Photography

Photographer on Dunes
A photographer studies the unusual form of a sand avalanche.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Whether you seek to capture abstract sand/shadow patterns, people splashing on a beach, or majestic views of dunes with snowcapped peaks, the Great Sand Dunes landscape provides opportunities for all styles of photography. For many more photos of the park, visit the Great Sand Dunes Flickr page.

 

Photographic Opportunities in Each Season


Below are example photos taken throughout the year, with each season's unique opportunities described along with the photographer's location.
 
Gold Cottonwoods, Dunes, and Snow-Capped Mountains
Cottonwood trees along Medano Creek peak in mid-October, as snow showers increasingly blanket the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Photo taken with zoom lens from entrance road.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Gold Cottonwoods Along Medano Creek
Medano Creek is typically dry in fall, unless it has been a wet year. There is usually some water flowing on the east side of the dunefield near Castle Creek Picnic Area, accessible by high clearance 4WD or by hiking. Cottonwoods generally peak around mid-October, as snow showers often dust the mountains. Photo taken a few hundred yards (meters) above the Dunes Parking Area.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Grasslands, a line of gold cottonwood trees, massive dunes, a bank of clouds, and snow-capped mountain
In this October view from just north of the visitor center, grasslands, gold cottonwood trees, dunes, a bank of clouds, and a fresh dusting of snow on Cleveland Peak combine to celebrate the park's natural diversity.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Snow covered Star Dune and Crestone Peaks at Sunset
The dunes get snow on them about once per week in winter months. Photo taken with a telephoto lens from park entrance, where the dramatic 14,000 foot Crestone Peaks are visible above the dunes.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Snowy Night, Forest, Dunes, and Mountains
A snowy night can be a great opportunity at Great Sand Dunes.  Soft moonlight illuminates the snowy forest, dunes, and mountains, while stars speckle the sky.  For this photo, there was a half moon to light the snow, but not too much moonlight which would have washed out the stars.  Taken at the Montville/Mosca Pass Trailhead, December.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
View through pine trees to the dunefield and snow-capped mountains
Zapata Falls Recreation Area, located south of the national park, provides great views of the dunes and mountains.  Photo taken with a telephoto lens in April.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Grasslands, ponderosa pines, large dunes, and a snow-capped mountain
You don't need to hike to have great views of the dunes and mountains. This image was taken in late spring just below Pinon Flats Campground, using a slight telephoto lens to bring the snow-capped mountain a little closer.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
A girl rides on a wave in Medano Creek using a floatation device
Medano Creek's peak flow is the most popular, and most crowded, time of year. The creek flows down in waves, a rare phenomenon called 'surge flow'.  At peak flow in wet years, children and some adults are able to float the waves.  Taken early June during a good runoff year.  Check the park's Medano Creek web page for details, forecast flow, and conditions.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
The Milky Way and other stars glow over a wide, shallow stream, with silhouetted trees at left and dunes on the right.
The Milky Way is most visible in the evening during summer and fall.  Plan on a clear, moonless night for best visibility.  Some photographers take separate exposures of the foreground and sky.  'Light painting' - using artificial lights to illuminate the foreground - hurts your own night vision, disturbs nocturnal wildlife, and inhibits night viewing for other visitors. Photo taken in July during a longer flow year of Medano Creek, visible in the foreground.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
A girl with a daypack stands on the dunes with sunset light touching ridges of sand beyond her
People can add a dimension of emotion to a photo of the dunes.  This girl stands on a low dune watching sunset light touching the ridges beyond her. Photo taken in August.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Lone Sunflower on Rippled Dune
Prairie sunflowers bloom on the dunefield in mid-to-late August.  They can make effective photos either with a lone sunflower plant (pictured), or with a swath of them across a dune.

NPS/Patrick Myers

 
Curving forms of dunes at sunset, with tiny hikers visible near the top
The dunes are naturally abstract, with sweeping curves and endless creative composition opportunities.  In this photo, there are two hikers visible near the top.  Taken with a telephoto lens from the visitor center, late summer.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Last updated: January 6, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Visitor Center
11999 State Highway 150

Mosca, CO 81146

Phone:

(719) 378-6395
Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center main number

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