• Great Sand Dunes and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

    Great Sand Dunes

    National Park & Preserve Colorado

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  • Main Park Phone Numbers Not in Service

    The two main phone numbers to the park, 378-6399 and 378-6300, are not in service at this time. Voicemail is not functioning. Please call the Visitor Center at 719-378-6395 between 8:30-6:00 MST to reach a staff member.

Plan Your Visit

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The 2014-15 Visitor Guide (.pdf, 1 MB) provides a broad overview of the park to plan your visit.

Use the quicklinks below to find detailed information about specific topics as you plan your visit.

 
 
Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes

Medano Creek flows around the base of the dunes in average to wet years.  Visit in late spring or early summer to experience this natural beach environment. Keep in mind that May and June weekends are the busiest of the year; lodging, campgrounds and parking areas fill early. Plan for weekdays if po

NPS/Patrick Myers

Below is general information for each season, including camping, ranger programs, available services, and weather

Visiting in Spring

Spring at Great Sand Dunes can mean anything from warm sun and mild spring temperatures to chilly winds or blizzards - sometimes in one day! At this 8200' (2470 m) elevation, be prepared. Have clothing available for a warm, calm day splashing in the water, but also for snowy or windy conditions if needed. Check our weather page for a current forecast for the main visitor use area of the park. In average to wet years, popular Medano Creek begins as a trickle in early April, increasing to a wide, shallow stream flowing in rhythmic waves at its peak in mid or late May. Bring a swimsuit to enjoy this natural beach environment. Check current conditions and forecast flow for Medano Creek.

Spring is the windy season at Great Sand Dunes throughout the western United States, and Great Sand Dunes may be windy during a spring visit. Generally afternoons are often the windiest, so plan to hike on the dunes in morning when possible. A dunes-accessible wheelchair is available for those unable to walk in the dunes. See our Outdoor Activities page for more suggestions on spring activities in the park and preserve.

Camping in Spring

The Pinyon Flats Campground has 88 individual sites and 3 groups sites that open April 1. Other area lodging and camping is also available.

Backpacking sites in the national park are available by free permits available at the Visitor Center. You may either camp in the backcountry of the dunefield, or at a designated site at the perimeter of the dunefield.

Medano Pass Primitive Road Campsites are available without a permit in the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. This road is passable only with a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (ATVs are not permitted). Heavy spring runoff can cause creek crossings on the road to reach over two feet.

Programs in Spring

Scheduled ranger programs are available as staffing permits in spring months.

Services in Spring

The Oasis store and restaurant, (719) 378-2222, is located just outside the park entrance. It provides gas and basic groceries daily and a restaurant beginning by May 1 each year. The Great Sand Dunes Lodge, (719) 378-2900, is a modern motel located behind the Oasis. It usually opens in late March or early April, and is the closest lodging available near the park. All services and motels are available year-round in Alamosa; shops and motels in Blanca, Mosca, and Hooper are open most days in warmer spring months. Check our lodging page for more details on available motels in the area. The Visitor Center is open from 9-4:30 in spring.

 
Sunset on Dunefield and Mount Herard

Summer sunset on dunes and 13,297' Mount Herard

NPS/Scott Hansen

Visiting in Summer

About 300,000 visitors come to the park annually, and most visit during the warmer summer months. Summer temperatures at this 8200' (2470 m) elevation average in the 80s F., with lows at night averaging in the 40s F. July and August can bring heavy afternoon rainstorms with lightning. Call the local National Weather Service number, (719) 589-3232, or check our weather page for a current forecast and conditions for the main visitor use area.

Exploring the Park in Summer

Plan to hike on the dunes in morning or evening to avoid afternoon storms, and to avoid the hot mid-day sand surface. A dunes-accessible wheelchair is available for those unable to walk in the dunes. Afternoon activities can include hiking in the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Cool off at Zapata Falls, a popular 1/2 mile hike; the trailhead is a few miles south of the Park and Preserve. In average to wet years, Medano Creek begins to flow as a trickle in early April, increasing to a wide stream flowing in rhythmic waves at its peak in late May. Unless the mountain snowpack is high, the creek usually begins to disappear back toward the mountains by mid-summer. Check current Medano Creek conditions. See the Outdoor Activities page on this site for more suggestions on summer activities.


Camping in Summer

The Pinyon Flats Campground has 88 individual sites and 3 group sites. Other lodging and campgrounds are available in the area.

Backpacking sites are available by free permits available at the Visitor Center. You may either camp in the backcountry of the dunefield, or at a designated site at the perimeter of the dunefield.

Medano Pass Primitive Road Campsites are available without a permit in the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. This road is passable only with a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (ATVs are not permitted).


Programs in Summer

Scheduled ranger programs are available most days in summer. These include nature walks, children's programs, and evening programs at the amphitheater. Check the link above, or call the Visitor Center for details at 719-378-6399.


