The Dune Field
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
If the only dunes you’ve ever seen were at the beach, your eyes—and legs—are in for a shock. The sand mountains here rise hundreds of feet, and climbing them with a full pack is no easy task. And camping in this 30-square-mile sea of dunes, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising to 14,000 feet in the background, is one of the most unique experiences on the continent. Sunrises and sunsets mellow this surreal landscape with soft colors and long shadows, and at night, shooting stars arc across a coal-black sky. There are no official trails or campsites in the dunes. Just start walking northwest from the visitor center, crossing shallow (or dry, depending on the season) Medano Creek within a half mile, to enter the sand field. Continue northwest to tag 750-foot Star Dune, then veer north to find a flat spot—like this one—to pitch camp.