The High Dune
Trailhead: Dunes Parking Lot Difficulty: moderately strenuous
One way distance and elevation gain: about 1 mile, about 650 feet.
Soft sand and steep slopes make this more strenuous that you'd expect. From the base, zigzag up the dune ridge lines. Hike before noon in summer to avoid extremely hot sand and sun. You'll gain terrific views of the dunefield, the surrounding mountains, and the San Luis Valley from the top.
The Star Dune
Trailhead: Dunes Parking Lot Difficulty: strenuous
One way distance and elevation gain: about 4-5 miles, about 750 feet.
The Star Dune is can be approached from the High Dune, or from Medano Creek south of the Dunes Parking Lot. From the High Dune, the Star Dune is the very prominent high point about 1 mile to the west. To approach from the south, hike downstream from the Dunes Parking Lot about 2 miles, then begin watching for ridges leading north> It's about 1.25 miles to the Star Dune. Expect many false summits as you climb.
Trailhead: Dunes Parking Lot Difficulty:easy
One way distance and elevation gain: go as far as you like, minimal elevation gain.
Explore Medano Creek, flowing at the base of the dunes. During dry years, the creek disappears. In years of adequate snow and rainfall, the creek flows in April, May, and June. Observe the creek closely. Do you see anything unusual? Medano Creek exhibits a phenomenon called "surge flow." Each time a surge occurs, a mound of sand (which had temporarily damned some of the water in the creek bed), collapses. If you'd like more information on surge flow, ask for a handout at the Visitor Center. Watch for animal tracks and signs of insect life in the damp sand--there are 6 species of insects living in the dunes which are found nowhere else on earth!
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is for nature lovers