The Great Sand Dunes marks the 27th National Park I’ve had the opportunity to visit and the 6th National Park I’ve experienced with Shannon.
It is also now one of my favorites.
While other National Parks may surpass the GSD in variety of natural features, the pure joy I felt exploring the sandy dunes makes for a one-of-a-kind place.
Many people have termed it “the world’s largest sandbox” and it’s a perfect description.
We visited on a sunny September afternoon and the true scale of the dunes was not immediately evident to me. But soon after leaving the parking lot and walking into the dunes themselves it quickly became apparent how massive they were.
Now I’ve been to beaches. Big beaches. I thought I had a decent grasp on what a lot of sand looks like. The Great Sand Dunes forced me to rethink everything.
As we began to walk up towards the front range of the dunes we passed many people sandboarding, which looked like an immense bit of fun.
By hiking up a little further the crowds thinned out and we found ourselves completely alone up on the upper slopes.
Hiking up sand dunes is a strenuous activity and it was getting late in the day. Nevertheless, we wanted to get to the top of the tallest dune we could see in the hopes of looking over the top to the whatever lay on the other side.
And when we hiked/crawled up were rewarded with more sand dunes – stretching as far as the eye could see across the Colorado landscape.
Once again, the sheer magnitude of the amount of sand was breathtaking.
All in all, we hiked 3.3 miles up and around the dunes. Snaking along ridgelines, sliding down into ravines, and feeling free as can be.
This is a special place and a National Park I look forward to returning to.