HOW TO GET THERE
The Great Sand Dunes are nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in a remote, mostly desert area of Alamosa County, Colorado. However, this beautiful piece of nature is easy to get to via Colorado State Highway 150. From the main entrance, getting to the parking area takes about 10 minutes by car.
I captured the shot above using my Nikon D810 and Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 lens. This vantage point is from the last scenic pullover as you leave the park and near the entrance.
If you want to do it the easy way, the GPS coordinates for the closest access point for the hiking trails are 37.739534, -105.517165.
WHAT IT’S LIKE HIKING THE DUNES
Hiking The Great Sand dunes, to me, was a beautifully unique and refreshing experience. In many ways, you feel like you’re at the beach, but you’re completely surrounded by towering mountains and pine forests in the distance, and of course – no ocean or sea is anywhere to be found.
|Two Microbial Looking Hikers Atop the First Peak Show the Vastness of the Great Sand Dunes (Image ©2015 Ben Sullivan)
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Towering at 750-feet, the Great Sand Dunes are the highest dunes in all of North America. Climbing them will be considerably more energy intensive than climbing a similarly sized hill or mountain. You’ll find that your feet sink into the sand and that traction is greatly reduced while hiking. You’ll also quickly discover that your shoes will fill with sand as you walk, so you’re better off going barefoot or in open sandals. It’s also important to keep in mind that the dunes get really hot during the day – we’re talking temperatures as high as 150° f in the sun! Don’t worry too much about that though, the surface temperature is typically about 80° f and if you check the weather and time it appropriately, you’ll have a great experience. I decided to tackle them during the last four or five hours of daylight, so the dry desert breeze was exhilarating and I felt completely comfortable all the way through the hike. You’ll also want to make sure to bring water to avoid possible dehydration.
|The Great Sand Dunes and Mt. Herard as Seen from Castle Creek (Image ©2015 Ben Sullivan)
HOW WORTHWHILE IS IT?
This destination is out in the middle of a desolate desert region of Colorado, so other than San Luis State Park, which is nearby, you won’t go there for the surrounding attractions. The closest larger cities are Pueblo and Canon City, which are both about two hours away. You’ll want to bring food and water before your road-trip there. Despite the remote location, I’d recommend this place to anyone in a heartbeat. It’s totally different than anything else you’ll experience, and if you love sandy beaches, forests, and mountains, you’ll be very pleased to find that they all happily intersect in this national treasure.
As always, never forget that life is short – live it fully, love deeply, travel much, and be kind to your fellow beings.