Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve protects the tallest dunes in North America… and a whole lot more. The park and preserve contain ecosystems ranging from wetlands to forest to tundra—each supporting specially adapted plant, animal and insect life. Make the most of your visit by taking the time to experience this diversity in your national park!

Hiking and Exploring Main Use Area

Hiking and Exploring Main Use Area
Hiking and Exploring Main Use Area

Safety Tips:

Hot Sand: In summer months during mid-day, sand temperatures can reach 150 degrees F. Hike during the morning or evening to avoid heat exhaustion and/or burned feet. Wear closed-toe shoes.

Lightning: Lightning can occur anytime during the warmer months (especially July – August), when afternoon storms approach the dunes. Avoid fatal lightning strikes by experiencing the dunes and other open areas during morning hours. Remain in a building or vehicle until 30 minutes after the last thunder. If you are in immediate danger, crouch in a low-lying area on top of a backpack or other item to prevent a ground charge.

Wildlife: Rangers enforce speed limits to prevent injury or death of wildlife. Please abide by speed limits. To protect yourself and wildlife, never feed wild animals. Store food and scented items in your vehicle or bear-proof containers located in Piñon Flats Campground and Medano Pass Primitive Road. Bear hangs or bear containers are required when camping in the national park backcountry. Information sheets about bear and mountain lion country are available at the visitor center.

High Winds: Winds are possible at any time of the year. Especially during the spring season, storm fronts can produce high winds which cause sand to move. Hike during these conditions at your own risk. If hiking during windy conditions, consider wearing eye protection, long sleeves and pants to avoid getting sand-blasted. If sand gets in your eyes, flush with water or saline solution. Check at the visitor center or on the park website for weather forecasts and conditions.

High Elevation: Elevations within the park and preserve range from 8,200 feet to 13,604 feet (2,499m to 4,146m). Visitors should stay hydrated, wear sun protection, and hike slowly. Visitors hiking in the higher-elevation backcountry should pack layers to avoid hypothermia. If you experience shortness of breath, headaches or nausea: rest, hydrate and slowly descend from your elevation.

Marijuana: Recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado, but the consumption and possession of marijuana is ILLEGAL on federal lands, including national parks in Colorado. Individuals will be cited and fined for illegal activity within the Great Sand Dunes.

First Aid: Items Bandages, sun protection, pain reliever, allergy medicine, eye drops, and sanitary items can be purchased in the visitor center year-round. These items are also available at the store in the campground, and at the Oasis store outside park boundaries, during the main spring through the operating season. Contact a ranger at the visitor center for phone numbers of local pharmacies and clinics.

Weather:

Season
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Highs (F)
20s – 30s
50s – 70s
70s – 80s
50s – 70s

Lows (F)
20 – 10
20s – 40s
40s
20s – 40s

The Dread Pirate Dave

David is the Editor in Chief of Postcards From the Edge. I was born on a cold November morning on the showy plains of Colorado. Like my father, before me, I am an American Nomad.

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