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  • Writer's pictureMegan

First Time visiting Colorado Great Sand Dunes

This was my first experience with Colorado, and how wonderful it was! Our campsite was just 30 minutes away from the entrance to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we planned to spend the day there. After breakfast we packed lunch and our bathing suites then headed for the dunes!

We stopped by the welcome center to get the boys their junior ranger packet. They have a nice hands-on center that is very kid-friendly with a great view of the Dunes! The boys wanted to hike to the top FROM THE WELCOME CENTER because there was a path. Crazy kids. Somehow we managed to convince them to go back the the truck. We drove to a parking lot much closer to the dunes and creek.

Just so you know, even if all you want to do is hike the dunes, you must FIRST walk through the creek! It's not deep at all, but your knees and below are going to get wet. We got all ready, came to this point, then went back and changed into our bathing suites.

The Sand Dunes are deceiving at how far away and how tall they are! It felt like forever until we reached the first little sand dune. We thought we were so smart bringing a sled, too! Well guess what? They don't exactly work on sand. There are special wood boards that you can rent at the welcome center. If you wax them well, then yes, it will work. We saw other people with these boards. They could make it all the way down the dune, whereas we would make it about 10 feet then have to scoot it down. It was still fun, just not as epic.

After several attempts of sledding and just having fun running down the dune, we chose to go back to the creek and play. The creek is AMAZING!! It is not very deep at all, with probably the deepest part going to my knee. This makes it very kid, especially toddler, friendly.

It was weird, too, because it was like there were gentle little waves just like at a beach. When we went back to the welcome center and watched the video, we learned that there are antidunes that build up, then burst creating a surge flow. So cool! Such a unique and rare ecosystem.

I love how much room there was for all the crowds. Even though there were tons of people everywhere (and an overflowing parking lot - so glad we got there early) there was plenty of room for everyone to play. 

After eating lunch, playing some more (and getting our sunburn) we needed some downtime. It looked like a rain cloud was getting ready to come over to the dunes. We went back the our tent for a little while. 

In the evening we headed back towards the dunes to hike to Zapata Falls.

Well, we never made it to the falls because you have to cross the stream and follow a path OR walk up the stream through a cave to see it. So cool, right? Yeah! As we approached the water, it was a pretty strong current. We would have to carry the boys across. And the water was arctic cold. Not to mention, we couldn't get a clear view of any valid paths on the other side, and I wasn't going to freeze just to find out if it was the way or not. Zachary was very disappointed. Next time we may need to come later in the summer (or have a personal guide at that point!).

Well, I was going to post a photo of the water, but I never took a picture! You'll just have to checkout the youtube video. ;-)

The hike was still worth it! It smelt so freshly of pine and the cold water mist! Too bad photos can't be scratch and sniff. I think the next few photos really savored the some of the beauty.

It just gets even better with a nice drive and a beautiful sunset.

Have you been to the Sand Dunes? Have any tips for the Zapata waterfall?

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