AstrophotographyColoradoNational Parks

Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide

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Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide
Entrance to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide

In this Great Sand Dunes National Park travel guide, we’ll share some tips about our visit. We’ll share with you everything you need to know before your visit. We arrived to the park around 5pm. Our plan was to take some sunset pictures but our main plan was to do some astrophotography.

Where To Stay

We stayed in the town of Alamosa, Colorado. We reserved a night at the Dunes Inn. This hotel was adequate, it was a bit rustic but the bed was comfortable and it was a short distance from the park. The hotel also offered a free breakfast from a local restaurant. They provide you with a voucher and you take it to the restaurant next to the hotel and your breakfast is free. From the hotel it was about 20 min to the park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide
The dunes seem to go on forever

Get An Annual Pass

It was a nice, easy drive to the park from the hotel. It was not very busy when we visited as we are still under COVID restrictions. From the welcome sign you drive about a mile to the entrance gate where a ranger will check your pass or you can purchase a pass if you are just visiting this park and don’t have an annual pass. If you plan to visit several national parks in the same year, it is best to purchase the year pass to save some money.

Keep in mind if you are purchasing this pass you will need to do so in advance because they still have to mail them to you. They are currently making exceptions because of the pandemic. We were able to show our digital receipt of our purchase and we allowed to continue. The ranger will also provide you with a map and information. You can purchase your pass here.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide
Pretending to be thinking but I’m just resting, it’s hard hiking in sand:-)

Be Prepared

There is plenty of parking, it’s divided up for campers and Rv’s and cars on the other side. There are some water fountains at the entrance to both trails, be sure to fill up before you head out. There are also showers to hose yourself off in before getting back in your car. If you are trekking after dark, like we did, be sure to figure out how to get back. It is very easy to get lost after dark, it’s pitch black, no ambient light.

Where To Hike

The two most popular hikes are to High Dune and Star Dune which will take several hours to hike but you can reach a dune as quickly as 20 minutes. If you like sledding you can bring a sled to ride down the dunes. There were lots of families with their kids there sledding. Looked like they were having a great time. We hiked about halfway up High Dune to position ourselves for the best view of the sunset and the Milky Way, later in the evening. If you are visiting during the day, the sand can be very hot so be sure to wear closed toed shoes. The sand is very challenging to walk on, it’s deeper than walking on the beach.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide
The Milky Way

Dark Sky Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park is a certified “dark sky park”, basically there is no light pollution. It’s the perfect place to star gaze. We waited for several hours for the clouds to clear and not only did we get a great view of the Milky Way but we also got a glimpse of Neowise Comet. You will need professional camera equipment if you want a really nice picture of the Milky Way. You can see it with the naked eye but it is very difficult to capture a good photo with your phone.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Travel Guide
Another Milky Way pic:-)

Don’t Miss Out

As I mentioned earlier, it is very hard to see because it is so dark here. We made sure to plan how we were getting back to the parking lot before it got dark. Some people use hiking apps to help them get back. I’m not sure it’s allowed but someone had set up glow sticks to help them back to their car. Luckily, we got there and back with no issues. This was such a fun park to visit. Hope you enjoy your visit.

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Allie Marmion
Allie is married to Rob and has been traveling with him across the world for the last two years. She is an accomplished personal trainer, speaker and author.