Hiking at Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Addison woke us up early again, which was perfect as we wanted to hike the dunes and it’s best to do so in the morning during the summer so as not to burn your toes! When I unzipped the tent door, I was shocked to see a deer grazing in the next campsite. It couldn’t have been more than 30 feet from us! We had a quick breakfast, and then set off on our hike to the top of the High Dune.

Kendra and I both love hiking. It’s not always easy, but it is rewarding. This hike was, in many ways, the same… but let me try to describe the experience.

Imagine yourself walking barefoot through the beach, the sand packed hard by the waves. Now, move a little away from shore, where the sand is dry and soft, and continue walking. It becomes more difficult as your feet sink into the sand with each step. Are you with me?

Now, take your beach, and make it a 650-foot mountain made of sand, and keep walking. (You’re still barefoot.) Wait! Don’t forget the baby – add a pack with a one-year-old, 3 liters of water, your DSLR camera, and a diaper bag, to your back. (Approximately 25 lbs.)

You doing okay? By then, I was in pain. Now, picture doing all this at 8,200 ft. above sea level. Your lungs are burning a bit, your calves are burning a lot, and there isn’t even a trail to follow; you just walk along the ridges of the dunes.

    Addison's hair looked particularly stunning backlit by the sun as she snoozed while I climbed!

Addison’s hair looked particularly stunning backlit by the sun as she snoozed while I climbed!

It was not easy, but we did it! We made it to the High Dune, and it was completely worth the hike. You can’t really envision what 30 square miles of sand dunes looks likes until you see it from that perspective. They seem so small against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos mountains towering just behind them.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The best part? Though it took 75 minutes to go up, it took only 20 minutes to get back down and to our car! It’s a lot of fun to run down big dunes of sand – some kids even had rental sleds and were sledding down.

Hiking in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Hiking in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Hiking in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

After our hike, we visited the Visitor’s Center again, watched a short movie about the dunes, and retired to camp to have lunch and a birthday party for Addison. She wasn’t overly impressed, but we enjoyed ourselves.

Addie's 1st Birthday!

Addie's 1st Birthday!

The rest of our afternoon was relaxed – it was nice to have a day off from driving, and we enjoyed the cool breeze, the warm sun, the beautiful view of the dunes from our campsite, and the antics of a very fat, bold ground squirrel who kept stealing various scraps of food from other sites and bringing it back to eat at ours. He obviously felt some kinship toward us as we snacked on oreos and lime tostitos.

Frisky ground squirrel at Mesa Verde National Park

Tomorrow we are off to Mesa Verde National Park!

About Jen

Outdoor adventurer and traveler. Writer, Photographer & Communications Professor. Wife. Mom of twins plus one. Tubbs Snowshoes Ambassador. Blogger at gayfamilytrips.com.

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3 Responses to Hiking at Great Sand Dunes National Park!

  1. Janiack July 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Great pictures of Sand Dunes, but you didn’t hike barefooted! Have you seen the size of western scorpions… not quite like those found in Peru, however. That’s what Tevas are for?

  2. Jen July 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Don’t worry Janiack – there are NO poisonous critters of any sort in the dunes, so it was a-ok for me to hike barefoot :)

  3. Meg July 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Wow, looks hot! Love love the photo of the bold chipmunk. Too funny!

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