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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve - BEST Places to Picnic

Visitor Center
11999 Highway 150
Mosca, CO 81146

Phone
Main
719-378-6300
Visitor Center
719-378-6399

Welcome to the Great Sand Dunes!

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a National Park located in the easternmost parts of Alamosa County and Saguache County, Colorado. Originally designated Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was created by an act of the United States Congress on September 13, 2004. The park contains approximately 85,000 acres.

Places to Picnic:

  • Castle Creek
  • Sand Pit
  • Visitor Center

Dunes

Explore the tallest dunes in North America! Whether hiking, sliding, exploring in a dunes wheelchair - or simply playing - the Great Sand Dunes are a unique wilderness area protected for all to enjoy. Find out how these dunes were formed.

Creeks and Streams

Water is the lifeblood of the Great Sand Dunes system. Streams begin as mountain snowfields, melting then flowing through alpine lakes, forests, dunes, grasslands, and lush wetlands. Explore the flowing waters of Great Sand Dunes.

Mountains

Explore the mountain watershed of the Great Sand Dunes. Rugged 13,000' summits, alpine lakes, tundra, and ancient forests are protected in Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. With high-clearance 4WD, ascend the Medano Pass Primitive Road.

Grasslands, Shrublands, and Wetlands

Explore the grasslands, shrublands and wetlands that surround Great Sand Dunes on three sides.

The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres. They are perhaps 12,000 years old.

The dunes were formed from sand deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, westerly winds picked up sand particles from the river flood plain. As the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues, and the dunes are slowly growing. The wind changes the shape of the dunes daily.

Park History

The dunes and surrounding area were designated a National Monument in 1932. On November 22, 2000, United States President Bill Clinton signed the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000, aiming at ultimate national park status. With the help of the Nature Conservancy, the federal government purchased 97,000 acres of the Baca Ranch, which in effect tripled the size of the park. 

The purchase includes those sections of the ranch which previously bordered the park on the north and west sides and also included 14,165 feet Kit Carson Mountain and 14,080 feet subpeak Challenger Point, and the water drainages to the south. The land purchased was split into three sections. 

Part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would be transferred to the Rio Grande National Forest, another section to the west would be set aside as a wildlife area and would host a wild bison herd and the last section to the east would be transferred from the Rio Grande National Forest and would be open to some hunting.

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