Great Sand Dunes National Park

America’s youngest park is on the rise – Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.


Yes. Both my quick visits here have been late in the day with the sun setting for just a short “stop off,” and every time I wish we’d had more time to explore and watch the beautiful and endlessly shifting landscape, while letting my son just laugh and play the day away. Extremely family friendly. Striking scenery, and an incredible place to stop and explore no matter how much or how little time you have.


  • ATHLETES: climbing, biking, hiking, running, exploring
  • ADVENTURERS: camping, climbing, biking, hiking, running, exploring
  • PHOTOGRAPHERS: photo/video scapes, portraits, landscapes, astrophotography, dramatic wedding or family photography
  • FAMILIES: camping, photography, picnicking, hiking for all ability levels, great walking paths both with and without elevation
  • KIDS: YES, absolutely! I took my 3 year-old son and as far as he’s concerned, it’s the world’s greatest playground (though he insisted we should have brought sand shovels and buckets; so come prepared ;-). Having him there created significantly richer photo opportunities.


  • CLOTHING: Shoes are optional. But on a hot day the sand can get extremely hot so you’ll definitely want sandals or aqua shoes if you’re visiting during a warm spell. A rain jacket is also a good idea year round since the weather can change quickly in/around the mountains, and incredible wind gusts can dramatically shift the temperature and sand into your eyes/gear. Don’t wear standard tennis shoes, running shoes, or hiking boots on the dunes – you’ll regret that decision for weeks after. It would be good to have that extra pair with you in the car should you opt to enjoy one of the less popular but equally rewarding hikes in the mountains surrounding the dunes. Also, if it’s windy (early spring or late fall), you might want to consider bringing goggles to keep the sand out of your eyes, literally.
  • CAMERA: Phone and DSLR. Make sure whatever you bring is weatherproof. The fine sand gets into everything, and any open hinges, flanges or seals will likely be damaged if you’re not using weather resistant bodies or cases. Anymore, I always have my phone handy and constantly find it useful as a complimentary creative tool to my DSLR, especially for video.
  • LENSES: Both primes and zoom lenses play well here. I personally am drawn to using a versatile combination zoom that allows me to quickly change between wide angle and telephoto creative framing, as the desert landscape creates stunning opportunities to isolate your subject and play with dramatic lighting and shadow. I also strongly recommend protecting your lenses from sand blasts using a protection filter. A small investment for a LOT of peace of mind that you can put back toward your creative productivity.
  • PACK: You’ll definitely want to bring water, and be able to stow away gear and protect it from the finely grained sand – it gets into everything, so a pack with a rubber watertight seal is ideal.


Spring or fall for the best weather, most colorful foliage, and lighter crowds. There is also a beautiful seasonal stream/river that flows right through the sand dunes from the snow runoff, from spring through midsummer. It’s a blast for the kiddos and cooling off on a hot day, but be warned – the mosquitoes are vicious in June-July some come prepped with bug spray before you even step out of the car on the less windy days, particularly during cooler morning and evening hours.


Fly into Colorado Springs and rent a car for the quickest access to all that the Pike’s Peak recreation area has to offer. Also, check rates for flying in and out of Denver, since it is a relatively quick/easy drive and might save you a pretty penny. There are often absurdly low cost flights from various U.S. locations on Frontier Airlines to both cities. Every time these fares pop up (about every other month) it amazes me that more folks don’t take advantage of a quick, rejuvenating and cheap weekend in the mountains!

For quick travels in/around city centers, Uber and Lyft are great options if you plan on staying close to a hotel or urban center, but would strongly recommend planning ahead enough to rent a car since that will get significantly more bang-for-your buck on your trip and get you out into the wilderness to experience more of what Colorado really has to offer. Even last minute, sites like KayakHotwireEnterprise and Priceline frequently run great discounted weekend and weekly vehicle rates worth checking out.  These deals regularly popup last minute when, presumably, car rental inventory is high (for rental car companies, the goal is to have as many cars on the road as possible at all times).



Relatively lightly traveled National Park yielding no crowds, less congestion, and an overall wonderfully refreshing quietness and peace. Extremely dramatic scenery, and more activities and visible wildlife than many of the other more popular national parks.



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