Special Use Permits



Special Use Permits Overview

Lands of the United States were set aside by Congress, Executive Order, or otherwise acquired in order to conserve and protect areas of untold beauty and grandeur, historical importance, and uniqueness for future generations. The tradition of capturing images of these special places started with explorers who traveled with paint and canvas or primitive photo apparatus. It was the sharing of these images that led to the designation of these areas as national parks and monuments. Visitors to national parks today continue to memorialize their visits through videos and photographs.

Special Use Permits must be acquired:

  • before holding a wedding or special event
  • for still photography in the national park or preserve

For authorization of commercial use such as portrait photography, concessions or commercial guiding, please visit our Commercial Use Authorizations page.

For questions or for more information, email or call the Chief Ranger at 719-378-6321.

Please download the appropriate application below, complete all sections, and mail with any required fees to:

Chief Ranger
Great Sand Dunes NPP
11500 Hwy. 150
Mosca, Colorado 81146
Attn: Special Use Permits


Special Events and Weddings

Weddings and other special events may take place outside the wilderness boundary of the dunefield, on the close side of Medano Creek, as long as they do not hinder other visitors' enjoyment of the park.

A couple in formal wedding attire gazes at the dunes and snow-capped Mount Herard.
A couple in formal wedding attire gazes at the dunes and snow-capped Mount Herard.

NPS Photo

View images of potential locations:

Edge of Dunes (wedding photo at Castle Creek Picnic Area, 4WD access along Medano Pass Primitive Road).

Amphitheater View #1

Amphitheater View #2, Wide Angle View

Amphitheater at Night

North Ramada Picnic Area View #1
(first-come, first-served group picnic site)

North Ramada Picnic Area View #2
(first-come, first-served group picnic site)

South Ramada Picnic Area View #1
(reservation-only group picnic site)

South Ramada Picnic Area View #2
(reservation-only group picnic site)

Required Special Event Forms

Please check with the Chief Ranger at 719-378-6321 to determine whether your event requires a long or short application form.
General Special Use Permit Application (Long Form) Word file, updated 2021)
General Special Use Permit Application (Short Form) Word file, updated 2021)


Commercial Filming

Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land

On January 22, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in Price v. Barr determining the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming under 54 USC 100905, 43 CFR Part 5, and 36 CFR Part 5 are unconstitutional. The National Park Service is currently determining how this decision will be implemented.

Following the recent court decision, the National Park Service will not be implementing or enforcing the commercial filming portions of 43 CFR Part 5 until further notice, including accepting applications, issuing permits, enforcing the terms and conditions of permits, issuing citations related to permits, or collecting cost recovery and location fees for commercial filming activities.

As regulations regarding commercial filming permits are being reassessed, those interested in commercial filming activities on land managed by the National Park Service are encouraged to contact the park directly for more information about filming in the park and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources.

Do I need a permit to film?

Currently, the National Park Service is not issuing commercial filming permits, but is in the process of evaluating how best to regulate filming activities that affect visitors and park resources. All applicable laws and regulations governing activities and public use in parks still apply, including park hours and areas open and closed to the public. Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, and other staff associated with commercial filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors still apply to filming activities even if no permit is needed for their activity. Check with the park staff for more information on closures, sensitive resources, and other safety tips.

Are filmers still required to pay fees to film in parks?

As of January 22, 2021, the National Park Service is no longer collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming.

Wilderness Area Boundaries for Commercial Filming and Photography
Map showing designated wilderness area boundaries. Commercial filming and photography are  generally prohibited in federally designated wilderness areas.

Approved Filming Locations at Great Sand Dunes

Commercial filming and some photography equipment is prohibited within designed wilderness areas. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contains two designed wilderness areas. The map at left highlights the wilderness areas in yellow. This includes the main dunefield.

The Special Park Use Coordinator can help you find a location outside of the wilderness areas.

Some commercial filmers/photographers use the Escape Dunes area, just outside the main dunefield. These small dunes provide a dune foreground, while the main dunefield is highly visible behind them. See these photos of the Escape Dunes:

Escape Dunes #1
Escape Dunes #2
Escape Dunes #3
Escape Dunes #4


Still Photography

When is a permit needed?

Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity. Still photographers require a permit only when:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

How do I apply for a permit?

Permit applications are available through each park's administrative office or website. Contact information for parks can be found on their websites; visit Find a Park to locate the park where you would like to photograph. You should submit a completed application along with the application fee to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will help them process the submitted application in a timely manner.

