Little known fact – Colorado has sand dunes – and they are the tallest sand dunes in North America. They are an anomaly amongst the Rocky Mountains and one of the gems amongst Colorado’s four National Parks. Here are 10 reasons to plan your visit now:
1. Views from the Oasis Campground
Note: There are two things that we loved about Oasis Campground. First, the view from it when we were leaving the next day, and second the fact that it existed. The campgrounds in the park were full (no surprise). We hadn’t made any reservations (also no surprise) and all of the others, as our favorite Colorado Campground book told us, were a good 30 minute drive away – if not more. Oasis Campground offered us a piece of dirt (admittedly quite appealing when the other option was to keep driving dark roads), a fire pit, a bathroom a 10 minute walk away and a few trees – for $25 bucks. But they did have a cute, gas station (and a five minute drive to the park.) Their general store rents boards if you are interested.
2. Trek across the shallow river going through the Great Sand Dunes National Park
3. Make sand castles at the beach!
4. Climb the Biggest Sand Dunes in All of North America
Note: This process might cause you to have homicidal thoughts in the direction of the person who you do this with. The fact this individual had zero to do with millions of years of geology dropping mountains of sand down or that it was your idea to climb them in the first place – will be of zero consequence. Elevation of the tallest sand dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park? 755 feet. It may not seem like a lot, but remember every step you are sinking in sand.
Note #2: This is my second time to the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Both times I went for one day and night. I think that is the perfect amount of time. Spring brings great temps (rumor has it the sand can get to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months), but spring also brings wind and the wind + sand combo – well, I think one day there is perfect! Don’t forget to check out the very well done Visitors Center.
5. See bugs gettin’ lucky
6. Drive an hour and a half up the road and tumble across one of the beautiful campgrounds (Ohaver Lake Campground, Site #19) we have found to date.
7. See twisty Aspen trees on the hike from Ohaver Lake Campground
8. Go Fishin’ (Ohaver Lake)
9. Find relaxation you didn’t know existed on earth at Cottonwood Hot Springs near Buena Vista
Note: Hot springs (and a slew of other alternative-type therapies) boast all day long how they help you relax. Now I don’t know if it was the last pool I was in at Cottonwood Hot Springs (the one farthest to the left if you are standing in the entrance), the amount of time I was there (probably 90 minutes max) or both, but in the last pool I was in – my mind just went quiet.
Like it couldn’t think, didn’t want to think, couldn’t think that it once thought, didn’t know why it would think – I don’t know what it was – but it was other worldly relaxation and I absolutely can’t recommend it enough.
Also, a bonus for people who are childless or don’t bring the kiddos along – Cottonwood Hot Springs is strict about keeping kids with their parents, so you don’t need to worry about a cannonball to the face while you are blissing out.
We found these hot springs via our favorite Colorado Hot Springs book. If you are interested in checking out Cottonwood Hot Springs or other Colorado Hot Springs you would probably love it.
10. Know if you go:
Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located 238 miles south (approximately a four hour drive) of Denver.
Weather: Weather in Grand Sand Dunes National Park can be mild but windy in the spring but this is when the river is flowing. Summer brings nice air temperatures (75 – 80 degrees) but the sand can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. (Ouch!) Fall day temperatures are in the 60s and 70s but nighttime temperatures can go into the 20s. Winter is cold but sunny with temperatures in the teens to 30 below. I have seen pictures of Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes in the winter – and it looks quite spectacular – not to mention you would have them all to yourself. More info on weather in the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve here.
Camping / Accommodations: For those who want to camp in the Great Sand Dunes National Park there is one campground, Pinyon Flats. There are first come first serve campsites and other campsites available for reservation. Learn more about campgrounds in our favorite Colorado Camping book. (It is an oldie but a goodie!) You can also look for nearby Airbnb options. ($25 off Airbnb coupon) or hotel options.