Great Sand Dunes National Park contains
ecosystems ranging from wetlands to forest to
tundra, as well as the spectacular dunes that
give the park its name. Scientists believe ash
and sediment from volcanic eruptions settled
in the San Luis Valley and the uplift of the
nearby Sangre de
The sand dunes provide a unique opportunity
for sand sledding and sandboarding, which
are permitted anywhere on the dune field
away from vegetated areas. The dunes also
offer nighttime adventure where stargazing is
perfected by dry air, little light pollution and
There are no designated trails in the sand,
and visitors are encouraged to explore the
30-square-mile dune field as they wish. Plan
to hike the dunes in the early morning before
afternoon sun heats the sand surface to a
blazing 150 degrees and afternoon thunderstorms bring dangerous lightning. Instead,
spend summer afternoons hiking one of the
park’s shady forested trails, such as the Mont-ville Nature Trail, which offers outstanding
views of Mt. Herard, the dunes and the valley
from the trail’s highest point.
Piñon Flats is a National Park Service campground located one mile north of the park’s
visitor center. The campground is open April
through October. Campsites can be reserved
in advanced. Un-reserved campsites are available on a first-come-first served basis.
The campground features restrooms with
sinks, flush toilets, a dishwashing sink and
water spigots. Each site has a fire grate and
picnic table. Some sites have large cotton-
wood or conifer trees for shade, while most
others have smaller pinon trees that provide
some shade. A few sites have driveways
that can fit RVs up to 25 feet, although no
hookups are available.
In addition, roadside camping is permitted
at 21 numbered campsites along the Medano
Pass Primitive Road. The sites are indicated
with a brown post and camping symbol.
Mountain bikes with extra wide tires for sand
called fat bikes are permitted on the Medano
Pass Primitive Road, both for day use and
for overnight camping in Medano Canyon.
Overnight backpacking is also allowed in the
park’s hiking areas. Permits are required.
The most popular and unique backpacking
option, camping is permitted anywhere in
the 30-square-mile dune field outside of the
day use area. Enjoy wide open views of the
starry sky or a bright moonlit night. Plan
to camp in the dunes only when weather
is calm and clear to avoid blowing sand or
dangerous thunderstorms with lightning.
Several other campgrounds are available
near the park. Oasis Campground, just
outside the park’s entrance, includes 90 sites
and accommodates RVs, tents and cabins.
Zapata Falls Campground, a primitive
campground on Bureau of Land Manage-
ment property located 11 miles south of
the park, provides spectacular views of the
entire dune field and valley.
• Individual campsites have a maximum
capacity of eight people, two tents and
• Deer and other animals often visit the
campground. Please do not feed wildlife,
• Do not collect firewood in the park or bring
firewood from outside the San Luis Valley.
Buy local firewood at or near your destination campground.
• Pets are welcome in the campground.
Please keep them leashed and under
control at all times.
• Prevent encounters with bears by storing
all food and scented items in the bearproof
lockers provided at each site.
• Drinks, snacks, supplies and firewood are
available in Pinon Flats Campground at
the Mosca Pass Outpost Store and at the
• Medano Creek is a popular seasonal stream
that forms in May and June from melting
snow in nearby mountains and provides an
opportunity for tubing, wakeboarding and
other beach-like activities.
Located about 250 miles south of Denver, Great Sand Dunes National
Park and Preserve protects the tallest dunes in North America. The park is
located at the north end of Highway 150.