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Hiking & Walking: Colorado > Great Sand Dunes National Park

Quick Facts

Great Sand Dunes National Monument Visitor Center

Elevation: 8,175 Feet (2548.3 Meters)
USGS Maps: Zapata Ranch, Liberty

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Visitor Center - 10.98
Copyright: Jamiebea Hall - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Visitor Center - 10.98
Before venturing out to the dunes, stop by the Visitor Center. Here you can pick up information on the dunes and other park features and view the wonderful exhibits. Brochures, books, maps, posters, tapes and souvenirs are for sale in the bookstore, which is operated by the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association.

Rangers can assist in planning your visit and answering your questions. Accessible terrace talks are offered daily at the Visitor Center during the summer months. Schedules of activities, such as hikes and campfire programs are posted here. The center is opened daily, except on federal holidays in the winter. Summer hours are 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; winter hours vary.

Directions from Alamosa: The Great Sand Dunes National Monument is located 38 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado. Drive east from Alamosa on State Highway 160 to the well-marked junction with Highway 150. Follow Highway 150 for 19 miles to the Visitor Center.

Directions from Mosca: You can also take Highway 17 north of Alamosa to just past Mosca. From Mosca to the Visitor Center is 26 miles. Turn right, or east, onto Six Mile Lane and follow it to the junction with Highway 150. From where Six Mile Lane joins Highway 150 it is a little less than 6 miles to the Visitor Center.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Year-round (NOTE: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in Summer months; varying hours in the Winter.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: The Great Sand Dunes were absolutely magnificent! If you've never seen them before you should go check it out!

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking Eight backcountry sites in the Monument; free permit from Visitor Center required.
ICON Family Camping Pinyon Flats Campground
ICON Fishing Medano Creek; Rio Grande National Forest
ICON Four-Wheel Driving Medano Pass Primitive Road
ICON Group Picnicking South Ramada (reservations required) and North Ramada
ICON Hiking & Walking Numerous trails in the area
ICON Horseback Riding Park at Amphitheater, Montville or Point of No Return; stay out of main public use areas
ICON Animal Identification Look for tracks in the sand, especially in early morning
ICON Firewood Gathering Not permitted in the Monument; purchase from concessionaire in summer and from Visitor Center in winter.
ICON Lodging Alamosa, Monte Vista and Ft. Garland
ICON Mountain Biking Only on Medano Pass Primitive Road; some difficult sandy stretches
ICON Mountain Climbing Blanca Peak, Little Bear and the Crestones
ICON ATV Riding Only on Medano Pass Primitive Road, if vehicle and driver are licensed.
ICON Motorcycle Riding Only on Medano Pass Primitive Road, if vehicle and driver are licensed.
ICON Picnicking Next to Dunes Parking Area, Sand Pit and Castle Creek sites
ICON Downhill Skiing Trying skiing the dunes, even in summer.
ICON Attending Talks & Programs Summer programs at amphitheater; programs in Visitor Center year-round
ICON Viewing Interpretive Signs Picture Point Trail, Montville Nature Trail
ICON Viewing Interpretive Sites Great Sand Dunes National Monument Visitor Center
ICON Guided Touring Concessionaire conducts tours on Medano Pass Primitive Road in the summer.

Nearby Services

Gas (available in summer months): The Oasis (Private-profit) Directions: Located at the Monument's south boundary

Restaurant (open April-October): The Oasis (Private-profit) Directions: Located at the Monument's south boundary

Related Activities
Amphitheater and Parking Area - The amphitheater is on the right, just before Piñon Flats Campground. Nightly campfire programs are offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A wheelchair platform is located in the center of the seating area.

Castle Creek Picnic Ground - This picnic site is located on Medano Pass Primitive Road where Castle Creek joins Medano Creek. Either drive a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle or park at The Point of No Return and walk.

Castle Creek Trail - At Castle Creek, the dunes rise abruptly from the creekbed. Dune slipfaces avalanche as they near angles greater than 34 degrees. Steep slipfaces are challenging to climb; stay on the ridges and slide down the faces.

