Explore the most popular wild flowers trails in Great Sand Dunes National Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

on High Dune Trail

hiking
2 days ago

Great hike!

This lake is stunning! It sits just below Blanca Peak which was really neat. Most of the hike is through a forest but towards the end, the trail levels out in a beautiful valley just above treeline. It was cloudy and misty when we went, but the views were still incredible. I kept stopping for photos and to just marvel at how great it was. We started early in the day (on a Sunday in June) and saw very few others on the trail. This trail is somewhat challenging with a consistent uphill grade and a few steep sections, but nothing overly demanding if you are used to hiking//are in good physical shape. And it is easy to follow.

The flowers right now are amazing--so many Columbines, more than I have ever seen on a trail before, and everything else is very green. Highly recommend if you are in the area!

hiking
5 days ago

A hiking stick helps a lot. Bring much more water than you think you will need.

Dogs ARE allowed on this trail!!
A great hike for kids - short, with points of interest marked along the way. Be sure to stop at the trailhead to check out the book that identifies each of the numbered markers.
Parts of the trail are lined with aspens, which will be gorgeous in the fall.

Such a unique hike in CO. Highly recommended for those looking to go out of their comfort zones.

Hiking sticks are a huge help.

hiking
11 days ago

Hiking sticks are a big help

At the trail head there is a sign posted warning of the difficulty of the trail and advising hikers to not "recreate beyond their abilities." I will say that was a very fair warning. The hike is beautiful, the trail leads you back to the farthest and highest point of the valley at which South Zabata Lake is located. However, almost the entire hike is uphill. Very physically challenging (as much on the way down as the way up). Bring lots of snacks and water, you will need it! It took us about 8 hours total. Fun but intense, make sure you are prepared.

This is an amazing hike. But sorry, everyone who seeks to be debating... it is 5.7 Miles EACH WAY. So you’re going to come in just under 12. That is FROM THE TRAILHEAD. Now onto the hike itself.

This trail offers amazing views, and the lake and bowl at the end are incredible. It is, however, relentless. Loose, sharp rock from the first 1/4 mile, a quite a few steep, loose, technical ascents and then descents. If you’re use to 14ers and such, you could do this in trail runners. For the average but avid hiker, I’d recommend a sturdy hiking show or mid boot and certainly one or two hiking poles would be nice, mainly for coming down.

A wonderful backpacking trail with some nice areas to camp right at tree line near the lake, but brutal as a day hike. Took us about 4 hours up and 2.5 down (lots of short stops both ways - we had a dog with us and I was having some trouble with the altitude on the ascent).

Absolutely stunning end destination and worth it - but our group of four agreed that it’s just about the toughest thing we’d done in Colorado aside from a fourteener. So be prepared and enjoy!!!

We hit Zapata falls at the end and boy did that frigid water feel amazing on our throbbing feet!

on South Zapata Lake Trail

14 days ago

This hike was exactly 10 miles round trip from the parking lot.
Very steep, suggesting hiking poles but the reward is sweet. Beautiful scenery throughout the hike.

I don't know what is wrong with these wimpy Colorado folk below me. This is definitely not a hard trail, and the moderate rating is appropriate. And the guy claiming it is 8 miles both ways is just spreading misinformation. It is 4.4 both ways. The trail is easy to follow, has a persistent but mild upward grade, and only a few short stretches of steeper climbs, although there are some very rocky bits and scree fields to cross. I would have been well served to wear stiffer-soled shoes and to remember a trekking pole. There's wonderful tree cover for most of the way. Took me 2.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down.
Love the inquisitive marmots and the Alpine tundra wildflowers above the timberline!

As the other reviewers have said, this is more of a “hard” hike as it is quite long and fairly steep in certain areas. We only saw 2 people on the trail! The views are absolutely amazing, you can see so much of the San Luis Valley and the Sand Dunes! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to complete this hike on that day. We started around 12:30-1pm (admiring Zapata Falls for half hour before that) and we were just past the halfway point around 3:30-4 not to mention we had to drive back to Denver later that evening. TIPS; take plenty of water OR a filter/UV light and snacks, make sure your shoes are comfy, and start EARLY. The trail sometimes isn’t marked well, follow your instincts! The road to the trailhead is about 2-2.5 miles of rocky terrain so make sure your tires are in good shape. I will be going back more prepared to see the lake in the future!

nature trips
21 days ago

First of all, moderate MY ASS. This hike is a killer climb and it’s not for the faint of heart. It is not 4.5 in and 4.5 out. It is 8 Miles in and 8 Miles out. It is a wonderful challenge, but don’t be fooled and don’t be cocky. This trail will kick your butt. Worth it but I will never do it again.

