Medano Lake and Mount Herard
This trailhead is accessed from the Medano Pass 4WD road.
Beginning at 10,000’ elevation, the trail climbs 2000’ through lush meadows and forests, ending at an alpine lake just above timberline.
For advanced hikers, continue on to the summit of 13,297’ Mount Herard for a spectacular aerial view of the dunes.
Details Medano Lake
Medano Lake (11,500’) 4 miles one way. 2000’ elevation gain.
Moderately easy for first three miles; then very steep and rough.
The trail begins at 9600’ ½ mile west of Medano Pass in a stand of spruce and fir trees, then rises as it follows Medano Creek to Medano Lake. Access the trailhead from the Medano Primitive Road (4WD required), which begins near the entrance to Pinyon Flats Campground or from the east via Highway 69 and USFS road #559.
This popular trail gradually rises through the forest with few views until you reach Medano Lake.
The dunes can be seen by hiking to the ridge lines above the lake.
Summer and early fall are usually the best times for hiking; snow may block the trail through June.
Fishing is catch and release only in Medano Creek.
Rio Grande Cutthroat, a species of special concern, have been reintroduced to this watershed.
Music Pass, Sand Creek Lakes, and Other Alpine Peaks
A longer drive and/or a long hike is required for these destinations.
However, the stunning alpine scenery is worth the effort.
Check with a ranger for conditions before travel. Snow may block these trails from November into June.
Music Pass is at treeline and offers superb views of Tijeras and Cleveland Peaks and Music Mountain and the glacially carved
upper Sand Creek Valley, as well as the Wet Mountain Valley to the east.
The trailhead for Music Pass from the east is accessed from Highway 69, 4.5 miles south of Westcliffe.
Turn off Highway 69 to the west at the sign for Music Pass and South Colony Lakes Trailhead.
At the "T" junction, turn left onto South Colony Road. At the end of the ranch fence on the right, you’ll see another sign for Music Pass.
2WD drivers should park where the Rainbow Trail crosses Music Pass Road.
From here, walk 3.5 miles to the pass. 4WD drivers may drive another 2.5 rough miles to the end of the road.
From here, it is just a steep one mile hike to the pass.
From the pass, hike farther to four alpine lakes, or to any one of the 13,000’ peaks above the basin.
"The Essential Guide to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve", available in the Visitor Center bookstore, has climbing information for the peaks.
You may also access these lakes and peaks via the Sand Ramp Trail
, connecting with the Sand Creek Trail from the west.
Check with a ranger for conditions and details by calling the Visitor Center, 719-378-6399.
Mosca Pass Trail
Trailhead: Montville, 1/4 mile north of Visitor Center Difficulty: moderately strenuous
One way distance and elevation gain: 3 miles, about 1500 feet
The trail leaves the national monument and enters the national preserve almost immediately as it follows the route of an old wagon road through a deep canyon filled with aspens and conifers. It continues through a series of open meadows ringed by forest rising to Mosca Pass. The trail ends at Mosca Pass, where it meets US Forest Road #583.
Wellington Ditch Trail
Trailhead: Montville, 1/4 mile north of Visitor Center Difficulty:easy
One way distance and elevation gain: 1 mile, 50 feet
Beginning at the Montville Trailhead, take the nature trail to the north (left) and intersect the Wellington Ditch Trail, which follows the route of an irrigation ditch dug by the Wellingtons early in the 1900s. The trail is mostly level and provides outstanding views of the dunes; it ends at the campground.