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14 Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations

Last updated on May 7th, 2022 at 10:56 pm

3 - Great Sand Dunes National Park

We have always wanted to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Being the first visit, we wanted to know what exciting things we would love in the park. I loved the park’s specialties: the sandy slopes, observing the glowing planets, hearing the sand sing and move. I also learned about the Great Sand Dunes National Park Foundation. Games like sand boarding and surfing are also in the park.

History of the Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado in the San Luis Valley. It was initially known as the great Sand Dunes National Monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1932. In 2004 the congress authorized changes to a National Park. The great sand dunes originated from a large lake that covered the San Luis Valley with sand, neighbored by grassland and wetlands. They are known to be the tallest sand dunes in North America. However, scientists are still discovering how old the sand dunes are and long they have been in place.

Lt. Zebulon Pike, an American Explorer, was the first to explore the great dunes. At age 27, Zebulon Pike led a group of US soldiers in mid-winter over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Though he and his men were frostbitten and hungry, he found the inspiration to write down in poetic language the first known written words about Great Sand Dunes.

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14 Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations

1. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations – Great Sand Dunes NM – Medano Pass Road Dispersed

Address
Unnamed Road
Mosca, Colorado
GPS: 37.849688, -105.435074
Elevation: 9603′

Management – Public – National Park Service

No trailers definitely need 4wd. Sand and rocks

2. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Sites – Huerfano SWA – Site 2

Address
4800 County Road 580
Gardner, Colorado
GPS: 37.7013, -105.382901
Elevation: 8579′

Management – Public – State Park

This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location

3. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Spots – South Colony Basin

Address
3205 South Colony Road
Westcliffe, Colorado
GPS: 37.976696, -105.505054
Elevation: 9885′

Management – Public – Forest Service

The road in is 4×4. You may stay 14 days at South Colony Basin. South Colony Basin and the surrounding 14,000-foot peaks offer a broad range of recreational opportunities, including camping, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, fishing and hunting. This diversity of activities, combined with the natural beauty of the basin and the rough but passable access provided by the road, has made South Colony Basin the most popular destination in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

4. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations – Crestone

Address
Forest Road 949
Westcliffe, Colorado
GPS: 37.990148, -105.685411
Elevation: 8186′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

Take East Galena Avenue until you clear private land. There are several areas to park and camp. The private land owner has made abundantly clear where public land starts. Great site. Wonderful town.

5. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Sites – Lake Como Road

Address
Lake Como Road
Blanca, Colorado
GPS: 37.526985, -105.593536
Elevation: 7680′

Management – Public – Bureau of Land Management (Official)

The road in is Dirt. Lake Como Road is open unless the road is impassable . There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay two weeks at Lake Como Road.

A few flat, open areas along a dirt road. Most likely the were first used as staging areas for ohv and equestrian riders wanting to take on one of the roughest roads in Colorado, Lake Como Road. The road involves technical rock crawling and requires serious clearance. A stock jeep won’t make it. But fear not, the camping areas are in the valley on a nice dirt road. Good cellular data on AT&T and Verizon. The town of Alamosa is about 15 miles away. Blanca is around 3 miles.

6. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Spots – Mine Road

Address
Westcliffe, Colorado
GPS: 38.012307, -105.697782
Elevation: 8278′

Management
Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. Dispersed camping north of Crestone. Take the road towards North Crestone Creek Campground and swing a left before you get there. There is some private land in the area so but sure to use the public land’s layer and stay on public land. Be respectful in all you do.

7. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations – Wiley Gulch

Address
Gardner, Colorado
GPS: 37.884293, -105.207739
Elevation: 7901′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 7 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 days at Wiley Gulch.

8. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Sites – Middle Taylor Creek SWA

Address
Hermit Road
Westcliffe, Colorado
GPS: 38.1045, -105.604333
Elevation: 10000′

Management – Public – Fish and Wildlife Service (Official)

Located 8 miles west of the town of Westcliffe on Hermit Road (County Rd. 160) and Forest Service Rd 301.

9. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Spots – Mountain Home Reservoir SWA – South

Address
Unnamed Road
Fort Garland, Colorado
GPS: 37.388948, -105.384153
Elevation: 8179′

Management – Public – State Park

This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location

10. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations – Wild Cherry Creek

Address
County Road AA
Moffat, Colorado
GPS: 38.100628, -105.770655
Elevation: 8524′

Management – Public – Forest Service

Free Dispersed camping in the Rio Grande National Forest’s Saguache Ranger District. No reservations. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location.

