Southern Colorado is home to the highest sand dunes in North America, with some reaching heights of over 700 feet. Great Sand Dunes resembles a reverse beach in the spring and summer when the wide and shallow Medano Creek is formed by snowmelt from the two mountain ranges that border the park.
When the afternoon winds pick up, and the rain starts to fall, just rent a sandboard or sand sled and slide down the dunes. Be careful, though, because you may easily gain speed on these steep slopes.
Some of the tallest and highest sand dunes in the globe may be found in Colorado, which also happens to be home to some of the tallest dunes in North America. They may be found in a national preserve in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and also the Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on the eastern border of the San Luis Valley.
The park is home to a wide mixture of ecosystems, including marshes, woodlands, and alpine lakes, in addition to the sand dunes. Sand dunes of comparable grandeur may be found at a nearby national preserve in the Sangre de Cristo Range.
These dunes are stunning not only because of their enormous size but also because of the picturesque setting they provide on a high grassy plain against a backdrop of breathtaking mountains.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are close by, having been produced by the rifting and uplift of a tectonic plate, while the San Juan Mountains are far away, having been formed by a volcanic eruption on the opposite side of the valley.
Star Dune got its name because, from above, it looks like a star and because it has three or more slip faces or sides. If you choose to proceed, select a path and begin the arduous process of climbing and descending the dunes.
Star or High Sand Dune, the tallest sand dune in the world
High Dune is where most people go, but getting there and back is a three-mile journey. It’s on the first hill visible from the Castle Creek Picnic Area and is within easy walking distance for most visitors.
After leaving the parking lot, you’ll have to cross a large, flat area of sand and wade through the shallow waters of Medano Creek before choosing a path up the dunes to the top of High Dune. This is a trek with several endings, so let your imagination run wild!
From the western foot of the Sangre de Cristo Range, in the San Luis Valley, lie some of the highest sand dunes in North America. The Star Sand Dune is the highest peak, with a total height of 750 feet. There are likely more than 1.2 square miles (5 billion cubic meters) of sand within the dunes, which take up an area of around 30 square miles (78 square kilometers).
Lake Alamosa was formed when sediments and water rushed down from both mountain ranges into the San Luis Valley. The old lake is gone almost entirely due to climate change, leaving behind a massive layer of sand. The prevailing winds constantly shift this sand back and forth.
What to pack for a trip to Star Dunes?
Layer your clothing and use sunscreen to be safe. The weather is most pleasant in the late spring or early fall. The early spring weather may be variable, while the summers can get quite warm. No matter what time of the year you go, you’ll want to pack warm clothes for the evenings. You should also wear a sun hat and protective eyewear.
Please be aware that there is no wifi in the dunes or anyplace else in the park and that mobile phone reception is poor for the most part.
It is important to have lots of water for a trip through the dunes. This is essential due to the shortage of water and the constant onslaught of the sun and wind. Wear protective gear like a helmet, sunglasses, and shoes with enclosed toes. Hiking poles with snow baskets are another essential item since they ease the pressure of the ascents.
How to get to Star Dunes?
Alamosa’s Great Sand Dunes are accessible by automobile, but there is no public transportation to the area. Alamosa has a tiny regional airport, but if you need to get anywhere farther away, you may also fly into Colorado Springs or Denver.
Recreations in Star Dunes?
Great Sand Dunes National Park is a popular destination for tourists who want to go hiking, Dune riding on off-road vehicles or heavy bikes, or even horseback riding. In addition to sandboarding, visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve may also try something new at sand skiing and sand surfing.
High Dune is a six-hour, six-mile round-trip hike. (9.6 km). There is no paper trace. Many of the most downloaded hiking apps are not always correct. If you aren’t used to the thinner air and higher altitude, your return walk might take as long as 9 hours.
If you want to hike in the summer without dealing with 150° F sand or lightning storms, you should go out early in the morning. Storm fronts, which can occur at any time of year, often bring wind in the afternoons. Winter is renowned for its freezing weather and frequent blizzards.
You may see weird bugs, plants, animal footprints, waves, and sand grains of every hue. During the warmer months, keep an eye out for one of the seven unique bug species that are native to this area and have evolved unique adaptations to survive the harsh conditions.