The world outside our home is so seemingly close. It’s our screensavers, the background of our smartphones, framed on our walls, and yet still some of us have never been to those actual places. Perhaps it is the simple fact that you don’t know where to start. The real truth is that you don’t know how to get to that secret campground, or hidden trailhead, and what you could possibly do for three whole days lost in the woods. Enough is enough, let’s go.

First Stop: The Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hiker at The Great Sand Dunes National Park, NPS Photo

Hiker at The Great Sand Dunes National Park, NPS Photo

Take one step out of the car and immediately you will be taken by the sheer magnitude of the park. With over 30 square miles of dunefield you can go anywhere you like, there are no designated trails. The Great Sand Dunes offer hiking for every level. I recommend you start any major hike in the morning as the sand can heat up throughout the day to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Panorama atop Star Dune, NPS Photo

Panorama atop Star Dune, NPS Photo

This National Park is home to the tallest sand dune in North America. The Star Dune reaches heights of 750 feet; you can see it directly to the west upon entering the park. Summiting the Star Dune will definitely be something to brag about at the office. Not to mention the amazing photo shoot that will surely ensue at the top! Spend the day playing in the sand or go to the Ranger station and get a FREE permit for overnight backpacking. This permit will allow you to camp overnight in the park as long as you follow the “No Trace” policy.

Hiking to Ride!

Hiking to Ride!

Missing the snow and looking to ride? Take out a Sandboard or Sand Sled for the day. These boards and sleds are specifically made to slide on sand. You can bring your own equipment, say an old pair of luxurious 80’s skis, but they may not provide the wind in your hair effect that you desire. Sandboarding and skiing is permitted anywhere in the park. Don’t forget your goggles because the sand will be flying, a used pair is best because they will be getting beat up. Leave the main parking lot and it’s only a 1 mile hike to get to the first medium sized slope. After riding the sand waves, finish your day beach front at Medano Creek, it is open to swimmers of all ages.

The Deets:
How far?

  • 234 miles south of Denver

How much?

  • $3 per adult, 16 years or older


  • Camping, Hiking, Biking, Swimming, Sandboarding/Skiing, Sand Sledding, Photo-OP!

Extra goodies? Sandboard/ Sand sled rentals

  • -$21 per day @ Oasis Store, outside park entrance
  • -$18 per day @Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa

For the Budget conscience check out these FREE entrance days into the park:

  • August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
  • September 28 – National Public Lands Day