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Experience Rafting and Hiking at Great Sand Dunes National Park on Your Next Colorado Camping Trip
Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, beautiful mountains, grasslands, wetlands, shrublands, creeks, lakes and rivers. The diverse landscape offers a nearly endless opportunity for adventure and has drawn humans to it for over 11,000 years. Depending on the season that you visit, there are rivers to swim in, sand dunes to climb, snowy mountains to ski down, and beautiful hikes over dunes or through grasslands, through wooded forests or along Medano Lake, even through bison covered wetlands and up beautiful mountain sides. Established as a National Monument in 1932, it was upgraded to Great Sand Dunes National Park in 2000. When it was designated a Park, the government also bought much of the surrounding area in an attempt to better protect the rivers and creeks that make the Great Sand Dunes possible. Today, the park covers over 85,000 acres, making it an excellent Colorado camping destination.
For Woodall’s approved Colorado camping sites, visit
Great Sand Dunes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Spring is an unpredictable time of the year, bringing sunny days with a high in the 60’s, or offering freezing cold blizzards, sometimes even in the same day. Later spring tends to remain warmer, and Medano Creek overflows with water, making it the perfect time to bring a swimsuit. Summer is much warmer with averages in the 70’s and 80’s. The sand of the Dunes, however, can reach 140 degrees! The high elevation of 8200’ means that summer nights are surprisingly cool. Summer thunderstorms are common. Fall is a mild season, but snow and rain are likely and you should always be prepared for any weather. Winter is cold, although often very sunny. Snow and blizzards are common, and it rarely gets warmer than the mid 30’s and the temperature drops below 0. There is an entrance fee of $3 per adult and children are free, which is valid for 7 days. An annual pass to Great Sand Dunes National Park is $15. As always, an interagency annual pass that gets you into most national parks is $80.
With its many diverse and pristine natural attractions, Great Sand Dunes National Park has a lot of activities to offer. One of the most popular activities is swimming in Medano Creek. The creek is fullest, and thus most popular, in May and June. Weekends during these months are very, very busy, especially at the Creek. By July, Medano Creek usually dries up and retreats back to the mountains. A year round activity that allows you to experience the raw beauty of the park is hiking. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, and the opportunities for off-trail hiking are endless. There are no designated trails along the dunes, as the dunes change daily, especially in high winds. In the summer, you should plan to hike the dunes in the morning or late afternoon to avoid hot sand. Remember that the sand can get as hot as 140 degrees! There are many forested trails which take you though beautiful wooded areas, offering spectacular views of the dunes, Mt Herard, and the beautiful valley below. If you want to adventure up into the mountains, there are many alpine trails as well. These trails take you up into the beautiful mountains surrounding the Park. Grassland, wetland and shrubland hikes take you through a less traveled area of the park, although it is well worth the extra effort to reach. A haven for wildlife, these areas are an excellent spot for wildlife viewing, including bison, elk, deer, marmots, beavers, and much much more. Bears, mountain lions, big horn sheep, badgers and a wide range of birds, plants and insects also call the park home. Since the park is so diverse in land, animal and season, there is something to attract everyone, making it an excellent and adventurous place to visit.
To locate Woodall’s approved Colorado camping sites, visit
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