When planning a trip to the Southeastern part of Colorado, I knew one of the things I had to see while I was there was the Great Sand Dunes National Park and more specifically hiking the sand dunes there. I had never been there and for some crazy reason I had it stuck in mind I was going to see sunrise from on top of High Dune. In order to do that I needed to leave my hotel from Alamosa like around 4 in the morning since the rest of my family thought I was crazy to get up that early to do it I had to take the adventure alone. Despite the early morning and lonely drive to the Dunes and long slough tiresome walk to the top of High Dune I had a blast. It was a beautiful sight seeing the first rays of light from on top of the dune, and being there that early I got a chance to see some of the wildlife in the area. It was a great morning and I would do it again if I was back in the area.
Besides the misnomer of the name “High Dune” that particular sand dune is the not the highest or tallest in the park, but my legs could not tell the difference in the loose sand. The tallest in the park is actually Star Dune which is about 60 feet higher depending on conditions and wind. It is about a 2 hour round trip journey to High Dune and if you decide to tackle Star Dune it will probably run you 5 hours in total. The path you choose is your own since there are no marked trails and with the wind the dunes are constantly changing.
If you have never hiked on sand dunes before then you are in for an interesting experience and it is easy to learn the right path from the wrong because the sand dunes are real good teacher. A word to the wise, hike on the ridges and look for the hardest packed sand. If the sand is really hard the hike is relatively easy but if you find yourself into the loose stuff, let’s just say you are going to be in for a “wonderful” workout.
Finding High Dune is pretty easy, you just head out to the dune field form the parking lot, cross Medano Creek and head for the highest dune on the first ridge. If you are feeling good just head west to the next highest dune and you will be on top of Star Dune – if only it was that easy. Like any hiking trip make sure to take the proper precautions, have plenty of water and snacks for energy. Make sure you use common sense on where to hike through the dunes and be weather aware especially if there is a chance for a thunderstorm. Also it is advised to walk in either the morning or evening because the sand can reach an excess of 140 degrees so be smart out there when you are having fun.
Hiking High Dune was one of my favorite parts of visiting Colorado this last go around and was well worth the strenuous effort to reach the top. I highly recommend sunrise but I am sure sunset is just as good.
To see reviews of all of our hikes click here
Hike to High Dune
Distance about 2 hours round trip
Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
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