DescriptionGreat Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is 38 miles northeast of Alamosa via US 160 and SR 150. Too heavy to rise over the mountains with the winds that carry it northeastward across the flat, semiarid floor of the San Luis Valley, sand settles at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range. Deposits accumulating over the course of thousands of years have created a 30-square-mile, stark yet ever-changing sandscape that forms a vaguely eerie foreground for the rugged mountains.
Local legends maintain that wagon trains vanished among the dunes, some of which are 750 feet high, and that strange creatures inhabit the area's inner reaches.
Two self-guiding nature trails and camping and picnicking facilities are available. Naturalist-conducted walks and nightly amphitheater programs are held in summer. Sleds and sandboards designed for the dunes are available to rent. Visitor center exhibits depict the region's natural and cultural history.
Allow 1 hour minimum for the park. Park open daily 24 hours. Visitor center daily 8-5:30, Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day; 9-4:30, rest of year. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Day and Christmas. Phone ahead to confirm schedule. Admission $15 (per private vehicle); $10 (per motorcycle). Phone (719) 378-6395.
GEM DescriptionIn 1807 explorer Zebulon Pike wrote, “Their appearance was exactly that of a sea in storm, not the least sign of vegetation existing thereon.”