Services in Summer

The Oasis store and restaurant, (719) 378-2222, is located just outside the park entrance. It provides gas, basic groceries, and a restaurant daily during the summer. The Great Sand Dunes Lodge, (719) 378-2900, is a modern motel located behind the Oasis. It is the closest lodging to the park. All services and motels are available year-round in Alamosa; shops and motels in Blanca, Fort Garland, Mosca, and Hooper are open daily in summer. Check the lodging page on this site for more details and other area lodging options. The Visitor Center is open every day in June, July and August from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (719) 378-6395 to reach a ranger at the Visitor Center.

 
Autumn in Great Sand Dunes National Preserve

Autumn color in Great Sand Dunes National Preserve

NPS Photo

Visiting in Fall

Fall at Great Sand Dunes can mean anything from warm sun and mild fall temperatures to blizzards - sometimes in one day! At this 8200' (2470 m) elevation, be prepared for any conditions. Typically, however, fall days are sunny with highs in the 60s to 70s F. and lows in the 30s F. Fall colors generally peak in late September to early October. Check our weather page for an online forecast and weather info for each month and season.


Exploring the Park in Fall

Plan to enjoy a hike on the dunes without the crowds of summer. A dunes-accessible wheelchair is available for those unable to walk in the dunes. Hike on a mountain trail, or use your high-clearance 4WD to explore Medano Pass in the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve to enjoy the fall foliage up close. Fall hunting is permitted in the mountains of the national preserve, so wear bright colors if you hike, and be alert. Check with a ranger for exact hunting seasons and locations. Hunting is not permitted anywhere in the national park, including the dunes, and grasslands and forests around the perimeter of the dunes.


Camping in Fall

The Pinyon Flats Campground has 88 individual sites and 3 group sites. In September, the campground often fills on weekends. Other campgrounds and lodging are available in the area. Backpacking sites are available by free permits available at the Visitor Center. You may either camp in the backcountry of the dunefield, or at a designated site at the perimeter of the dunefield. Car camping in the backcountry is available without a permit along the Medano Pass Primitive Road, in Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. This road is passable only with a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (ATVs are not permitted). Aspen color generally peaks along the road in late September.


Programs in Fall

Scheduled ranger programs are available as staffing permits in fall months. Call the Visitor Center at (719) 378-6399 for current programs, or check the link above for a current list of programs.


Services in Fall

The Oasis store and restaurant, (719) 378-2222, is located just outside the park entrance. It provides gas and basic groceries daily through October, and a restaurant daily through September. The Great Sand Dunes Lodge, (719) 378-2900, is a modern motel located behind the Oasis. It is usually open through October, and is the closest lodging available near the park. All services and motels are available year-round in Alamosa; shops and motels in Blanca, Fort Garland, Mosca, and Hooper are open most days in warmer fall months. Check the lodging and camping page on this site for more options. The Visitor Center is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Longer hours may exist as staffing permits in September and October. Call (719) 378-6399 to reach a ranger at the Visitor Center.

 
Winter at Great Sand Dunes

Snow blankets the dunefield and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

NPS/Patrick Myers

Visiting in Winter

Winter at Great Sand Dunes offers solitude, natural quiet, and incredibly clear day and night skies. Days are generally sunny and chilly, and the sand may even feel warm in the intense alpine sun. But be prepared for any winter conditions at this 8200' elevation, including blizzards and subzero temperatures at night. Check our weather page for an online forecast, as well as weather info for each month and season.


Exploring the Park in Winter

When snow does fall on the dunes, sledding, snowboarding or skiing are fantastic, with no trees or rocks as obstacles. Whether the dunes are snowy or sandy, a winter hike on the dunes can be a refreshing experience for all ages. A dunes-accessible wheelchair is available for those unable to walk in the dunes.


Camping in Winter

Pinyon Flats Campground is closed in winter months. The closest camping is at Zapata Falls Campground, a primitive Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground 11 miles south of the park. The dirt road to the campground is not maintained in winter; snow may limit access to the campground.

Backpacking sites are available by free permits available at the Visitor Center. You may either camp in the backcountry of the dunefield, or at a designated site at the perimeter of the dunefield. Campsites along in Medano Canyon along the Medano Pass Primitive Road are generally under snow and not accessible in winter months.


Services in Winter

The Visitor Center is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except federal holidays in winter. Longer hours may exist in spring, summer, and fall. Call (719) 378-6395 to reach a ranger at the Visitor Center. The closest lodging in winter is in Alamosa.

Safety in Winter

Be prepared! No gas, food, or lodging facilities are open nearby. All services are available year-round in Alamosa; shops in Blanca, Fort Garland, Mosca, and Hooper may not be open every day.

Mule deer and elk frequently cross the road in winter. Drive slowly and be prepared to stop.

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition of untreated low body temperature. It occurs when your body loses warmth more quickly than it can produce it. Cold winds and wet conditions make hypothermia more likely. Always take extra layers of clothing, try to stay dry, and watch your companions for signs of coldness.

Did You Know?

Ranger program in Medano Creek

Free ranger programs are offered regularly at Great Sand Dunes from May-September, and on request the rest of the year. Most programs welcome all ages. More...