4 Best Day Hikes in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Overview

Though not exactly where you would expect to find the largest dunes in North America, Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park is an incredibly diverse experience, hundreds of millennia in the making. The park is one big sand box surrounded by green mountains – the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In addition to the hiking trails below, visitors have their choice of sand-boarding or sand-sledding down the large dunes. When Medano Creek is running in May and June, it even feels like you’re on a trip at the beach. The best hikes in Great Sand Dunes National Park are below, though there are only about 50 miles of trails in the entire park. Keep in mind there are no formal trails in the sand and changes in the dunes happen often making distances and hiking times difficult to predict. Official Website.

StateColorado
Nearest Metro AreaColorado Springs, CO
Area Size149,028 acres
EstablishedMarch 17, 1932
Hiking Trails48 miles

HEY YOU, reading this page! Help me, help you – we make a small commission every time an item or piece of gear is purchased after clicking on the links on our GEAR RECOMMENDATIONS pages. If you are in need of some new BOOTS, a new TENT or SLEEPING BAG, TREK POLES, etc. please consider buying after clicking on one of the links on our site! At no additional cost to you, it helps us keep posting more great hiking recommendations for our readers! Happy Hiking!

Click here for more National Park Hikes!
You can also view some of our most popular Gear Recommendations here!

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

1. High Dune

This is probably the most popular destination in the dune field because it is the tallest dune in sight from the main parking lot though it is not the tallest in the park. Visitors make their way to the 699′ dune as best they can, up and over sandy ridges. Star Dune (750′), the tallest dune in the park, lies another 1.5 miles west of High Dune. There is no designated trails in the sand but you can start from the parking area off Sand Dunes Loop.

  • 2.3 miles – Out and back
  • 550′ gain
  • Moderate

2. Mount Herard Trail

Difficult hike that may not be worth it to many but from the summit of the 13,297′ tall Mount Herard, the views of the park and surrounding mountains are never-ending. On the way you will pass through lush meadows, forests, and Medano Lake. The trailhead can be accessed from the Medano Pass 4WD Road.

  • 10.4 miles – Out and back
  • 3700′ gain
  • Strenuous

3. Zapata Falls Trail

Zapata Falls is not technically in Great Sand Dunes National Park but this short hike in the Sangre de Cristo Range is worth stopping at before or after your visit. The hidden falls are only 0.5 miles from the trailhead. The trail can be followed another 4 miles past the falls to South Zapata Lake but the climb is pretty strenuous for the payoff. The trailhead is 5 miles down a small road off CO-150, 12 miles north of CO-160.

  • 1.0 miles – Out and back
  • 200′ gain
  • Easy

4. Mosca Pass

Following Mosca Creek, this quiet trail climbs up through woods and meadows offering great views of the dune field. The trail is about 3.5 miles to the end of the pass and the views on your way back down make it all worthwhile. The trailhead can be accessed from the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center.

  • 6.9 miles – Out and back
  • 1500′ gain
  • Strenuous

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on:
Product image for Right view (Earth)
Hiking Shoes

Tents
Backpacks
And more! Just click HERE

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.