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

7 months ago

Different terrain

It is a whole new ball game, hiking up the sand! This was exhausting, but the area is so stunning and was a great challenge

Not For The Faint Of Heart, But Worth It!

We backpacked in for 1 night; hiking up the dunes past the day use area is steep and arduous, especially packing in all the gear/water. However, watching the sun set on the dunes was 100% worth it. Sleeping on the dunes was also fantastic and unlike any other camping experience. Otherworldly for sure! Also keep any eye out for wildlife- there were a surprising amount of fresh tracks in the morning.

Explorer

šŸ„‡Top Contributor

over 4 years ago

Desert adventure

Wow. Nothing but sand dunes and sky and distant mountains. The sand was easier to climb than expected (that being said, the dunes were higher than expected). Be ready for unrelenting wind. Bring extra tent pegs.

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4.8/5

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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