What fees will I have to pay?

The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring your permit. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following still photography fee schedule:

  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day

Are there other permit requirements?

You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.

Who Needs a Permit at Great Sand Dunes?

  • Wedding/ portrait photography if final product will be used for advertisement
  • Commercial still photography using models**, sets or props
  • Time-lapse photography if the final sequence will be used in a motion picture format for commercial purposes
  • Sound recording projects that require more than handheld equipment, more than one person or NPS oversight
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant NPS oversight

**Model means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purposes of promoting sales or use of a product or service. Models include but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects such as vehicles, boats articles of clothing, and food and beverage products.

Permits are NOT Generally Required at Great Sand Dunes When:

  • Visitors are engaged in photography intended for their personal use and enjoyment.
  • Media Breaking News- Breaking news is an event that cannot be covered at any other time or at any other location. Filming of breaking news does not involve advertising, sets, props, or models. Coverage of breaking news does not require a permit, but film crews may not disrupt park visitors, damage park resources, or compromise public health and safety regulations. Information on breaking news comes from the Park’s Information Officer.
  • Other Media- Frequently there are opportunities for news organizations to focus on park programs, or increase public awareness of park-specific issues. Filming related to these stories must be coordinated and planned in advance. A permit will be issued if it is determined that the park would benefit from the increased public awareness. The National Park Service may assist with your research and/or offer interviews, if staff members are available. Contact the Special Park Use Coordinator at 719-378-6321.

Still Photography Application Form

The National Park Service and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve require a short or long form application to be submitted for review of the project:
Commercial Still Photography Permit Application: Long Form (Word file, updated 2021)
Commercial Still Photography Permit Application: Short Form (Word file, updated 2021)

Please check with the Chief Ranger at 719-378-6321 to determine whether your photography project requires a long or short application form.

What about photography workshops?

If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. See the commercial use authorization page for more information.


Additional Information

Important Restrictions

  • Drone use is strictly prohibited in all National Parks, including Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.


General liability insurance is required. This is an original certificate of insurance with a rider stating that the United States of America is named as additionally insured and must be provided to the park before the permit is issued and work begins. Insurance amounts may vary depending on the complexity of the project as well as risks. The general bond schedule is:

  • Personal liability: $300,000

  • When employing stunts or other higher risk activities: between $2,000,000 to $5,000,000

Performance Bonds

Some projects may require a performance bond or cash deposit. The purpose of the bond is to insure that the natural area or historic feature is left in as good a condition as it was prior to the project start, and to cover any unpaid costs incurred as part of the project. Generally, bonds or deposits will be required in amounts at least equal to the estimated cost to the Government for clean up and/or restoration that would be necessary if the permittee fails to perform the restoration process to the satisfaction of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve's personnel.

NPS Monitors

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve staff will be required to monitor certain photography and sound recording activities. Crews are responsible for paying daily fees for monitors as well as any staff costs associated with the project (at $50/hour). This fee will be paid before the permit is issued. Monitors are generally required for large crews or projects with extensive equipment, or when there is potential for impacts to visitor use or resource damage.

On-Camera Appearances

On-camera appearances by employees are allowed under the following conditions:

  • The employee is selected and/or approved by park management, and is depicted performing his or her normal duties, or serving as a subject matter expert.

  • The employee's appearance supports NPS goals and has a beneficial effect for the Service.

  • The role is not scripted.

  • The employee is paid by the park as part of his or her regular working hours. The permittee will reimburse the park for this cost as part of the monitoring cost recovery ($50/hour).

  • If the project requires overtime or back filling of positions, the NPS will be reimbursed for any such additional costs through the permitting process.

  • The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees apply. Generally, employees are forbidden from accepting gratuities from prohibited sources. However, there are exceptions that allow employees to accept modest items of food and refreshment.

  • Off duty Government employees may work for production companies only if they do not perform or appear to perform official duties. Personnel engaged in actual supervision of the permittee are not allowed to engage in off-duty employment with the permittee under any circumstance. The Superintendent must approve off-duty employment requests.

Termination of Permit

All permits issued by the National Park Service are "revocable" on 24-hours notice or without notice if the terms of the permit are violated. Deliberate infractions of terms contained in the permit or the deliberate making of false or misleading statements concerning intended actions in order to obtain a permit are causes for immediate termination of the permit and for possible prosecution.

Last updated: August 2, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Visitor Center
11999 State Highway 150

Mosca , CO 81146


719 378-6395
Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center main number

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