Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park by f11photo via Shutterstock.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado, boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America. Set against a backdrop of mountains, forests, and wetlands, it’s a surreal and varied landscape.

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βœ… Fast Facts

State(s): Colorado
Area: 149,028 acres (603.1 sq km) – 36th largest national park of 63
Highest Elevation: Tijeras Peak – 13,604 ft (4,146.50 m)
Lowest Elevation: San Luis Lakes – 7,520 ft (2,292.10 m)
Date Established: March 17, 1932 (as a national monument); September 24, 2004 (as a national park)
Annual Visitors: 493,428 visitors in 2022
Nearest Town: Alamosa, Colorado

β›° Recommended Day Hikes

Park Tracker considers a “day hike” to be a hike under 10 miles. Below we provide our top five recommendations inside the park, along with AllTrails links to the hikes.

  1. High Dune Trail (3.0 mi, Hard) – A pathless hike over steep dunes to a prominent peak, offering expansive park views.
  2. Star Dune Trail (7.3 mi, Moderate) – Leads to the tallest dune in North America, requiring navigation without a set trail.
  3. Medano Lake Trail (8.0 mi, Moderate) – Ascends through forests to an alpine lake, with creek crossings and aspen groves.
  4. Mosca Pass Trail (6.5 mi, Moderate) – A forested route alongside a creek through aspen and evergreen trees to an alpine pass.
  5. Zapata Falls Trail (1.0 mi, Easy) – A short hike south of the park to a hidden waterfall in a rocky crevasse​​​​​​.

πŸ§—πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Popular Activities in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes is about more than just hiking. See below for some of the best non-hiking activities to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

  1. Sandboarding or sledding on the dunes
  2. Splashing in Medano Creek during spring and early summer
  3. Stargazing in this designated Dark Sky Park
  4. Wildlife viewing at dawn and dusk
  5. Attending ranger-led evening programs

πŸ›ŽοΈ Where to Stay Near Great Sand Dunes National Park

While there are ample camping and vacation rental options near most US national parks, I personally highly prefer staying at Hilton-branded properties when traveling to national parks. As such, below are the five closest Hilton properties to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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πŸ” What to Eat Near Great Sand Dunes National Park

After hiking and exploring Great Sand Dunes National Park, odds are high you’re going to be hungry. Here are five of the best restaurant options within and near the park.

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