Although it may be hard to believe, you’re not going to find North America’s highest sand dune on the east or west coasts! In fact, Great Sand Dunes National Park sits just at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado that has peaks towering thousands of feet above the dunes. If the Great Sand Dunes National Park is on your bucket, check out this list of things to know before planning your visit in order to make the best out of your trip.

1. Plan to Visit the “High Dune”

On a bit of a tight schedule? That’s fine, but at least factor in 2 hours to take on the 3-mile round trip hike to the 700-foot peak of Great Sand Dunes National Park. At the top, you’ll experience panoramic views of the dunes. If you are feeling adventurous (and aren’t susceptible to running out of breath at high altitudes like me,) the “Star Dune” is also a great hike that will bring you to the highest peak of the park at 750 feet!

2. Plan Your Trip Accordingly

The environment of the Great Sand Dunes National Park can be harsh no matter what season it is. During the warmer months, visit the dunes in the morning or evening to avoid high temperatures that reach up to 150-degree Fahrenheit by mid-day. Furthermore, it’ll help you avoid those crowds during the spring and summer.

You’ll also want to also accordingly if you choose to go during the winter as we did. While not too hot while the sun is out, it does frequently snow in the mountains which will completely change the look and texture of the sand.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Sunset

3. ALWAYS Wear Closed Toed Shoes While Conquering the Dunes

As I’ve previously mentioned, the sand dunes can get HOT when the sun is directly on them, especially during the warmer parts of the year! The sand is not the easiest to walk on, either. CLosed toed shoes will help prevent your feet from burning and will provide sturdiness for your feet.

4. If You Have the Time, You MUST RENT a Sandboard!

Have you ever seen those crazy people looking like they’re snowboarding on sand? You can rent a sandboard (or sleigh if you want something a bit less extreme) right by the dunes for about $20 a day. They are available at the Oasis Store between April and October and Kristi Mountain Sports year-round unless the ground freezes.

Unfortunately (unless there is snow over the dunes like during our trip), snowboards, skis, and normal snow sleighs will not work on the sand. If you DO have snow as we did, our skimboard actually worked great, but only when touching the snow!

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about sandboarding at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, check out our article that details everything you’ll need to know!

Great Sand Dunes National Park Sandboarding

5. Don’t Leave Your Pets At Home for the Great Sand Dunes National Park

As you may or may not be aware, most National Parks really aren’t the most “pet-friendly” locations. Pets are usually only allowed on designated paths since they can be a distraction and danger to local wildlife. However, Great Sand Dunes National Park encourages leashed and well-behaved pets to explore the sand dunes right along your side! So, plan to bring your furry friend along for the adventure. And, don’t forget to bring their water bowl to hydrate with! (We use this collapsible dog bowl from Amazon)

Great Sand Dunes National Park Dog-Friendly

6. Bring Lots of Water to the Great Sand Dunes!

Don’t underestimate the altitude! I have that tendency that I think I can easily tackle a hike without remembering where I am. Since you are at high altitude, you will also get dehydrated faster so be sure to bring plenty of water.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park has become one of our favorite parks for a number of reasons. As long as you plan accordingly, you’ll have an experience in the park that you won’t ever forget!

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