Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve
|Great Sand Dunes National Monument (J.C. Leacock/Colorado Tourism Office)|
Here is a list of some of the hiking trails on/near the monument. Enjoy!
Access trails to Main Dune Mass: Hike the dunes from the dunes parking area or from two foot trails: one trail originates at the Visitor Center and the other at the campground near the entrance to Medano Pass Primitive Road. In the campground, you may access this trail near campsite 34.
Picture Point Trail: A few strides along Picture Point Trail at the Visitor Center lends itself to several scenic stops; take your camera along. (Wheelchair negotiable.)
Pinyon Flats Trail: 3/4 mile one-way. Walk the Pinyon Flats Trail through grasslands near the base of the dunes. The trail connects the campground with the dunes parking area and picnic area.
Montville Nature Trail: 1/2-mile loop. Take a self-guided hike on the Montville Nature Trail that circles the lower portion of Mosca Canyon. Using the guide available at the trailhead for a nominal fee, learn the natural features and colorful early history of Mosca Pass. Pause along Mosca Creek; it is a shady oasis on hot, summer days. Spectacular views of the dunes can be seen from high points along the trail.
Mosca Pass Trail: 3 1/2 miles one-way. Pack a lunch for the 7-mile round-trip hike up Mosca Pass; the elevation gain is 1,463 feet. A toll road was built over this pass in the late 1800's. A flash flood in 1911 destroyed the road and it was abandoned as a passageway over the mountains. The trail proceeds through pinon-juniper, aspen, and spruce-fir forests, onward to lush grassy areas near the top. Watch for wildlife. Each year, visitors report bear sightings.
Escape Dunes/Ghost Forest: 3/4 miles one-way. Journey to the Escape Dunes. Here, shifting sands have crossed Medano Creek to form new dunes. The "Escape" Dunes create "ghost forests" where trees die through suffocation and starvation. In this area, tall ponderosa pines reach toward the heavens. Inquire at the Visitor Center for directions.
Little Medano Creek Trail: 5 1/2 miles one-way. Meander through a variety of terrain on the newly developed Little Medano Creek Trail. Heading north from the campground near site #62 to the Dunes Overlook, it continues north through Escape Dunes until it crosses Medano Creek. A scenic viewpoint bestows panoramic vistas. The trail ends at an overlook just beyond Little Medano Creek.
Wellington Ditch Trail: 1 mile one-way. Your stroll along the Wellington Ditch Trail has fairly level footing, without elevation gains. The one-mile trail is accessed from Loop 3 of the campground (park at Amphitheater parking area) or from the north side of Montville Trail. This trail is named "Wellington" after a homesteader who settled here in the 1920s. Needing water for his homestead, he hand-dug an irrigation ditch from Mosca Creek. Parts of the trail follow the original ditch.
Castle Creek: 2 1/2 miles one-way. A hike to Castle Creek is well worth the effort. At Castle Creek, the dunes rise abruptly from the creek bed at sharp angles. Dune slipfaces avalanche as they near angles greater than 34 degrees. Steep slipfaces are challenging to climb: Stay on the ridges and slide down the faces. Park at the Dunes parking area. Walk north along the base of the dunes.
Nearby National Forest Trails: Experienced hikers may wish to climb the summit of Mt. Blanca (14,345 feet). Access originates south of the Monument. Many other trails of interest originate in nearby Rio Grande National Forest. Medano Lake (11,500 feet) may be reached on a spur trail from Medano Pass Primitive Road. Heavily laden with snow in winter, this trail may not be passable until late June.
Trailess Hikes: For those having a more adventuresome spirit, take a hike into some of the side canyons, or perhaps ramble on a mountain ridge or roam along a creekbed!
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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