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Backpacking: Colorado > Great Sand Dunes National Park

Quick Facts

Main Dunes Parking Area

Elevation: 8,000 Feet (2493.8 Meters)
USGS Maps: Zapata Ranch, Liberty

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

The Main Dunes Parking Area - 10.98
Copyright: Jamiebea Hall - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
The Main Dunes Parking Area - 10.98
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.

Vehicles can get extremely hot inside during summer months; please do not leave your pet or child inside a vehicle unattended. Pets left in vehicles without adequate ventilation can succumb to suffocation all too quickly. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside a car, even with the windows slightly open, will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 130 degrees in 30 minutes. Pets are welcome to join you on the dunes if leashed, but remember that their feet are not immune to the hot sand either.

Horseback riding is permitted in the Monument, but riding is not permitted in the main public use area (off the dunes parking lot). Medano Pass Primitive Road is a pleasant place to ride. Vehicles and trailers must be parked at the amphitheater parking lot. Please clean up after your horses in the parking lot. If camping in the adjacent National Forest and leaving a vehicle in the Monument, a free backcountry permit is required which is available in the Visitor Center.

The Monument has eight backpacking backcountry sites, with hiking distances ranging from .6 miles to 10.5 miles. Backpackers may also spend the night on the main dune mass. A free backcountry permit must be obtained from the Visitor Center if are camping in the Monument or if leaving a vehicle in the Monument overnight. Backpackers can also camp in the Rio Grande National Forest (Medano Pass, Mosca Pass or Blanca Peak Trail).

Directions from Visitor Center: From the Visitor Center, follow Highway 150 north for less than 1/2 mile and turn left. Follow this road for about 1/2 mile to the Dunes Parking Area.

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

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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
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 General Information Visitor Center
ICON Picnicking Next to Dunes Parking Area, Sand Pit and Castle Creek sites
ICON Downhill Skiing Trying skiing the dunes, even in summer.
ICON Backpacking Overnight parking permitted; free permit from Visitor Center required.
ICON General Parking Main Dunes Parking Area
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 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
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.

Great Sand Dunes National Monument Visitor Center - Before venturing out to the dunes, stop by the Visitor Center. Here you can pick up information on the dunes and other park features. The center is opened daily, except on federal holidays in the winter.

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.

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

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.

More Information

Visitor Information:

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


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