dogs on leash
The tallest dunes in North America are up to 750 feet tall and neighbor grasslands, shrublands and wetlands. They were formed by sand deposits of the Rio Grande on the San Luis Valley, and the park also has alpine lakes, six 13,000-foot mountains, and ancient forests.
Love the Sand Dunes! There's really no "trail" to speak of, just miles of sand and dunes. It's a lot of work getting to the tops of the high dunes, and the expanse of the area makes distances rather deceiving. In summertime, it's good to start out early, before sunrise. The dunes are much less crowded then, and the sand won't burn your feet.
The first half (heading counter-clockwise) may have been light to moderate, but coming back across the dunes was hard! Literally walking up the steepest, off-camber walls of sand, trying not to look down, getting breathless within seconds - very taxing and tedious but worth the work! We had the most amazing views and the feeling of being on a vast desert mountain in the sky made it seem otherworldly! Walking along the creek barefoot at the end was the perfect ending to an amazing hike! Expect: wind, lots of sand in your shoes, a feeling as though there isn't really a "trail" to follow because there isn't really (using this app in real time helped). Wear: gaiters, a hat, lots of sunscreen. Bring: strong right hamstrings (or left if going clockwise).
One of my favorite places to hike. I've hiked along the dunes, Medano creek and in the forested areas to the East. The dunes were created due to high wind, so take that into consideration while packing your gear. This National Park is a gem and a must-visit location. Visit the interactive Ranger station and bring your camera for sunset shadows on the dunes.
Beautiful trail. Moderate elevation change. Wildlife at the lake have been fed by hikers too much and are aggressive with begging. Water crossings are somewhat treacherous after storms. Be prepared to set up emergency shelter. I wont be doing this trail again.
My daughter and had a great day hiking this trail. It was the first time on this trail for us. It is well defined and beautiful from start to finish going from rocky hillside to wooded areas to open meadows,etc. My one recommendation is bring LOTS of bug spray. The mosquitos are intense!!
Colorado R. on Dunes Trail from Pinyon Flats
good: shallow river, giant dunes, camping, clean bathrooms.
bad: wind + sand will exfoliate you like a sand blaster , kids/elderly even worse. if you see the sand pick up in a cloud find cover fast.