Great Sand Dunes National Park

Easily one of the coolest places I have ever been.  We are still low on the bucket list of hitting all the national parks, but this one easily goes in the all time top five (so far the Grand Canyon is the only one to outfox it).  I never would have guessed you would find this park in the foothills of the Colorado mountains.  Yes, a lot – if not all – of Colorado is technically a desert.  But still.  One doesn’t except to be weaving through the sometimes perilous two lane highways in the mountains before landing on a sandy desert.

It was a drive out to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  The closest town I would consider a town is Alamosa, CO.  It wasn’t the nicest town I’ve ever stopped over in, but I wasn’t worried about getting murder stabbed either.  It’s about a four hour drive from Denver, but it’s a beautiful drive without much traffic and the southern route doesn’t face too much snow this time of year.  It takes a little while to get admitted into the park if you plan to pay by cash, as they still have dial up internet.  Dial up internet, can you believe it?  But the drive and short wait are worth it.

We summitted the tallest dune, Star Dune, which came in at 755 feet and made every muscle in my legs below my knee whine in pain.  The problem with telling yourself you want to summit the tallest sand dune is you don’t realize which dune is the tallest until you reach it.  We thought we’d summitted a good half hour to an hour earlier than we actually did when we reached the High Dune.  From the top of the High Dune, you could then see the taller Star Dune, obscured from view at the start of the trek across the Medano Creek (if the weather permits, I recommend either beach shoes or no shoes as all.  A watery entry to the dunes was unavoidable on our visit no matter how many switchbacks and frog leaps we attempted over the miniature creeks, and who wants to spend a few hours slogging around in wet sneakers?)  My hubby – let’s just call him Amos – and I both contemplated quitting before reaching our goal, but I’m glad we stuck it out.  The view from the top is almost unimaginable.  Though shoeless feet and a tank top suited me just fine up as the sun pierced the clouds on the ascent, I cramped my chilly feet back into my Vibrams and covered up in my toque and ski jacket when we reached the top.  The prevailing winds whistled in our ears, kicking sand about our faces by the time we gasped our way to the top.

Check out the pictures below from our trip and make sure you make the trek yourself!  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but words can never express the emotional experience itself.