopped a lot, we really made pretty good time and soon “summitted”. (Does the top of a dune count as a summit?)

“Summit” views.
We made it! (Photo by Nicholas)

After taking our summit pictures, we rewarded ourselves with a quick snack break and then headed back down. We took our shoes off and walked barefoot all the way back to the parking area. A much different experience that I would gladly repeat! The water was the perfect temperature and we walked up Medano Creek a short ways before heading off to explore the small Visitor’s Center. There are a number of other trails within the park that we’ll have to come back to explore another day!


21 thoughts on “Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve | Colorado | 07/27/19

  1. We were there many, many, years ago and entered the area by way of the back road. It is a rough dirt road, and we made it through in a Subaru. I wouldn’t recommend trying it in a non-4 wheel drive. Anyway, coming from the backside is amazing in that the dunes jut up out of no where. It is a wonderful experience. Glad you got some bare feet in the fun too!


  2. Hell, yes, a sand dune counts as a summit, especially when it’s two steps up, one step down all the way. Did you get it to squeak for you on the way down?

    I dated the resident geologist at the Great Sand Dunes many, many moons ago. He let some of the air out of his tires and we went bouncing over the sandy back roads to a super steep dune that was apparently the best one to run down.

    You only run down it once because you sure as hell don’t want to climb that thing twice!


    1. PS: Go back to the Dunes in February on a calm, sunny day. It’ll be forty degrees in the parking lot but seventy-five in one of those high sand bowls–You can strip down to a bikini and sunbathe!


  3. Ha. I ruined my camera on the 4th day into my 2012 trip to New Zealand. Any sunny day pix had spots and it cost me $300 to fix. I learned a lesson then and all my cameras since have had a filter lens attached. Love walking on the dunes through and did it again in 2014 with better results. Stay well Chelsea. Allan


  4. Pingback: White Sands National Park | New Mexico | 04/03/21 – Colorado Chelsea

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