Hikes in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Hiking is undoubtedly the most popular activity in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Though the most revered routes are sand dune expeditions, there are more than just sandy tours to indulge. Encompassing lush forestlands, wetlands, glaciated peaks, river valleys, and sand dunes, there is an adventure in the National Park to satisfy hikers of all skill levels and ages. Arguably one of the most scenic locales in the state, we urge you to add a trip to the sand dunes to your Colorado itinerary—you won’t regret it.
10 Wonderful Hiking Routes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Great Sand Dunes National Park offers more than just dune field expeditions—though those are a must when in the area. Whether you are looking for a relaxing nature trail overlooking the desert terrain, or a heart-pumping hike into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Great Sand Dunes National Park delivers. We took it upon ourselves to curate a list of our favorite hikes in the area—check it out:
- High Dune Trail - The High Dune Trail is an epic adventure up to one of the highest sand dunes in North America. Hike along the wind-sculpted ridges of the Great Dunes. The revered trail leaves no evidence of its popularity as the footprints are erased with the smallest gust of wind. Revel in the sights of the Sangre de Cristo’s glaciated peaks that dominate the skyline.
- Sand Dunes Loop Trail - Immerse yourself in the continent’s largest sandbox along the Sand Dunes Loop Trail. Hike up the soft terrain up to the ridgeline, exhibiting breathtaking vistas of Colorado’s topographic variety. Meander along the Medano Creek to end your fantastic expedition.
- Mosca Pass Trail - The Mosca Pass Trail is a welcome variation from the National Park’s typical sand dune expeditions. Wander through mixed pine forests, aspen glades, and alpine tundra up to Mosca Pass. From atop the mountain pass, you will be rewarded with awe-inspiring scenes of dunes below set against the Colorado Rockies.
- Dunes Overlook Hike - The Dunes Overlook Hike is an awesome family-friendly adventure in the National Park. Ramble along the sandy path, admiring the area’s diverse flora and fauna as you trek to the overlook. From the lookout, you will be granted epic panoramas of the dune hills.
- Dunes Trail via Pinyon Flats - Explore the Great Sand Dunes and the Medano Creek along the Dunes Trail via Pinyon Flats. This awesome adventure departs from the campground before traversing Medano Creek and climbing up to High Dune. Make sure to pack plenty of water for this trek!
- Montville Nature Trail - The Montville Nature Trail is a short but scenic adventure along the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Range. Hike through mixed pine forests along Mosca Creek up to a scenic overlook of the dunes. Revel in the sights of the dune fields and admire vibrant wildflowers that adorn the terrain in the spring.
- High and Star Dune Loop - Ascend the two highest sand dunes in North America along the High and Star Dune Loop. This epic adventure exposes the enormity of the dunes and the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This challenging trek demands stamina and determination, so make sure you are adequately prepared.
- Upper Sand Creek Lake Hike - Head up into the high country along the Upper Sand Creek Hike. Whether it be the altitude or picturesque scenery, this adventure will take your breath away. Travel through mixed pine forests and aspen groves before climbing up to the glittering Upper Sand Creek Lake, which is bounded by vertigo-inducing cliffs.
- Medano Lake Trail - The Medano Lake Trail is another alpine adventure in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Nestled amongst the glaciated peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, the glittering lake is postcard-worthy. Though strenuous, the stunning scenery proves well worth the sweat.
- Wellington Ditch Trail - Wander along the foothills, which reveal awe-inspiring panoramas of the rolling sand dunes along the Wellington Ditch Trail. Admire the area’s vegetation, including junipers, cactus, and ponderosa pines as you hike. This is a great adventure that the whole family can enjoy.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park
The beauty of the Great Sand Dune National Park exceeds the stunning scenery and geological marvel. This epic attraction offers epic outdoor activities year-round. The summer is undoubtedly the busiest season for camping in the area. May and June bring crowds as the waters of Medano Creek are surging, providing great tubing adventures. Though you can venture the dunes in July and August, the sand and exposed terrain often prove unbearably warm. The winter months see cool, blustery conditions not ideal for hiking. We prefer to head out in the spring and autumn when the crowds have thinned and the sand is cool.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Great Sand Dunes National Park
There is no denying that the Great Sand Dunes National Park is a hiker’s oasis. Lacking marked routes up the sand dunes, adventurers get to blaze their own trails up the wind-sculpted ridges into the dune field, exposing breathtaking panoramas of Colorado’s topographic diversity.
