A sandbox of epic proportions, the entire dune field encompasses 30 square miles.
The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres.
One of the most unusual features of the park happens at Medano Creek, which borders the east side of the dunes and is located next to the Visitor Center. Because fresh sand continually falls in the creek, Medano Creek never finds a permanent and stable streambed. Small underwater sand dunes that act like dams continually form and break down, and so waders in the stream see surges—which look like waves—of water flowing downstream at intervals of anywhere from just a few seconds to a minute or more.
Here a couple walks towards Medano Creek with snow still atop the mountain in the background. In summer, mid-day sand surface temperatures can soar to 150 F but average daytime highs are only in the 80's.
Hiking the dunes is a favorite past time for visitors. Hiking to the top is about 3-miles long and hikers will be rewarded with great views.
The other favorite past time is surfing the dunes. You can rent boards at most of the local campgrounds.
The dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, glaciers feeding the river and the vast lake that existed upon the valley melted, and the waters evaporated.
Sand Ramp Trail Hike
Begin hiking the Sand Ramp Trail in Loop 2 of the campground.
Most of the trail is naturally sand.
You cross the creek a couple of times during the hike.
This marker indicates the direction to the Dunes Overlook and Point of No Return.
The views of the Dunes are impressive.
We didn't hike up into the Dunes but if you do, it is recommended that you hike the ridge of the dunes to make the hike easier.
Here you can see Medano Creek located on the East side of the Dunes.
Sometimes we are lucky and capture the true meaning of Natures Beauty. These photos were taken at the park during sunset.
This photo was taken the evening before we departed. I looked outside and the sun was reflecting on the hillside.