Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park with pets

Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park with pets

It is famous for having the tallest sand dunes in North America, but what may surprise you most about Great Sand Dunes National Park is that they are extremely pet friendly!

Covering an area of ​​30 square miles, with high mountain peaks, shimmering streams, and majestic sand dunes, Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado offers you and your pets plenty to explore!

Explore the great dune park with pets

Set against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place to visit with pets. Whether you’re hoping to experience the seclusion of a 750-foot dune, zip down the river, hike the trails, or camp just steps away from the dunes, you and your pets will find plenty to do.

Great Dune Pet Policy

Unlike many national parks, Great Sand Dunes welcome leash pets to the park’s all-day use areas. This includes the play area at dunefield, Piñon Flats Campground, Dunes Overlook Trail, and along the Medano Pass Primitive Road. Plus, pets can join you throughout the nearby national reserve, including the Mosca Pass Trail. Pets must be leashed at all times and owners must clean up after them.

Pets cannot go in remote areas of the national park. But that leaves more than enough to keep you and your travel buddy busy!

Keeping Pets Safe in Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, you’ll need to take some precautions to keep your pets safe.

  • *During the summer, the sand surface temperature can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot – it’s too hot for your pup!
  • Acclimate slowly to higher altitudes. Both you and your pet can suffer from altitude sickness at altitudes between 8,200 and 13,600 feet. If you are not used to low oxygen levels, plan to take it easy and avoid stress.
  • * Dehydration occurs easily at higher altitudes. Carry plenty of water for you and your pets, and monitor your pets carefully for signs of dehydration.
  • * Rain and wind storms can occur at any time of the year. Be prepared to protect your pet’s eyes from blowing sand.
  • *Wildlife, including bears and mountain lions, is found within the boundaries of the park. Always be aware of your surroundings and store food and scented items inside your car or in bear-proof containers at Piñon Flats Campground or along Medano Pass Primitive Road.

How are sand dunes formed?

Once upon a time, a huge lake covered the valley between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains, more than 65 miles to the west. As the lake receded, the prevailing winds from the southwest blew sand across the valley to the foot of Sangre de Cristos.

There are sand dunes where gale winds swept Sangre de Cristos from the northeast. This pushed the dune back, giving it an extraordinary height.

What can you do with pets in the great sand dunes?

It would be easy to spend a long weekend enjoying all the sights and natural beauty of the Great Sand Dunes with your pets!

Explore the sand dunes

For a full dunefield look, start with a Hai Dune lift. This 2.5-mile round trip climbs nearly 700 feet and is most dramatic at sunrise and sunset when the dune hills cast shadows.

The average hiking time back and forth in the High Dune is two hours. But plan to take up to 4 hours if you are not acclimatized to the altitude.

Try Sandsledding or Sandboarding

If you’re not up for hiking through the sand, rent a sledge or sandboard for an exciting ride down the tiny sand dunes!

Note that the National Park does not rent skis or sand boards. Rentals are available at area retailers, but some are within a 45-minute drive of the sand dunes. So, plan to rent your equipment at one of these establishments before hitting the park:

  • The Oasis store is located 4 miles from the visitor center near the park entrance. Business hours vary.
    To protect the slippery material under each board, Oasis won’t rent skis when the sand is wet.
  • Kristi Mountain Sports is located 40 miles southwest of the Alamosa Visitor Center. They rent skates and sand boards all year round. Closed on Wednesday.
    To protect the slippery material under each board, Kristi won’t rent it out when the sand is frozen or covered in snow.
  • Located in La Vita, 64 miles southeast of the visitor center, Spanish Peaks Outfitters rent sandbars and sandboards year-round.

Miles thought watching people slide down the dunes was so much fun!

Play in Medano Creek

Medano Creek is within walking distance of the parking area and is a great place to enjoy a swim. The creek is fed by precipitation and snowmelt, so depths vary depending on the season.

In most years, the creek flows from April to June, creating a unique beach environment. Observe the waves in the water – a phenomenon called “flow flow”. Due to the formation of piles of sand and falling to the bottom of the creek, the heights of the water are like waves on the beach.

take a walk

When you’re ready to hit the road, there are plenty of options! For an easy hike, try the Montville Nature Trail, a half-mile trail that takes about 30 minutes.

Connecting to the Wellington Ditch Trail, the Montville Trail provides a one-mile, sunny walk to the campground.

More serious hikers may enjoy the Mosca Pass Teal, which follows a small creek through aspen and evergreen forests to the top of a low pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The trail is 7 miles round trip, climbs 1,400 feet and takes about 5 hours.

Or try the Dunes Overlook Trail. It runs 2.3 miles, climbs 450 feet, and takes about two hours.

Get off the road

Medano Pass Primitive Road is a 22-mile approximate trail that connects the Great Sand Dunes to Wheat Mountain Valley and Colorado State Highway 69.
A 4WD vehicle, clearing, crosses Medano Pass (10,040 feet high) and provides access to the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve.

This road crosses areas of deep sand and crosses Medano Creek nine times. The average driving time for the entire primitive road is about 2.5 – 3 hours.

Plan a picnic and enjoy the sandpit or Castle Creek picnic areas!

Make your dog a barking guard

Great Sand Dunes Participate in BARK Ranger! Ask about getting the BARK Ranger badge for your pup at the gift shop.

What’s around?

If you are planning an extended visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park with your pets, here are some other places to explore nearby!

Zapata Falls Recreation Area

Leashed pets are welcome to join you for a walk to see this 20-foot waterfall through the narrow rift. Along the way, enjoy stunning views of the entire dunefield.

The trail is less than a mile round trip, but the way to the trail is 3 miles on a bumpy gravel road. Also, you should hike across the water to see the waterfalls.

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge offers a 3-mile tour route and a 2-mile Rio Grande River trail. Both are open all year round.

Depending on the snowfall, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also available in the winter. Pets are welcome as long as they are under control at all times.



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