Backpack the Great Sand Dunes

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Added by Michael O'Keeffe

Camp in one of the most unique and exotic wildernesses in the West and climb the tallest sand dunes in North America. Distance and elevation gain vary depending on how far you choose to hike in.

Few places can match the epic scale of this bizarre wilderness in southern Colorado. Great Sand Dunes National Park contains 750 foot tall sand dunes (the tallest in North America) resting at the foot of 13,000 foot peaks (the Sangre de Cristo range). However, to really experience the park in its wildest, purest form you'll have to backpack and camp in the dunefield itself.

One of the coolest aspects of the Great Sand Dunes is that you have the freedom to hike and camp wherever you want on the sand dunes with just a few exceptions. Backpackers must hike at least past the day use area of the dunes (generally about a mile or so deep into the dunefield) as well as obtain a free permit from the visitor center. Once that is settled the Great Sand Dunes are at your disposal.

Make it a short overnight or turn it into a multi-day traverse of the entire dunefield, it is up to you! Just remember there is no water on the dunes so be sure to carry plenty of it. Also, if making the trek in summer, be sure to monitor weather conditions as frequent afternoon thunderstorms are common.

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šŸ„‡Top Contributor

almost 5 years ago

Truly Unique Experience

Backpacking in the dunes was one of the most unique camping experiences I have ever had. It is hard to grasp the scale of the dunes from photos but rest assured they will leave you in awe time and time again. I highly recommend this adventure to anyone. I also recommend bringing sandbags to keep your tent secure!

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šŸ„‡Top Contributor

almost 6 years ago

Hiking the dunes is far more difficult than you can imagine. The more weight you carry, the more you will feel it on slipping sand. Start slow, and find ridges of compacted sand. The sunsets are mind blowing!

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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