You have heard a lot of things about sand dunes, even the sand dunes are favorites of many. Well, Colorado is a place that is usually famous for snow-capped mountains and green grassy meadows, winter skiing, and kayaking or mirror-like lakes. But the state is also the home to a 30-square-mile sand dune field. The majestic sand dunes in Colorado are situated at the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, and beside the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this landscape features sand dunes that are up to 750 feet high and are perfect for hiking, camping, and picturesque environment.
These are the tallest sand dunes in North America which are situated in the diverse landscape of wetlands, forests, alpine lakes, and grasslands that is providing a patchwork of color. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are so unique, in fact, that it is a protected landscape under the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The four main components of the sand dune system are the mountain watershed, the dune field itself, the sand sheet which is a flat plot of sand with large grains, and the sabkha which is a coastal mudflat. The dunes were built over tens of thousands of years by sediments from the surrounding mountains that filled the valley. Additionally, as the lakes in the valley move away, the exposed sand was blown by the winds as a result making dunes.
The park was originally designed to protect the area back in 1932, after fears of gold mining or concrete manufacturing alarmed the residents of the nearby Alamosa and Monte Vista cities, who then petitioned Congress asking for protection. Then the area was developed and formed a national monument to a national park and preserve in 2004. It contains 5 billion cubic meters of sand. Even though there is some evidence of human habitation in early times, dates back to 11,000 years, with the first historic peoples to inhabit the region being the Southern Ute Tribes.
When people are visiting the preserved park, they have a lot of fun activities to enjoy from sandboarding and sand sledding to four-wheel driving. But the best adventure comes at nightfall when the adventurous can backpack over sand dunes to make a tent and enjoy the incredible starry night skies with thousands of stars at one portion. The park’s elevation at 8.200ft and rural location makes it a favorite with dark sky stargazers, there are many astronomy programs happening because of one of the darkest locations from May to September.
In day time all the tourists can hike to the summit of Star Dune, the tallest dune in the park, while Crestone Needle, Cleveland Peak, and Mount Herard also offer challenging elevation climbs for adventure lovers. Furthermore, the park also offers special sand wheelchairs for everyone, so that they can enjoy this stunning, once-in-a-lifetime experience in the sand dunes of Colorado.
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The best part is, The High Dune hike is probably the most popular Great Sand Dunes trail. The hike takes you from the ground to the top of the 699′ dunes, the High Dune isn’t the tallest in the park. But it’s further 1.5 miles west and very much harder to access.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is open 24 hours, throughout the whole year. Like every place and national park, there is a small entrance fee required. The cost for a passenger vehicle is $15, and the pass long lasts for another 7 days.
You just need to explore your surroundings of yours, nature has magic in every small thing, and you just need to find and explore it. Stay tuned for further updates and information.