Thursday, March 19, 2015

Taking a Quick Detour to Visit Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park

On my long drive back to Wisconsin from the Fraser Valley up in the rockies, I had to shape my route around checking out Great Sand Dunes National Park. Even if it were for just a couple hours, I just had to see this place. The craziest thing about Great Sand Dunes is that it just appears out of nowhere. It's like boom, dump a metric ton of sand here. It's wild and stunning. Literally, the first thought I had in my head getting out of my car was 'There's sand everywhere!' Located in Colorado's San Luis valley near Mosca, is quite possibly one of the most unique national parks in our whole system: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Pictures just don't do this place justice. Surrounded by dozens of miles of open range country, as far as the eyes can see and skyrocketing 12k, 13k and 14,000 ft snow-capped mountains, are massive sand dunes. Spanning 30 square miles in, these dunes, one rising even 750ft!, are the tallest in North America. Caused first by mountain erosion in which sand enters nearby streams, like the Medano Creek (which you have to cross on foot to access the dunes) . The sand is then blown by gusty winds towards these Sangre De Cristo Mountains hiding around the dunes. The sand builds up, and builds up, and builds up. Crazy fact I learned was that in peak summer weather, the sand itself can roast up to 150 degrees! This place is just so wild and cool. It's mind-boggling beautiful and jaw-dropping how this is random geographic feature is just here way high up in the mountains.

While it's in a pretty remote part of Colorado, it's totally worth checking out! This has been on my outdoors bucket list, and now I've crossed it off. Next time I get out here, I'll have to go up into the Sangres and hike a bit more or backpack out onto the dunes. I've heard that backpacking through sand dunes is excruciatingly more difficult than a normal trail.

Enjoy the photos!