St. Patty’s Birthday: Great Sand Dunes

Did you know that Great Sand Dunes was designated a National Monument by President Herbert Hoover on March 17, 1932 – St. Patrick’s Day? This spectacular dune field was later combined with the surrounding Sangre De Cristo Mountains to create the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

About Great Sand Dunes

When you visit, you can’t but be amazed at the size of the dunes – the tallest in North America. But that’s not all there is to the park. There is also a river that winds its way along the bottom of the dunes and the dunes are surrounded by tall mountain peaks with alpine forest and sparkling lakes.

This area of Colorado has over 330 square miles of dunes… not all within the park. It’s like a “perfect storm” of wind currents that continually shifts the sands and recreates the dunes. Footsteps on the dunes today are gone by morning.

Footprints on the shifting sand

What to do at Great Sand Dunes

We hiked up the dunes. Wow that was a hard slog! It is a great workout, but the views are amazing. We took our dogs – this is one of the only National Parks that allows dogs. But be careful. Always check the temperature of the sand so they don’t burn their little paws.

It was amazing to us how much life there was on the seemingly endless dunes. If you look closely you will see some really cool bugs and there are birds like Sandhill Cranes. And even in the fall, there were wildflowers clinging to life in the sand.

Other popular activities at Great Sand Dunes are “sand boarding” and “sand sledding”. You can rent these outside the park. Families have a great time sledding down the dunes and landing in the river below.

There are also some really great trails in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. You can pick up trail information at the visitor center. Hike or horseback ride on trails throughout the park, or get out your bicycles and ride the the park road.

There is a really nice campground – Pinyon Flats – open April through October. It is well shaded with views of the dunes and the mountains. You can make advance reservations. That’s probably a good idea during the busy season.

When to go to Great Sand Dunes

We visited Great Sand Dunes in the late summer, when the river was down to just a trickle. The fall is a great time to visit because it is cooler, but the spring might be more fun because you can play in the river on warm sunny days!

But whenever you visit, be sure to sit back and enjoy a Guinness in honor of St. Patty’s Day and President Hoover’s foresight to protect this really cool place!