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Overview

With pointy peaks and shapes changing constantly in the wind, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve looks like the kind of backdrop you'd see in a computer-animated movie. The Dunes are like nothing else in Colorado, beginning with the flat, muddy Medano Creek and Sand Creek, then rising to sharp, rolling peaks and dipping into mini-valleys. No matter how old or out-of-shape you are, it is impossible to resist the urge to rush at full speed up one of the sandy hills, then crouch and drop into a roll down the other side. North America's tallest dunes extend 750 feet high, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background. Within ...

With pointy peaks and shapes changing constantly in the wind, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve looks like the kind of backdrop you'd see in a computer-animated movie. The Dunes are like nothing else in Colorado, beginning with the flat, muddy Medano Creek and Sand Creek, then rising to sharp, rolling peaks and dipping into mini-valleys. No matter how old or out-of-shape you are, it is impossible to resist the urge to rush at full speed up one of the sandy hills, then crouch and drop into a roll down the other side. North America's tallest dunes extend 750 feet high, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background. Within the 30-square-mile area, a national monument since 1932, are alpine lakes, wetlands, trees, and a variety of birds and wildlife. How did all this sand get here, anywhere from 12,000 to millions of years ago, as scientists estimate? Mostly, it blew up against the mountains with heavy winds, but streams, creeks, melting snow, and floods had something to do with it, too. The park is open all day, every day, and some 300,000 visitors a year show up for camping, hiking, cycling, and sand-boarding.

Steve Knopper
About the Expert

Steve Knopper is the Denver-based author of Moon Handbooks Colorado as well as a contributor to numerous Fodor's city guides.

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Steve Knopper for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Summer is the best time. During spring and fall it gets really windy.