Nestled against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado, North America's tallest sand dunes rise 700 feet from the desert floor of the San Luis Valley. Volcanic sediments, washed from the San Juan Mountains by the headwaters of the Rio Grande River, are the tiny building blocks which create these fantastic, wind-shaped geological features.
Visitors can hike the dunes and several nature trails, observe plants and animals and camp at either a campground near the dunes or in the backcountry. Medano Creek, which flows at the base of the dunes during spring and early summer, allows for sand castle building, fishing and hiking.
Click here to see a movie about photography at the Sand Dunes.
Seasons / Hours
The monument is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Visitor Center is open daily, closed on winter holidays.
Rates & Fees
- Entrance Fee: $3.00 per person, 17 years of age and older, valid for seven days.
- Camping Fee: $12.00 per night; 6 people maximum per site; two vehicle limit per sight.
- Backcountry permits are required for backcountry camping and can be obtained at the Visitor Center.
Visitor Center is open 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, except on winter holidays.
The Visitor Center has a 15-minute video, exhibits, bookstore and computer touchscreen information systems.
Summer: evening slide presentations, ranger-led interpretive nature walks, Junior Ranger program. Friends of the Dunes, Inc. hosts several summer events: castle building and kite flying contest, summer concerts, seminars, photography workshops and a 5K/10K race. Call the monument for more information. Four-wheel drive jeep tours offered during summer months by concession at monument boundary.
A small general store and cafe located at monument boundary are open summer months.
There is an accessible trail at the Visitor Center, two accessible campsites and one backcountry accessible campsite.
Rules, Regulations, Precautions
- Firearms and hunting are prohibited.
- Driving off established roads is prohibited.
- You must pack out of the backcountry all trash.
- Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.
- Collecting, destroying, or defacing any cultural feature, mineral, plant, or wildlife is prohibited.
- Deer, squirrels and chipmunks that often appear in the campground should never be approached because they can transmit disease.
- Do not feed the animals, they need to eat natural foods.
- Bears have been seen on occasion, so do not leave food sitting open or in your tent.
Summer sometimes brings large numbers of tiny pinyon flies that cluster around campers and hikers While often annoying, the pinyon flies do not bite. During wet, early summer times, mosquitoes and biting gnats are common. Ticks come out around April, May and June, especially in the forest and shrub land surrounding the monument.