Colorado Springs and Denver are located a few hours away by car to the northeast.
The park's large spread between high and low temperatures, about 25–30 °F (14–17 °C), is typical of a high desert climate. With ecosystems ranging from dunes, to forests, to alpine lakes and tundra, Great Sand Dunes is an incredibly diverse park for plants and animals. Hi, I’m Jarrod, and I’m the guy behind Ramble Around the World.
Things To Do. Great Sand Dunes National Park At-a-Glance. Sand sledding is similar to sandboarding, but you sit down on the sled instead of standing on the board. The nearest city with full services is Alamosa, about a 30 mile drive from the park entrance. On September 13, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the bill officially creating the national park.  Hunting is permitted in the preserve in the autumn, but prohibited within national park boundaries at all times. A relatively new dating process, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), is still in development. , Most of the national park and the entire national preserve are open to horseback riding and pack animals. Two mountain streams—Medano and Sand Creeks—also capture sand from the mountain side of the dunefield and carry it around the dunes and back to the valley floor.
Hike. In addition to the eponymous dunes, the park now includes attractive high country in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains . There are interpretive displays. The dunes cover an area of about 30 sq mi (78 km2) and are estimated to contain over 1.2 cubic miles (5 billion cubic metres) of sand. The valley is known as the "Land of Cool Sunshine", and lives up to that name throughout most of the year. The ranch was split into three sections: the Sangre de Cristos section east of Crestone became part of the Rio Grande National Forest; the section west of the dunes was designated the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service; the section east of the dunes was transferred first to the Rio Grande National Forest and later redesignated a national preserve in 2004 managed by the National Park Service. In addition to the eponymous dunes, the park now includes attractive high country in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains. If you are in real need call the sheriff (719)655-2544.
 In 2016, the federal government began negotiations toward purchasing 12,518 acres (19.6 sq mi; 50.7 km2) of the Medano–Zapata Ranch from the Nature Conservancy. They’re only $20 per day to rent, but renting one involves a lot of hiking. Can we ride motorbikes or ATVs on the dunes? Moonrise on the Dunes, Great Sand Dunes NP. and Great Sand Dunes National Park isn’t exempt from this. , Among the flowering plants are alpine phlox, dwarf clover, alpine forget-me-not, fairy primrose, alpine aven, Indian paintbrush, lousewort, blue-purple penstemon, aspen daisy, western paintbrush, elephantella, snow buttercups, scurfpea, Indian ricegrass, blowout grass, prairie sunflower, Rocky Mountain beeplant, rubber rabbitbrush, speargrass, small-flowered sand verbena, narrowleaf yucca, prickly pear cactus, Rocky Mountain iris, and white water buttercup.
, Creation of the San Luis Valley began when the Sangre de Cristo Range was uplifted in the rotation of a large tectonic plate. The combination of opposing winds, a huge supply of sand from the valley floor, and the sand recycling action of the creeks, are all part of the reason that these are the tallest dunes in North America. It’s literally just snowboarding on sand.
Similar support in the late 1990s resulted in the monument's expansion into a national park and preserve in 2000-2004. , In May 2019, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was designated an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.
, The dunefield is composed of reversing dunes, transverse dunes—also called crescentic or barchan dunes—and star dunes. Yup, the dunes don’t take a day off, so you can visit anytime you like! The Junior Ranger program has different activities for kids ages 3–12, and they earn a badge once they've completed the educational and fun tasks. The park's elevation (8,200 feet) and rural location make it a favorite with dark-sky-loving stargazers, and it even offers special astronomy programs many evenings May–September. Camping is permitted most places in the national preserve and at designated sites along the Medano Pass Road, as long as minimum impact guidelines are followed. Everything you need to plan a unforgettable visit.
Photo: Courtesy of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. , The riparian zone follows creeks through the subalpine and montane ecosystems at Great Sand Dunes.
The tallest, Star Dune, is 755 feet measured from its base. Contact Us There are five dunes surpassing 700 hundred feet.
Find detailed information on camping and lodging options in and near the park, or link to make reservations at Piñon Flats Campground in the national park. The average annual precipitation is 11 inches including an average snowfall of 37 inches. All national park horse camping areas are in the wilderness in designated backcountry campsites or other wilderness areas at least 0.25 mi (0.4 km) from roads or trails. It is part of the much larger Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Through the cyclical process of sand, water and wind movement, the sand from the tops of the dunes make their way back to the bottom and eventually, over the course of hundreds or thousands of years will make its way back to the top before starting the cycle all over again.
Bristlecone and limber pines grow at an extremely slow rate, with small statures that belie their true ages as some are more than a thousand years old. The town of Alamosa is just under 35 miles southeast of the Visitor's Center, and provides visitors with many lodging, food and other activities options.
 The road winds around the eastern side of the dunefield, up through a forested mountain canyon inside the National Preserve, and then over Medano Pass—elevation 9,982 ft (3,043 m)—at the 11.2 mi (18.0 km) mark. March and April are the snowiest months of the year, but some days in spring can also be swimsuit weather. Some of these migrating dunes become covered by grasses and shrubs and stop migrating. These people only stayed when hunting and plant gathering was good, and avoided the region during times of drought and scarcity. In the summer, daytime air temperatures rarely reach 90 °F, with average temperatures in the 70s-80s °F.
Choose your own calf-burning path up the dunes, particularly at dusk when the light gives them a rich gold color and shadows snake across their wind-sculpted ridges.
A diverse bird population includes peregrine falcon, mountain bluebirds and northern pygmy owls. The highest elevation in the park is 13,604' above sea level.  The unpaved road crosses Medano Creek nine times and traverses 4 mi (6.4 km) of deep sand. The Mosca Pass Toll Road was developed in the 1870s, and stages and the mail route used it regularly through about 1911 when the western portion was damaged in a flash flood. Mechanized or motorized vehicles are not permitted …
Spring can bring high winds; March, April, and May winds are unstable and can be unusually strong.
Owls, dusky grouse, turkeys, and bullsnakes all find habitat in these drier, open woodlands. The road then continues down into the Wet Mountain Valley and connects with Colorado State Highway 69.
Summer nights are cool—the park is located 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level—with nighttime temperatures often dropping below 50 °F (10 °C). This page shows the elevation/altitude information of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA, including elevation map, topographic map, narometric pressure, longitude and latitude. , The sabkha is a wetland region where groundwater rises and falls seasonally, leaving white alkali deposits on the surface. Cold temperatures are the norm in winter, even though sunshine is generally abundant. Shore birds such as the American avocet hunt tadpoles and insects in the shallow water. The land includes the area presently occupied by the bison herd, as well as adjacent meadows and wetland areas. The Nature Conservancy's Medano Ranch property may only be visited on a guided tour. Members of the P.E.O.  Fat tire bikes are the only type of bicycle recommended by the park service due to the deep sandy stretches. , The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising to a maximum height of 750 feet (229 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range. , Fish living in the park's streams include the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Rio Grande sucker (Catostomus plebeius), and fathead minnow. While the best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is probably during spring, late summer and fall, winters can be spectacular. , The idea that the dunes could be destroyed by gold mining or concrete manufacturing alarmed residents of Alamosa and Monte Vista. However, it has expanded significantly since its roots, due in large part to concern among residents of nearby communities about the need to protect the watershed containing the dunes. Travellers are advised that hunting is permitted in the National Preserve during the months of autumn.
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