Though I’ve hiked a couple of 14’ers in the area, I’ve never made it to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This warm, Spring weekend presented a perfect opportunity to check this spot off of my Colorado to-do list. Not wanting to camp in the dune fields themselves, we decided to head to the park early Saturday morning and attempt to get permits for one of the backcountry sites. Fortune was on our side, and we snagged a sweet site about 3mi from the parking lot. Since it was still early in the day, we decided to explore the Dunes first, and hike in later in the afternoon. The dune fields were gorgeous, and the view of snow covered Blanca peak in the distance was a treat. Regrettably my red round sled wasn’t ideal for sand sledding (renting a proper board would probably be a better call next time), and neither were sandals for hiking in scorching hot sand at noon. Lessons learned J
Hike to the camping spot was uneventful but scenic – a sandy trail (at times perfect for running, at others too soft), with mountains to the right and sand dunes on the left. The actual site was very nice – a flat spot under a gigantic pine tree. We set up, then made an impromptu decision to drop packs and hike back to the lot where we parked the car – it gave me an excuse to go for a longer run, and a reason to do so: there was a campground hiker store by the lot, open only in the mornings and evenings, that held promise of refershing soda and sweet, sweet ice cream. We made it back just in time to get caught in a light drizzle, and it proceeded to rain into the night. Next morning we hiked out, switched the overnight packs for some lighter gear and headed to an 8mi hike nearby. Running in the valley along the trail, with mountains on both sides, I felt light as a bird, having ditched the overnight pack, and my pace reflected that. This time we weren’t so lucky – the weather deteriorated the further we went, and the clashes of thunder sounded closer with every mile. They culminated in a light hail which felt rather unpleasant, given how I was dressed in only shorts and a tee. But the hail soon became rain which soon switched to sunshine and all was well once again. All in all, a delightful getaway not too far from home. Go check it out!