Seeking another way to experience the continent’s highest dunes? In the summer, grab a tube and float down the Medano Creek, which flows from the snowmelt of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. If you are an adrenaline junkie, consider grabbing a sled or snowboard and sliding down the slopes of the towering dunes! One of our favorite ways to explore the hills is by heading out in the evening, wandering over the cool sand, and stargazing. No matter how you explore the dunes, you will be amazed by this geological wonder.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Great Sand Dunes National Park
Is the Great Sand Dunes National Park worth visiting?
Yes, a detour to the Great Sand Dunes National Park is well worth the visit. Hike up the tallest sand dunes in North America that sit against the dramatic snow-capped summits of the Sangre de Cristo Range.
What is the Great Sand Dunes National Park known for?
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is famous for the tallest sand dunes in North America, which tower over 213 m from the base.
How much does it cost to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park?
A 7-day private vehicle pass costs $25USD, a 7-day motorcycle pass costs $20USD, and a 12-month annual pass costs $45USD.
Where is the Great Sand Dunes National Park?
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located near Alamosa in Southern Colorado.
Amazing Adventure Tours in Colorado
Unfortunately, we have yet to curate a Great Sand Dunes National Park adventure package but keep an eye out as we are always working on adding more exciting tours to the collection! Until then, we encourage you to check out our Colorado Adventure Tours or the Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Tour.
Find Other Epic Hiking Regions in Colorado
Best Hikes in Great Sand Dunes National Park
High Dune Trail
Did you know there are sand dunes in Colorado? Well, the highest dunes in North America are located in Colorado, and the High Dune Trail is the best way to experience this geological anomaly. Though you may have never considered adding the Great Sand Dunes National Park to your Colorado adventure itinerary, we highly suggest you explore these immense sand mounds that are the most biologically diverse environments in the state.
Sand Dunes Loop Trail
A distinct change from Colorado’s quintessential alpine hikes, the Sand Dunes Loop Trail traverses the sandy terrain, boasting breathtaking panoramic vistas. This intermediate hike enables hikers of most skill levels and ages to enjoy the incredible ascent along the ridgeline of North America’s tallest sand dunes.
Mosca Pass Trail
Hiking the Mosca Pass Trail is a great adventure in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. A welcome variation from the park’s quintessential dune expeditions, this trek boasts breathtaking views that reveal the enormity of the sand dunes and the lofty snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range.
Dunes Overlook Hike
Hiking the Dunes Overlook Trail is an easy-going, scenic adventure in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Exhibiting the diversity of the area’s flora and fauna whilst exposing epic panoramas of the other-worldly dunes, this trek is tough to beat. If you are seeking a short and sweet expedition in the park, then we may have found your match.
Dunes Trail via Pinyon Flats
Adventure to the top of High Dune along the Dunes Trail via Pinyon Flats. Immerse yourself in the sandy terrain and revel in Colorado’s topographic diversity as you admire the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the sandy mounds that consume the landscape.
Montville Nature Trail
Immerse yourself in the wilderness as you wander the Montville Nature Trail. This accessible adventure can be enjoyed year-round by the whole family. Enjoy the area’s flora and fauna whilst reveling in panoramas of the dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
High and Star Dune Loop
The High and Star Dune Loop’s beauty is unparalleled. Located in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, this adventure climbs up the highest dunes in North America. Exhibiting the grandeur of other-worldly terrain, this trek also reveals the distinct contrast between Colorado’s topographies—from the snow-capped Rockies to the sandy rolling dunes.
Upper Sand Creek Lake Hike
Hiking the Upper Sand Creek Lake Trail is an incredible experience. Located in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, this adventure diverges from the quintessential dune hikes and instead immerses intrepid explorers high into the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. Whether it be the elevation or vistas, this trek will take your breath away!
Medano Lake Trail
The Medano Lake Hike is an awesome alpine adventure in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Immerse yourself in the alpine environment as you explore mixed pine forests and shimmering lakes bounded by the craggy Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Dunes Overlook and Sand Ramp Trail
The Dunes Overlook and Sand Ramp Trail is an easy-going adventure that can be enjoyed by hikers of all ages and skill levels. This quick walk exhibits the enormity of the looming dunes without having to overexert yourself climbing up the sandy terrain.
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