Last Sunday (the second day to the long weekend in honor of Martin Luther King Junior), A. and I drove down to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We took Po along with us. We tried to leave by seven…but you know how that goes. After getting out the door and getting a coffee, we had to stop back at the house because we forgot Po’s leash. We finally go on our way about 7:30 am. It was a decent drive – about 2.5 hours with very little traffic. A. listened to a book for most of the drive and I got caught up on a few podcasts I like but have been behind on.
About an hour away we saw hills off in the distance that looked like they could possibly be the sand dunes, but we later learned that they are actually basalt hills that have been bleached white by the sun.
There are a few hikes in the area that we would definitely like to go back for: Zappata Falls being one of them. Once we arrived at the entrance to the park, we learned that in observance of the holiday, the entrance fee had been waived for BOTH Sunday and Monday. Not that it matters too much for us as we have an annual pass, but good for others who may not have one. The National Parks have multiple days throughout the year that are fee-free days. You can find more about that here.
We did quick bathroom breaks in the visitor center (which, FYI, if you go on a holiday, regardless if it is a fee-free day, the visitor center will be closed) before heading to the trail head parking for the actual dunes. A. took Po up the dunes (there isn’t really a trail) and explored around a bit. Dogs are typically NOT allowed on the trails within National Parks; however some have restricted areas for them. Research before you go. Most that we have visited allow them in the parks themselves – in the campgrounds etc – but not on the actual trails. Kind of a pain, especially since a lot of people hike with their dogs, but I understand it is to keep the land in decent condition. Enough people DON’T pick up after themselves, much less their dogs.
While A. was hiking the dunes with Po, I went to check out the visitor center. I was disappointed I couldn’t climb the dunes, but I am still in the healing process. I at elast got to see them, you know? And hopefully when I am fully healed we can go back and explore a little more.
The visitor center was small, but informative. The dunes are able to stay and not erode away because of the winds from the plains and the protection of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The rangers had a few pairs of binoculars which I used to look for A. and Po on the dunes. I am pretty sure I found them :). A. texted me when he was nearing the parking lot and I went back to get him. After we went back to the visitor center, got a stamp for our passport book and looked around the bookstore. We got another pin for our collection and a pressed penny passport book as well.
Afterwards we contemplated visiting Bishops Castle but decided it would be too long of a day with Po and I wouldn’t be able to walk around and explore since I had already hit my restriction limit. So we headed home.
Here are some pictures from the trip:
If you go:
Research the weather beforehand. It was a cold day when we went (25 degrees F or so) and the weather app called for 10 mph winds so we dressed accordingly. It turned out to be better than we thought.
If you are planning on hiking the dunes, bring gaitors to help keep the sand out of your shoes/pants.
Normal day pass fees are ~$15/vehicle. Camping (open April through October) is first come first serve and is typically $20/night. I’m not sure if they accommodate RVs.
The closest town that rents out sand boards/sand sleds in the winter is 20 miles away in Alamosa. We did not do this activity this time around, but hope to do it in the future. I’ve read that it is best to do this in the summer months, as some places won’t rent in the winter if the weather has been cold/bad. Sand does freeze and it can damage the boards. When you do partake in this activity, please please please follow the ranger’s guidelines. Just in the week prior, two guys were sent to the hospital; one with a broken arm and the other with a broken collarbone. All because they didn’t heed the rules.