hiking
21 days ago

The views are amazing, the overall feeling you get is worth the pain and struggle climbing up the sand. I thought I was going to pass out on the first high ascent, but honestly it gets (relatively) easier once you make it up that first tall dune. TIPS: I get vertigo now and again, I brought my neck cover (for skiing) with me in case it was very windy/sandy. Thank god I did bc the constant wind from one direction was SO bothersome to my left ear, I started feeling dizzy. Used the neck warmer as a head band to protect my ears and it made the world of difference. I brought my dog as well, it was mid 70’s that day so her paws were fine but we brought her booties just in case. She loved it! But again, be mindful of your animals with the high winds/Sand. My dog is a border collie mix so she has a lot of hair around her ears for natural protection. If your dog doesn’t have a lot of hair, please consider cutting an old pair of leggings, and using the “tube” as a hoodie!

The views from the trail were amazing! Be prepared for some harsh winds blowing a lot of sand at you on windy days. Also keep in mind that sand is far more difficult to hike than a dirt trail and ascending the dunes can leave you out of breath. When stopping to catch your breath you may be buffeted by sand which is constantly blowing low to the ground. I would suggest a mask/cloth to cover your nose and mouth because you will inhale a lot of it. Eyedrops are great too or wear goggles. I didn’t see actual wind speeds near the top but they can knock you over and make sure your hats are secured. Your shoes will get filled with sand if you wear them, I tied mine tightly to keep some out but the effort only delays the occasional bailing. It was worth it all for the experience because the views of the dunes from this trail are great!

hiking
29 days ago

Wonderful hike ! Challenging for this short distance. The view is awesome !

Really great trail but be prepared it’s a long one because of the incline and elevation. Took us about 6-7 hours and really is more of a hard as we clocked in around 11-12 miles because we went to the falls first. It was a little snowy in the basin, but the lake is halfway melted. Beautiful hike and view just be prepared!

The first half, walking along the creek, is easy and fun. The second half, walking back on the dunes, is challenging, but so worth it. Scaling up and across steep dunes made for excellent views and was definitely something to be proud of. It was a beautiful way to get the full experience!

hiking
1 month ago

Loved this hike. The sand obviously makes it more difficult , but sticking to the ridges definitely made a difference. The view at the top is wonderful, and there's a real feeling of accomplishment once you've battled through the sand.

Lots of camping spots along the way. Saw hardly anyone

hiking
1 month ago

the day that I hiked to the top of the dunes the wind was blowing according to weather report 20 to 25 miles an hour. I just bought new treking poles with the cups to use in sand or snow.the poles were very helpful. After reaching the top I headed toward the mountain up and down the ridges for maybe a mile and fond my way back to the bottom where the creek was located. I am 70 years old and have ridden over 16000 miles on a bike since august 2009. Hiking the dunes was a real treat. Just do it slow and steady

hiking
1 month ago

Short distance but challenging hike with awesome views on all sides

hiking
1 month ago

Climbing up the dunes were a pain in the ass. I wore sandals and some parts of the sand were incredibly hot so be careful! Views from the top of High Dune were spectacular. The trail may be short but be prepared with water and food (and sunscreen obviously) since hiking in sand is way more difficult and physically taxing.

hiking
1 month ago

Challenging hike but so worth it! Take breaks to catch your breath!

2 months ago

This was incredible! I ended up going when they got hit with a snow storm which added an additional challenge to making it up to the top as it was! I could barely see the Ridgeline but when I got to the top the storm cleared and you could see the whole dune field with the mountains in the background! Very challenging but so worth it! Since there aren't marked trails you can make your own adventure getting down (or up) and there is so much to explore! It was cool watching the snow gradually melt off the dunes as I descended! The visitor center is great as well!

hiking
2 months ago

short but difficult trail. similar to the incline in difficulty. But my fitness tracker confused it with a light walk due to the slow speeds.

hiking
2 months ago

It took a lot of effort to carry two sand boards up to the top! The view was spectacular. Sledding down was unfortunately too slow, despite a lot of waxing. Perhaps the sand was too wet? Still had a lot of fun with family.

hiking
3 months ago

Just went on this trail this morning! It was a decent hike but very anticlimactic ending. We took the nature loop on our way back down, which adds hardly any milage, and that was probably the best part of the whole trail. Coolviews of the dunes on this end.

Fantastic hike!

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful spring hike! It’s a long hike to the end, but the views throughout were awesome! We saw big horn sheep and a followed the creek throughout. Afterwards we hit the dunes. Made for a great day.

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