1 day at Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is RANDOM. As you are driving through Colorado's farm, prairie, and marsh lands, snow capped peaks in the distance provide a stunning backdrop for absolutely massive sand dunes that seemingly come out of nowhere. From afar, this park is so bold and beautiful that it can feel as though you are entering a painting. It's surreal, to say the least. You feel in awe but also confused and begin to question everything - these mounds of sharply rising sand just don’t make sense (or do they? #science).
Bizarre as it may be, this park and preserve is real, and it is a wild, phenomenal place to visit. The great diversity of ecosystems in a relatively small area provide a rich world to explore, both on the dunes and in the surrounding region. As an added bonus, the dunes themselves are essentially a giant playground which will have your inner (or actual) child itching to play in the sand for hours on end.
To High Dune from Visitor Center: 2 hours round trip
To Star Dune from Visitor Center: 5 hours round trip
Hiking here is a little funny...there are no trails, you pretty much point to where you want to go and you go there. However, there are some obvious points of interest, like High Dune (cleverly named for being the tallest dune you can see from the visitors center) and Star Dune, the tallest sand dune in North America, standing at 750 feet (229m) high from the valley floor.
Hiking is a somewhat treacherous experience as going uphill on loose sand is not ideal for traction. Every step is like a half step, so when you’re climbing 700 feet to the High Dune, it feels more like you’re climbing 1,400 feet. However, the reward at the top is so sweet that you forget how difficult the journey was to get there. Pair that with the fact that you’re basically in a giant playground with endless fun of jumping and sliding off dune edges and the pain will disappear.
Here’s some tips
Tip #1: RENT A SANDBOARD and shred the gnar back down. You will not be disappointed.
Tip #2: There is nearly no light pollution, so treat yourself to a stunning view of the night sky by taking a night hike or even sleeping out on the dunes.
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