North America, United States
The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado comes as a bit of a surprise – the miles and miles of golden sand dunes seem completely out of place next to the snow-covered Rocky Mountains but the unexpectedness only makes it all the more impressive!
The sand dunes cover an area of about 7 by 5 miles and are the tallest in North America reaching heights of 700 feet above the San Luis Valley floor. This impressive height means that Great Sand Dunes National Park is famous for its fantastic sand boarding and sand sledding. People travel from all over the USA and further to either try out this sport for the first time or to test their skills on these wonderful sandy slopes.
If sand sports aren’t your thing then don’t let that put you off visiting as there are plenty more activities on offer here. It is a great place to hike; there are six maintained trails in the park but visitors are permitted to walk anywhere. We recommend heading to the tallest dune in the park from where you can enjoy incredible views, just be sure to take your camera as this place is a photographers dream! Also go take a look at Medano Creek, a pretty small stream that changes significantly throughout the year – typically it will flow most strongly during May and June and will have dried up by August or September.
The high elevation and the rural location of the Great Sand Dunes National Park make it a great dark sky viewing location. Head here at night to explore the dunes under a full moon or to enjoy gazing at thousands of beautiful stars. From May to September there are even a number of special astronomy programmes on offer. Just ensure you keep an eye out for the many nocturnal wildlife creatures of the dunes, including camel crickets, kangaroo rats, toads, coyotes, bobcats, and owls!
Great Dunes National Park is an incredible natural wonder and one you can visit year round. Summer is the park’s busiest time and certain programmes and guided walks are only available in this season. That said, the dunes can get pretty hot in the summer and so spring and autumn are arguably better times to visit. The dunes can still be visited in the winter but the surrounding mountains can’t.
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