Colorado 2015: Hiking Great Sand Dunes NP


Day 5: August 5, 2015

Our visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve started out on the right foot.

The entrance to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

The entrance to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

With Pronghorn!  On the long country road on our way into the park, we saw a herd of Pronghorn! I have been thwarted in my many attempts to get photos of Pronghorn over the last couple of years – unfortunately they are tough to photograph at 60 mph from a car. But this time, we were able to pull over and see them from a standstill! They weren’t super-close, but they were watching us curiously while I took photos with my zoom.

There was a whole line of Pronghorn, watching us, watch them...

There was a whole line of Pronghorn, watching us, watch them…

We proceeded on to the Visitor’s Center to fill our water bottles and use the restroom, but didn’t look at the exhibits at that point because we wanted to get out hiking before it got too hot.

I finally got photos of Pronghorn!

I finally got photos of Pronghorn!

Jon and I decided to hike up Star Dune, which is the second-tallest dune in the park; Star Dune is 699 feet tall and the hike is about 3 miles round trip. We left at about 10:40 am – hiking though the flat section of the dune field, across Medano Creek, which was about an inch deep and meandered in a wide path across the sand. Jon’s parents joined us for this portion of the hike and some pictures, before breaking off and doing their own thing once it got more strenuous.

Jon and me at the beginning of our hike to the top of Star Dune - 699 feet tall and the second tallest dune in the park.

Jon and me at the beginning of our hike to the top of Star Dune – 699 feet tall and the second tallest dune in the park.

We began hiking up the dune, and it quickly turned tough in the soft sand. It was definitely a challenging hike; we had to stop multiple times and rest while climbing the steep dunes! I’ll be honest; I was driving the rest breaks much more frequently than Jon.  On the hike we saw several patches of prairie sunflowers growing in the sand – it was interesting to see them growing without any soil!

A Prairie Sunflower growing in the sand.

A Prairie Sunflower growing in the sand.

A whole field of Prairie Sunflowers

A whole field of Prairie Sunflowers

Once we reached the top of the dune, we posed for photos and sat in the sand, resting and admiring the view.

Partway through the hike - the view back towards Medano Creek and the

Partway through the hike – the view back towards Medano Creek and the “trail head.”

After resting, we made our way back down the dune. The hiking was way easier going down! We didn’t stick to the “trail” on the way down, instead sinking into the deep sand on the sides of the dunes. It was like being a little kid again! I understood why rangers tell you to wear closed shoes in the summer; when the sand hit my leg it was getting quite warm, and it wasn’t a super-hot day.

Someone wrote a message in the sand - We are not alone...

Someone wrote a message in the sand – We are not alone…

We checked out the Visitor’s Center and I got my passport stamp and postcards – plus I got a cute bumper sticker proclaiming that I hiked Star Dune! 699 feet! Jon just rolled his eyes.  We had a picnic lunch that day near the Visitor’ Center, at a nice picnic area with some shade. We did encounter a few little biting flies, and a relatively well-behaved church group of teenagers.

We tried to hike a little bit near Medano Creek, but at that point it was getting pretty hot and there were lots of little gnats flitting around, so we decided to quit while we were ahead.

And with that, it was time to say goodbye to Great Sand Dunes National Park…

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9 thoughts on “Colorado 2015: Hiking Great Sand Dunes NP

  1. Hiking up those dunes is way more challenging than it looks! I think my hike there still holds the title for (my) slowest hike ever. Beautiful shots of the pronghorns!

    • I’m positive it was my slowest hike! We hiked at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan too, but the dunes weren’t as steep and high, so it was a little bit easier. Thank you! I loved the pronghorns!

  2. Pingback: Colorado 2015: Highlights and Stats | Wine and History Visited

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