Local's Guide To Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado

Local's Guide To Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado


4 minute read

The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado is a local favorite and tourist dream. The sand and sun paired with the Medano Creek running through it is a perfect combination. Visiting the Sand Dunes was a part of every kid's childhood experience–this is our form of a beach in Colorado! To truly enjoy your visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado, you'll want to get a local's perspective. Here are a few things I think you'll want to remember for your visit.

Best Time to Go to Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado

We always go in the morning. Although the temperature mainly stays in the 70's in the San Luis Valley, the Great Sand Dunes Colorado is 7543 ft above sea level. This means we are much closer to the sun. As a result, afternoons on the Dunes are deceptively HOT. I say deceptively because you may not even recognize how hot you are really getting because of the cool breezes and the water.

Want to avoid the crowds? Early morning or evening is best. By 9:30 a.m., the parking lot is already filling up.

Wear the Right Shoes

Take it from me (from experience): DON'T WEAR FLIP-FLOPS! They will get stuck in the creek, and you'll be left without footwear for the climb up to the top of the dunes. Tennis shoes are fine, but keep in mind that the creek water is deceptively deep, and you could end up with soggy shoes. So if you're wearing tennis shoes, take them off and carry them while you're wading in the creek, and then put them back on when you get to the other side.

Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen.

If you're not from this area, you likely associate the cooler weather with less of an ability to get a sunburn. This is because you will burn in greater time and intensity at this altitude than at sea level. But, again, it's also much cooler here, so by the time you notice pink on your skin, it's too late. 

Stay Hydrated

The cooler weather may also mask your need for hydration. But, walking the Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado expends a lot of energy. So, do not attempt to hike very far without a water pack of some sort.

Schedule Family Photos

This is a gorgeous place for family photos. Some of the most beautiful engagement and senior pictures have been taken here. Here are a few local photographers who do some amazing work:

Rent the Right Gear

Renting sand boards is a must.  Our friends at Kristi Mountain Sports (run by the Burt Family–Tell Raleigh, Lisa & Eric I said hi!) can hook you up. It is an absolute thrill to sandboard down the dunes– and great exercise! 

Picnic Under the Stars

Nights at the dunes are perfect for a romantic date! 

Pack a picnic from supplies at Wendi's Good Things Market. We recommend a simple bottle of wine and choose from some other cheese, meats & crackers. Toss a picnic blanket in the back, and you're set. Colorado nights are notoriously clear. You can see the stars & are much closer than you could ever imagine. You WILL see falling stars. It's chilly here at night, so dress warmly.

Hike to the Top

It is the challenge of every local to hike to the top. It's almost a sign of whether or not you are true 'valley' or not. (We say this is "the valley," or I am "from the valley here"). If you tell a local you went to the dunes, they'll ask if you hiked to the top. So, I suppose if you want to impress the locals, there you go! 🙂

Fuel Up Before You Go

Our restaurant Locavores has become well known for travelers for made from scratch food served fast. You can count on fresh veggies plus a great variety of house-made sauces, locally grown roasted potatoes, and slow-roasted meats.

Haul Out What You Bring In

The San Luis Valley community is made up of a mix of native cultures and farmers. There is immense appreciation and respect for the land, trails, and recreation sites. This is not a tourist destination for us; it is our back door. Help us keep it beautiful. 

Take Lots of Photos!

The lighting up at the dunes can be amazing. Capture the fun, and be sure to tag us @wendisgoodthingsmarket or me @wendiseger, and we'll share out your photos. BTW, there is a lot of brown at the dunes...the best photos I've seen are when people wear a contrasting shade of some sort: cool colors or bright, vivid warm colors.

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