Dunes Overlook - The Dunes Overlook is a short side trail off Little Medano Creek Trail. It is about 1/2 mile in length and gives visitors a magnificent view of the Main Dune Mass.

Dunes Picnic Ground - The picnic area is located right next to the Dunes Parking Area which is at the edge of the dunes. Tables, grills (charcoal fires only please), water and restrooms are provided.

Escape Dunes/Ghost Forest Trail - Here, shifting sands have crossed Medano Creek to form new dunes. The "escape" dunes create "ghost forests" where trees die through suffocation and starvation.

Little Medano Creek Trail - Meander through a variety of terrain when you head north from the campground. Travel through escape dunes until the trail crosses Medano Creek. The trail ends at an overlook just beyond Little Medano Creek.

Main Dune Mass Trail - A climb to the top of the tallest dune (not quite 750 feet from the base) takes about one hour. From the top you may gaze upon miles of picturesque topography.

Main Dunes Parking Area - This is the main parking area for the Great Sand Dunes and it is located only a few yards from the dunes. A picnic area for families and groups is located here and restrooms and water are available.

Medano Pass Primitive Road - The Medano Pass Primitive Road is a four-wheel drive road that begins in the park and goes north to Medano Pass and the Rio Grande National Forest.

Montville Nature Trail - The Montville Nature Trail is a half mile loop that winds through a riparian ecosystem and into the Rio Grande National Forest. It is a self-guided hike that circles the lower portion of Mosca Canyon.

Montville Parking Area - Horse trailers may be parked here overnight and horseback riders may cross the portion of Montville Nature Trail necessary to get to Mosca Pass Trail.

Mosca Pass Trail - Mosca Pass Trail begins at the Montville Trail, a self-guided interpretive trail, in the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. The trail follows Mosca Creek to the top of Mosca Pass.

Mosca Pass Trail - From the Great Sand Dunes, Mosca Pass Trail begins from the Montville Parking Area. The trail follows Mosca Creek to the top of Mosca Pass.

North Ramada Group Picnic Ground - Reservations are not required at this picnic area and the site can between 50-70 people. Busses should park in the main Dunes parking area. Groups can then walk to the site.

Picture Point Trail - The Picture Point Trail is located at the Visitor Center and begins to the north of the building. It is wheelchair accessible and has trailside interpretive exhibits.

Pinyon Flats Campground - Piñon Flats Campground is open all year on a first-come, first serve basis. Each site has a picnic table and fire grate. Facilities include water fountains and spigots as well as restrooms with sinks and toilets.

Pinyon Flats Group Site - Some group sites are available in Piñon Flats Campground. It is extremely popular and reservations are required. Since these sites are in such high demand, call the Visitor Center any time after January 2nd.

Pinyon Flats Trail - This trail connects the main Dunes Parking Area with Piñon Flats Campground.

Point of No Return Parking Area - This is a turnaround area and small parking area, aptly named Point of No Return. It is provided for two-wheel drive, wide and/or long vehicles.

Sawmill Canyon Campground - For a unique backcountry experience, Sawmill Canyon Campsite offers excellent scenery and solitude. Less then 1 mile north on Medano Pass Road, the two car parking area can accommodate up to four wheelchairs.

South Ramada Group Picnic Ground - Reservations are required at this picnic area; they can be made by calling the Visitor Center. The site can between 50-70 people. Busses should park in the main Dunes parking area.

Wellington Ditch Trail - This one mile trail can be accessed from Loop 3 of the Piñon Flats Campground if you park in the Amphitheater parking area. You can also park in the Montville parking area and start from Mosca Pass Trail.

Zapata Falls Area - This hike is not for everyone. Be prepared to climb a short ladder, get your feet wet in cold water and balance on slippery rocks.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Great Sand Dunes National Monument, 11999 Highway 150 , Mosca, CO, 81146, Phone: 719-378-6300


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