Visitor Activities at the Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in Colorado, USA, and it has the biggest sand dunes in North America. As indicated by its name, the area is divided into two main categories: park land spanning almost 108 acres and preserve land of more than 41 thousand acres. 

Climate conditions

The park has a typical desert climate, with extremely high temperatures during the day followed by much lower temperatures at night. In the winter months, the temperature at night has hit record low temperatures of -18 °C. There is only 283 mm of rainfall per year. The climate is generally bearable, with occasional storms during fall season.

Activities for visitors

Hiking and Backpacking

Visitors can have day treks or overnight backpacking trips to explore the great sand dunes. Wheelchairs are available to those who need it. There are no formal trails and hikers are free to explore as they want. Visitors should note the extreme heat and challenges of hiking at high altitudes before undertaking long treks.

Sandboarding and Sledding

Visitors can sandboard or sand sled on the dunes if they want to, as long as they are not near vegetation. This is not a supervised activity and visitors are responsible for their own safety. The park does not rent or sell equipment for these activities, but visitors can rent or buy boards and sleds at retailers just outside the park.

Playing in the water

Medano creek can be used to cool down by playing in the water. However, it may be too cold in the winter months and generally disappears in August and September.

Night experiences

o   Stargazing

o   Night walks on the great sand dunes

o   Observing amphibians during the rain

o   Bird watching

Visitors should note that the park will not provide any equipment required for these activities, i.e. telescopes, binoculars, etc. Visitors should come prepared with their tools and vehicles.


The look of the park changes from season to season, offering ample opportunities for a variety of photographs. The categories include barren landscapes, water bodies, wildlife, etc.

Horseback riding

Visitors can either bring their own horses or opt for overnight guided trips given by licensed providers. Visitors riding their own horses should note the areas where riding is prohibited before they enter the park.

Sandhill crane migration

Sandhill cranes spend spring and fall in the park. In spring, cranes often engage in dancing and other rituals as a form of courtship. This is an excellent photography opportunity for photographers.


Fishing is allowed in many of the creeks of the park. However, since some of the fishes are exotic or endangered, they are catch and release only. Visitors should note the names and characteristics of such fish before starting to fish.


Licensed hunters may hunt on the preserve during designated seasons.

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