Edison the Van @TheFites
Edison the Van @TheFites
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Exploring the towering dunes, lush wetlands, aspen forests, and sunbaked alpine tundra of Great Sand Dunes National Park, you'll feel like you've been transported to another planet. The park enjoys a dramatic high elevation setting and is surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Southern Rockies and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The landscape is surreal and forever changing, with wind erosion continually sculpting and reshaping the dunes.
While the park occupies a huge 150,000 acres, around 85% is undeveloped. Most visitors stick to the built-up area near Medano Creek, though if you're feeling adventurous, you can venture into the wilderness zones. Planning a trip to the Centennial State? Book an RV Alamosa County and you're perfectly placed for visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park. Sections of the park also span into Saguache County, a gateway to the San Luis Valley. At four hours from the state capital via the Interstate 25, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is also popular with city slickers looking to camp in an RV near Denver.
Great Sand Dunes National Park gets you up close with the tallest, most dramatic sand dunes in North America. Star Dune is the park's showpiece at 750 feet high. The round trip hike should take around five hours and rewards you with incredible views over the sandy expanse. The two-hour return hike to High Dune starts from a parking area near the visitors' center and unlocks sweeping views over the dune field.
Sandboarding and sledding down the dunes promise guaranteed thrills for kids and adults alike. Bring your own gear or rent boards and sleds from a nearby outfitter. Whether you're using a smartphone or a high-tech DSLR, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a photographer's dream. Sunset is the most magical time to snap photographs, when light bounces of the dunes and creates a golden glow and dramatic shifting shadows.
Every year from April to July, outdoor lovers flock to splash in the crystalline waters of Medano Creek. The seasonal waterway makes an appearance when snowmelt from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains cascades down to the dunes. The flow forms ripples in the sand which create miniature waves that are perfect for wakeboarding and tubing. Enjoy a picnic on the sandy shoreline, cool off in the creek, or enjoy a relaxing float. If you have a 4WD, the challenging road to Medano Pass boasts some of the best scenery in the park. You'll traverse Medano Creek several times, cruise through rocky canyons, and have a chance to spot bighorn sheep.
In 2019, Great Sand Dunes National Park earned its crown as an International Dark Sky Park. The high elevation, dry desert climate, and light pollution protection from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains make the park one of the best stargazing destinations in Colorado, with mesmerizing views of the Milky Way and distant galaxies. On summer weekends, you can join fascinating astronomy programs. There's also the Junior Ranger Night Explorer program for the kids. After dark, a surreal stroll around the dunes is one of the best ways to soak it all in.
Open from April to October, the Piñon Flats Campground offers a unique chance to sleep in an International Dark Sky Park. The National Park Service campground offers 88 sites suitable for both rental RVs and tents. Sites in Loop 1 compromise on shade but boast the best views of the dunes and mountains. Stay in Loop 2 or Loop 3 and you'll enjoy sun-dappled sites dotted with pinyon pines and desert shrubs. All sites feature picnic tables and fire pits for enjoying your meals outdoors. Larger sites in Loop 1 and Loop 2 can accommodate RVs of up to 35 feet long.
There are no hookups here, which makes Great Sand Dunes a great option if you're looking for an off-the-grid motorhome camping experience. That said, you'll enjoy creature comforts like restrooms with flush toilets when RV camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Water spigots are available in all loops, and in the busy summer months, you'll have access to a dump station.
Hidden gems like Zapata Falls offer welcome relief from Colorado's sunbaked desert landscape. It's fed by snowmelt from the San Juan Mountains and sees water cascade 25 feet down a rocky crevasse. For a change of scene, spend the day exploring the San Luis State Wildlife Area. It's set on low-lying dunes interspersed with wildlife-rich wetlands. A 30-minute drive from the park, Colorado Gators Reptile Park gets you face to face with enormous crocodilians, some more than 11 feet long and weighing over 500 pounds.
A 40-minute drive south, Alamosa is a gateway to Great Sand Dunes and is a convenient place to stock up on gas, groceries, and other RV camping supplies. While you're there, stop by the San Luis Valley Museum to learn about the local history of the area, or step aboard the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad for an unforgettable journey through the Southern Rockies. Halfway to Denver, Colorado Springs is also a great place to rent an RV near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.