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Updates by Section (refer to mileage chart below for details)
Castle Creek Picnic Area to Creek Crossing 1: Sand is relatively firm. Road damage has been repaired.
Creek Crossing 1 to Creek Crossing 4: A lot of sediment is piled up in Crossing 1 but not affecting the water flow or a vehicle's ability to traverse the creek. Just before the park/preserve boundary the road is rough but passable. Campsites in this area were not affected and are still accessible. This section is very rough but passable for high-clearance vehicles
Creek Crossing 4 to Medano Lake Trailhead Turnoff: Creek Crossing 5 is deep due to a beaver dam below the crossing. There is a very deep mudhole above Creek Crossing 6. High-clearance is required.
Medano Lake Trailhead: Road is in good shape, though there is standing water in several locations.
Medano Lake Trailhead Turnoff to Pass Summit: This section is very rough and takes some navigation to avoid deeper ruts, but it is passable. High clearance vehicles required.
Current Level of Medano Creek
From Great Sand Dunes, the Medano Pass Road crosses Medano Creek nine times on its way to Medano Pass. See the current cubic feet per second (cfs) flow of Medano Creek (available spring through fall). Creek flow is normally highest at dawn, and lowest in late afternoon. Peak flow for an average season is about 40 cfs (cubic feet per second), typically occuring in late May and early June.
Besides current conditions, there are many other considerations when planning to drive Medano Pass Primitive Road. Your type of vehicle, its clearance, its weight, the width of your tires, and your skill and confidence driving in sand, are all variables in driving this road.
Contact the Visitor Center for the latest information and conditions: 719-378-6395.
Set your odometer to zero at the western entrance of the primitive road to follow along with this guide.
0.0 End of Paved Road: start of Medano Pass Primitive Road.
0.2 Garden Creek: flows until mid-summer
0.5 Buck Creek: intermittent stream
1.0 Sawmill Creek: flows until mid-summer.
1.1 Point of No Return: 4WD vehicles ONLY past this point. Sand Ramp Trail access.
1.4 Ponderosa Point Picnic Area: view of Mt. Herard (13,297’) and dunes.
1.8 Sand Pit: DEEP SAND! Reduce tire pressure to about 20 pounds if sand is soft
2.6 Castle Creek Picnic Area: picnic tables, vault toilet. Park only in designated areas.
3.3 Horse Canyon: views of eastern dunes and foothills.
4.5 1st Crossing of Medano Creek: spring runoff can be very deep! Use caution.
4.6 Old Fire Road: closed to vehicles. 1/2 mile walk to ridge with good views.
5.0 Sand Ramp Trail: trail crosses road. Overnight backpacking permit required.
5.2 Park/Preserve Boundary: roadside campsites begin, numbered by mileage from
boundary. 8 campsites over next 0.3 mile.
5.6 2nd Crossing of Medano Creek
5.9 More Campsites: 2 campsites over next 0.5 mile.
6.1 3rd Crossing of Medano Creek: look for bighorn sheep in meadows and cliffs.
6.2 Herard family’s 1870s homestead site (only foundation remains).
6.4 4th Crossing of Medano Creek
6.8 5th crossing of Medano Creek: 4 campsites over next 0.9 mile.
6.9 Tight squeeze: narrow roadway, boulders on roadsides. Use caution!
7.2 6th crossing of Medano Creek
7.7 Crossing of a Tributary Creek
7.8 Two alternatives: left side usually best.
7.9 7th Crossing of Medano Creek: road steeper ahead.
8.4 More campsites: 1 campsite within next 0.3 mile.
8.6 Creek Crossing of a Tributary Creek.
8.8 Beaver Dams: long meadows, marsh, and beaver dams.
9.0 Three Cabins: burned in 2010 wildfire.
9.5 More Campsites: 6 campsites over next 1.5 miles.
9.6 8th Crossing of Medano Creek
10.6 Creek crossing of a Tributary Creek.
10.7 Medano Lake Trailhead: trailhead at end of short spur road.
11.0 Irrigation ditch: steep section ahead.
11.2 Medano Pass: elevation 10,040’ above sea level.
Roadside camping is permitted only at 21 numbered campsites in Great Sand Dunes National Preserve beginning 5.2 miles from where the road begins near Piñon Flats Campground. These sites are indicated with a brown post and camping symbol, and are numbered by approximate road mileage from the Park/Preserve boundary to Medano Pass. Numbers in parentheses are approximate road mileage from Medano Pass down to the Preserve/Park boundary. Roadside car camping is only permitted in designated sites in the national preserve. Vehicle access to these sites is only available late spring through fall, depending on snow, creek, and road conditions.
These designated sites are free of charge and first-come, first-served. All 21 sites fill on summer holiday weekends, and often on other summer weekends.
Camping Regulations for Medano Road Campsites
Fat bikes (mountain bikes with extra wide tires for sand) are permitted on the Medano Pass Primitive Road, both for day use and for overnight camping in Medano Canyon. Check current sand conditions (above on this page) before riding; if sand gets too soft and dry, travel may not be possible. Bikes are not permitted off-road.
You will be sharing the road with vehicles, some traveling at higher speeds in order to make it through sandy sections. For your safety, listen and watch carefully for vehicles as you ride.
For visitors that do not have a 4WD vehicle but would like to experience the Medano Road, there are companies that rent Jeeps and/or provide Jeep tours.
Last updated: September 23, 2022