Located in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes National Park is flanked to the east by the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. At the heart of the park is the remarkable dune field that features sand mounds, with the tallest dune measuring over 700 feet high. These are the tallest sand dunes in North America. The sands are constantly changing and shifting, with daily winds, water, and even gravity.
The sand dunes formed over 440,000 years ago when the right combinations of wind, water, and sediment were brought into the valley by nearby creeks and streams. Strong winds then blew the sand toward the bend in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where opposing storm winds helped form the sand into the tall dunes you see today. Two streams, the Medano and Sand creeks, continue to bring sand from the mountains and deposit it at the dunefield.
The National Park Service (NPS) added the Great Sand Dunes to their roster of parks in 1932.
There are a number of different types of dunes contained within the Great Sand Dunes park. Reversing dunes are the most common type in the park. Chinese walls form on top of the reversing dunes and create a wall-like structure along the ridge.
Star dunes form when the wind pattern is complex and blows from different directions over the course of the year. It creates a sort of star peak at the top of these particular dines.
Parabolic dunes are moving sheets of sand with vegetation on top. Barchan dunes form when the landscape is flat, and transverse dunes have marching straight ridges. Nebkha or Coppice dunes are simple dunes that form around vegetation.
Places to Stay While Visiting
There are no lodging options inside the park, other than Pinion Flats Campground. Alamosa is the nearest town with the most amenities. The Great Sand Dunes Lodge in Mosca is 23 miles away from the park’s entrance.
- Mosca, CO (23 miles away)
- Fort Garland, CO (30 miles)
- Alamosa, CO (34 miles)
- Monte Vista, CO (43 miles)
VISIT Great Sand Dunes National Park:
Great Sand Dunes National Park was established on March 17, 1932, and has a total area of 107,342 acres (168 square miles, or 435 square kilometers).
|Address||Visitor Center, Mosca, CO, 81146|
|Hours||Open all year, 24 hours a day|
|Entrance Fee||$25 per vehicle, valid for 7 days|
|Learn More||Official Website|
When to Visit: Weather vs. Peak Visitation
Great Sand Dunes National Park is the 106th most visited park in the country.
We crunched 30 years of historical weather and/or park service data to find the best months to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park. We looked for the optimal temperatures, the least amount of snow and rain, and stayed away from peak visitation months if we could help it. All this data then helped us paint a picture as to what the absolute best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park is.
Our data shows the best months to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park are September, October, May & June.
Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trips
Many family vacations consist of stringing one or more national parks together during a week-long trip. Creating these types of trips is our specialty! Here are the road trips we've created where Great Sand Dunes National Park is visited.
|Trip Name||Trip Miles||Trip Days|
|Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Arches & Canyonlands||792||7|
|Rocky Mountains, Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Great Sand Dunes||791||7|
Other Nearby National Park Sites
From national monuments, to historic sites to seashores and more, here are the other parks closest to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
|Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument||82 mi|
|Capulin Volcano National Monument||107 mi|
|Curecanti National Recreation Area||110 mi|
|Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site||116 mi|
|Fort Union National Monument||129 mi|
|Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park||133 mi|
|Manhattan Project National Historical Park||137 mi|
|Valles Caldera National Preserve||139 mi|
|Bandelier National Monument||142 mi|
|White River National Forest||144 mi|
Nearby Campsites & RV Parks
If you are looking to pitch a tent or park an RV at a campsite near Great Sand Dunes National Park, here is a list of the closest campsites in the surrounding area. They all have slightly different amenitites, so its best to check them all out instead of just chosing the first on the list.
|Pinyon Flats - Sand Dunes National Monument||Mosca, CO more||1 miles|
|San Luis State Park||Mosca, CO more||13 miles|
|North Crestone Creek||Crestone, CO more||22 miles|
|Alvarado||Westcliffe, CO more||24 miles|
|St. Charles||CO more||30 miles|
|La Vista - Lake Isabel||Colorado City, CO more||30 miles|
|Southside - Lake Isabel||Pueblo, CO more||30 miles|
|Ophir Creek||Colorado City, CO more||32 miles|
|Davenport||Colorado City, CO more||33 miles|
|Bear Lake||La Veta, CO more||35 miles|
Nearest Ski Resorts
For those of you who are the diehard outdoors type, visiting a national park on a ski trip can be quite the adventure. Here are the ski resorts within 100 miles of Great Sand Dunes National Park:
|Red River||Red River, NM||10,350 ft||45%||70 mi|
|Monarch||Salida, CO||11,952 ft||51%||71 mi|
|Wolf Creek||Pagosa Springs, CO||11,904 ft||50%||72 mi|
|Taos Ski Valley||Taos Ski Valley, NM||12,481 ft||83%||89 mi|
|Angel Fire||Angel Fire, NM||10,677 ft||50%||94 mi|
|Powderhorn Ski Resort||Powderhorn, CO||9,850 ft||58%||94 mi|
When visiting a National park, many people are faced with either a very long drive across country, or a much shorter flight. For those of you looking to fly into Great Sand Dunes National Park, we've listed the closest airports in the area.
A large airport has scheduled major airline service with millions of passengers per year. This type of airport always accepts international flights. Here are the closest large airports to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
|Denver International Airport||DEN||Denver, CO||154 mi|
|Salt Lake City International Airport||SLC||Salt Lake City, UT||405 mi|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport||PHX||Phoenix, AZ||470 mi|
A medium-sized airport has scheduled regional airline service. This type of airport may or may not accept international flights. Here are the closest medium-sized airports to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
|San Luis Valley Regional Airport/Bergman Field||ALS||Alamosa, CO||28 mi|
|Pueblo Memorial Airport||PUB||Pueblo, CO||67 mi|
|City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport||COS||Colorado Springs, CO||86 mi|
|Aspen-Pitkin Co/Sardy Field||ASE||Aspen, CO||126 mi|
|Eagle County Regional Airport||EGE||Eagle, CO||152 mi|
|Grand Junction Regional Airport||GJT||Grand Junction, CO||189 mi|
|Albuquerque International Sunport||ABQ||Albuquerque, NM||196 mi|
Credits: Campground data provided by USCampgrounds.info. Map shapes from CartographyVectors. Weather data from NOAA. Airport data from OurAirports.com. Images from Unsplash, Flickr and Parks&Trips. All data has also been updated and augmented by Parks&Trips.