Nice little area. Pinions, juniper, and little cactus. Powdery dirt. Aspen, fireweed, Indian Paint Brush filled riparian area around Cherry Creek is just a short walk away. There are 2-3 campsites on the road leading to the trailhead. At the trailhead, there are a couple campsites in the loop and a few more along a road that leads off to the south. The road in is long and rocky.

11. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Sites – Walmart Super Center

Address
Alamosa, Colorado
GPS: 37.481057, -105.904044

Management – Private – Retail Store (Official)

Alamosa Walmart Super Center is located at: 3333 Clark St Alamosa, CO I’ve verified with the store that RV/Overnight parking is permitted at this location. No tents or camping. The GPS coordinates are: 37.28831 -105.54191

12. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Spots – Cotton Creek Trail

Address
County Road Cc64
Moffat, Colorado
GPS: 38.13164, -105.788689
Elevation: 8576′

Management – Public – Forest Service

Free Dispersed camping in the Rio Grande National Forest’s Saguache Ranger District. Reservations are not accepted at this campsite. This is a high elevation location.

13. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Locations – Mountain Home Reservoir SWA – South


Address
Unnamed Road
Fort Garland, Colorado
GPS: 37.388948, -105.384153
Elevation: 8179′

Management – Public – State Park

This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served. This is a high elevation location

14. Great Sand Dunes National Park Boondocking Sites – Hot Water Springs and Garner Trailhead


Address
Moffat, Colorado
GPS: 38.179695, -105.812969
Elevation: 8566′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

Relatively flat space, dirt loop. Very nice views of the valley. Boondocking only. We did it in a 31 foot class C, no problems. At the intersection of 285 and 17 is County Road GG. Take CR-GG east all the way across the valley right up into the foothills. The road is hard pack dirt, few ruts, but easy. You’ll pass CR-61, go through some curves, then start heading uphill, still generally east. You’ll come to an intersection where you can go straight or turn right. There are mail boxes on the left. If you go straight you’re headed to the hot springs, if you turn right you’re going south on CR-65. Take 65 south. Maybe 1/2 mile there is signage for the trailhead and National Forest. Turn left into it and there you are.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Sand Dune National Park

Hiking the dunes gives you a huge variety, sand dunes, wildlife, streams, forest and grasslands.  The Great Sand Dunes National Park has almost every ecosystem that Colorado has to offer within its borders.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #1 High Dune Trail

1 High Dune Trail - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail

This trail has and elevation of 629 feet and 3.0 miles long and is located near Gardner, Colorado. The high dune trail appears to be highest when viewed from the park’s entrance. It features a river with stunning views as the bird watching. There was a route when going up, but going down, I had to create my path. Also, I realized that it is best to start the early morning when energetic. It is also the most challenging trail, but finishing is the crucial point. The park rangers only recommend 2 to 4 hours of hiking on the trail.

Length: 3.0 mi
Elevation gain: 629 ft
Route type: Out & back

Camping, Hiking, Bird watching, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No shade, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #2 Mosca Pass Trail

2 Mosca Pass Trail - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

The Mosca Pass Trail is 6.4 miles long and has a 1,459 foot elevation. There are beautiful world flowers to watch when hiking. All I can say about this trail is that it is relatively easy.

Length: 6.4 mi
Elevation gain: 1,459 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Hiking, Mountain biking, Nature trips, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #3 The Sand Dunes Loop Trail

3 - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

It is located near Mosca, Colorado, and has a length of 5.0 miles long and an elevation of 741 feet. I enjoyed the bird watching, wildflowers and noted that it was kid-friendly. I saw others using a dog as long as the dog was kept on a leash.

Length: 5.0 mi
Elevation gain: 741 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Horseback riding, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #4 Dune Trail from Pinyon Flats

4 Dune Trail from Pinyon Flats - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

This trail is 4.5 miles long, and elevation of 954 feet from the ground and is located near Gardner, Colorado. It is best for bird watching, hiking, camping, and nature trips. I ensured that I used grater shoes that could hold sand inside.

Length: 4.5 mi
Elevation gain: 954 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Camping, Hiking, Nature trips, Bird watching, Views, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #5 High and Star Dune Loop

5 High and Star Dune Loop - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

It is 8 miles long with an elevation of 1309 feet from the ground and is located near Gardner, Colorado. I found it best for hiking. However, the only best months to enjoy hiking in the loop are May until October. It featured beautiful world flowers. I also realized it is the most challenging trail. Dog hiking is also favorable on the trail.

Length: 8.0 mi
Elevation gain: 1,309 ft
Route type: Loop

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Dog friendly, Views, Wildflowers, Off trail, No shade, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #6 Dunes Overlook Trail

6 Dunes Overlook Trail - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

This trail is 2.7 miles long and has an elevation of 427 feet. The dunes overlook trail is located near Mosca, Colorado. It features beautiful wildflowers. I realized that the trail is best used from May until October. It can also be rated as a moderate hiking trail.

