|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – April 2008
The most exotic hike in the United States is smack in the middle of the country: Welcome to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
The park is about 150 miles southwest of Denver. Head south on I-25 to Walsenburg, then west on US 160 and north on CO 150.
There are no trails in the dunes proper, but you can wander without restriction. The 11-mile Sand Ramp Trail skirts the transition zone between dunes and foothills. The Upper Sand Creek Trail leads 13 miles up into the Sangre de Cristos. Leave a shuttle at the Music Pass Trailhead or return the way you came. The one-way route is best done in four to five days.
You can camp anywhere in the dunes (pick up a free permit at the visitor's center). Six designated backcountry campsites are located along the Sand Ramp Trail (reservations and permits required). Backcountry camping in the Sangre de Cristos is unrestricted.
It's bone-dry here. Pack all the water you need for the dunes (plan a gallon per person per day). On the Sand Ramp Trail, water is available from several creeks.
Fall is the best time to visit, with mild days in the 60s and 70s. In summer, temps can hit the 80s–but on the surface of the sand it's a sole-scorching 140°F. Spring temps are mild, but high winds are common.Nights are chilly year-round.
(719) 378-6399; nps.gov/grsa