If you enjoy surfing or you enjoy snowboarding, something you may want to try is surfing at Grand Dune National Park in Colorado.

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Though scientists can’t definitively say how old the sand dunes are at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in southcentral Colorado (about 2.5 hours from Colorado Springs and nearly four hours from Denver), a scientific paper published in 2007 suggest they formed about 440,000 years ago; newer research suggests they may be younger. No matter their age, though, the dunes are magnificent: They are the tallest dunes in North America.

It’s known for huge dunes like the towering Star Dune, and for the seasonal Medano Creek and beach created at the base of the dunes. The backcountry Medano Pass Primitive Road winds through a canyon toward the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Trails lead to forests, wetlands and alpine lakes like Medano Lake, which is home to trout and tundra wildlife.

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sunscreen.

wide-brimmed hat.

sunglasses.

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hiking shoes/boots.

knee-high socks (hot sand can burn your ankles!)

water shoes (for the hike to Zapata Falls if you do this)

cool clothes for daytime.

warm clothes for nighttime.

Bring sunscreen and bug spray. Also, if you’re hiking, bring plenty of water. Don’t wear sandals. As the sun gets higher, it heats the sand to as high as 140 degrees.

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Many use a sandboard or a sand sled at the Dunes, what is the difference?

The rider stands on the sandboard and has the ability to “carve” and steer the board down the dune. The rider sits on the sand sled (feet downhill) and has little to no control of the sled. We generally recommend the sand sled to users who don’t have a background in board sports (snowboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, skateboarding, etc.) simply because there is no learning curve with the sled. The bindings are designed to be ridden barefoot or in socks. We recommend wearing sandals or shoes while hiking the dunes and holding them in your hands while you ride down.

Where to get your gear?

The best place to rent your gear is in Alamosa about 30 minutes away at Kristi Mountain Sports

Where to sandboard on the Dune

Is Sandboarding like Snowboarding?

Yes and No. The feel is similar in that you are strapped to the board and sliding sideways down the hill, but the control and balance aspects are different. Unlike a snowboard, you must lean back far enough to get the board to plane on top of the sand but leaning too far back results in the board digging into the sand therefore it won’t slide – finding the happy medium is a process of trial and error for every rider. The control of the board is not as precise as a snowboard – it has been reported to feel like riding in deep powder or surfing. Sandboards are the fastest thing on the Dunes, but they are not as fast as a snowboard on snow – the sandboard feels like riding a snowboard with a “draggy” wax job.

Hike to the Highest Dune You Can!

“High Dune” is on the first ridge, and contrary to how it looks, it’s not the tallest in the park but still takes quite some effort to ascend! It sits at 699 feet and takes roughly 2 hours round trip to hike. If you have the time and energy, Star Dune is another mile and a half away and is the tallest dune in North America at 750 feet from base to top. It takes roughly 5 hours round trip to get there.

Splash Around in Medano Creek

The creek runs along the dunes and you must cross it to reach the dunes. During the late Spring and early Summer season, the flow is much higher and attracts a lot of folks just to play in the water and go tubing.

Drive Deep into the Park in a 4WD

Medano Primitive Road will give you access to the remote portions of the park and preserve. You do need a 4WD vehicle with high clearance as it gets rough and sandy.

Experience the Night

Get a backcountry permit and camp during the full moon. It will give you a totally different experience. If you’re not into camping, you can still stop by at night to view the dunes from afar.

Explore the Park on Horseback

Most of the park can be explored via horseback. You can cover a lot more ground and get a chance to see more of the dunes.

Go Fat Biking

Unfortunately, you can’t ride your bike in most places in the park, but you can go fat biking on the Medano Primitive Road. These special bikes with fat tires help you get through the terrain without hurting the landscape.

Stop by the Visitor Center The visitor center https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/visitor-center.htm can be a great resource for the current conditions of the park and they can point you in the right direction, so you can make the most of your time in the park. A lot of the rangers explore on their own and may know hidden gems that you won’t find in the pamphlets.

The Visitor Center features:

-20-minute movie about the park

– Interactive exhibits

– Park store with wide selection of books, postcards, magnets, T-Shirts, posters, and more

– Exhibit area of fine art paintings and photography

– First Aid Room

– Back porch with viewing scope

– Restrooms and drinking water

– Simple snacks

– Rangers to answer questions and help you plan your visit

The Visitor Center is open every day year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Visitor Center hours:

9-4:30 Labor Day – Memorial Day Weekend

8:30-5:00 Memorial Day Weekend – Labor Day

You can find plenty of information at the National Park Service

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