The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley at the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range. It covers about 19,000 acres (7,700 ha).
Researchers estimate that the dunes started forming less than 440,000 years ago, which is recent in geological times. A Visitor Guide by the park provides plenty of ideas for activities while in this unique area.
While in the area, Zapata Falls lies just outside the park and is worth the small excursion.
- Trailhead: High Dune
- Round trip: 2.3 miles / 3.8 km
- Elevation: 8,175′-8,700′ (+525′) / 2,492m-2,652m (+160m)
Medano Creek is within a 100 feet of the parking lot and is a popular destination because it has the characteristics of an ocean beach in the spring. Cross the shallow creek and continue toward the dunes. The first part of the hike is easy because it travels across flat, thick sand. The hike quickly transitions from an easy beach walk to a vertically challenging dune climb as the angle increases. Walking up along the ridges provided the path of least resistance.
The sand can be incredibly hot in the summer.