Length: 2.7 mi
Elevation gain: 472 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No shade, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #7 Montville Nature Trail

7 Montville Nature Trail - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

The Montville Nature Trail is located near Mosca, Colorado, and is 1/2 mile long with an elevation of 88 feet. It features a good river and is suitable for hiking, bird watching. It is kids and dogs friendly as long as they are kept on leash. The Montville nature trail is the best during scorching days since it has shades from the trees.

Length: 0.5 mi
Elevation gain: 88 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, River, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #8 The Upper Sand Creek Lake Trail

8 - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

This trail is 7.4 miles long and has an elevation of 1965 feet. It is used from May until September. Also, it is best for hiking, running, and jogging.

Length: 7.4 mi
Elevation gain: 1,965 ft
Route type: Out & back

Backpacking, Hiking, Running, Lake, Views, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #9 Medano Pass Primitive Road

9 Medano Pass Primitive Road - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

This primitive road is 19.9 miles long, has 2014 feet in elevation, and is located near Mosca, Colorado. It features a lake and is suitable for nature trips. I found it good for off-road driving too.

Length: 19.9 mi
Elevation gain: 2,014 ft
Route type: Point to point

Nature trips, OHV/Off-road driving, Lake, River, Views, Fee

Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Trail #10 Medano Lake Trail

10 Medano Lake Trail - Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking Tra

The trail is 7.9 miles long, and 2290 feet elevated. It is located near Westcliffe, Colorado. It features a lake and is best used in March to October. It is easy for dogs to use the trail if kept on a leash.

Length: 7.9 mi
Elevation gain: 2,290 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Hiking, , Nature trips, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Lake, Views, Waterfall, Wildflowers, Fee

 Things To Do At the Sand Dunes

4 - Great Sand Dunes National Park

When I visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park, I enjoyed the time I had, and here are some of the places and things I did;

Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking was most favorable during the day and backpacking during the night. Also, the best way I experienced the dunes was in the early morning or evening. That way, I avoided the harsh heat, feet burning, lightning, and thunderstorms that mostly happened during the day. Some of the hiking ridges I loved were the high dune of the first ridge, star dune ridge, hidden dune, and the eastern dune ridge.

High Dune of the First Ridge- the ridge is 211m high, and I hiked for a 4km stretch in 4hours enjoying the great view of the dune field.

Star Dune Ridge- it is 225m high from the dune parking lot. I used 6 hours to finish a 3.2km stretch.

Eastern Dune Ridge- I drove for 2km then hiked for 1.3km to the sand post.

Hidden Dune- this dune is 225m high and is not visible to visitors. From experience, hiking an 11km stretch can be completed in 6 hours.

The forest and grassland trails can be hiked in the afternoon while walking under the shade.

Sand Boarding and Sand sledding

I had to get the sand sled and sand boards from outside sources because the park does not rent the sand sleds or sand boards. There are outdoor stores like the oasis store that is 4 miles away, and the spindrift and sand board rentals are also 25 miles away, among other stores. Also, I realized that it is best to rent or purchase the boards before arriving at the park. Sand boarding and sledding can be done anywhere in the dune field as long as not in the vegetated area. It is also best in the middle of the summer. Kids use the smaller slopes at the base of the ground while adults go for the longer slopes. Mostly I enjoyed sand boarding in the early morning and evening when the sun was not too hot. In case of any injuries, the rangers are always available to help.

Splashing In the Medano Creek

The Medano Creek is a stream that can be used for surfing, floating, splashing, among others. Kids most love this activity. Nobody is allowed to harm or destroy the habitat or water. I enjoyed the creek after a long day of hiking and sand boarding.

Free Rangers Program

The national park also offers a rangers program every day to train people on poaching and geological landscaping. This program gave me a great insight how to conserve the habitat. I also learned how to dispose of trash in an environmentally friendly way. These programs come with diverse topics from an expert ranger.

Horseback Riding

Horses are allowed in the park. I noted horses being used in the sand ramp trail. The only permitted thing is parking the horses on the paved road or using the dune parking lot unless crossing. It is because the dune parking lot is only meant for pedestrians.

Night Experience

The park is most enjoyable at night. Watching the stars and moon, listening to owls, among others, were just but a few things that I did at night. The dune park is also known to be one of the quietest parks.

Photography

I enjoyed taking photos of the dunes in different times of the day during the park visit, which remained memorable to me.
Hunting

Driving The Park Back Country

A 4WD is the best vehicle to use when driving through the Medano pass primitive road. The 4WD car will help in exploring the rocky terrain and creek crossing.


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