Great Sand Dunes National Monument
Great Sand Dunes National Monument is located in south-central Colorado at the base of the the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. It is situated along the eastern edge of the remote, high-mountain San Luis Valley of the Colorado Rockies. Sitting at an elevation of 8,200 feet, the Monument receives only 10 inches of precipitation annually, constituting a true desert climate.
In fall, winter, and spring, expect moderate daytime temperatures and freezing to sub-zero temperatures at night. Summer temperatures during the day average 70 to 80 degrees F, lows may drop to 40 degrees. Sand temperatures can reach 140 degrees in summer; shoes are highly recommended for hiking the dunes.
At such a a high elevation, temperatures can change dramatically. Even during the summer, warm layered clothing is recommended for protection against the sun and wind. Frigid temperatures are the norm in winter, even though sunshine is generally abundant ; the lowest temperature recorded in the Great Sand Dunes is -25 degrees, in 1963; and the hottest temperature recorded is 96 degrees, in 1982.
The Great Sand Dunes receives an average annual precipitation of 10 inches. Thundershowers are common in July and August and high winds may prevail anytime. Beware of lightning storms when exploring the dunes. The town of Alamosa, approximately 35 miles southeast, receives only 7 inches of precipitation a year. The Great Sand Dunes receives an average snowfall of 37 inches, with the heaviest snowfall during March. January is the coolest month of the year and July is the warmest.
Springtime brings high winds that can be unstable and unusually strong in April, May and early June. Northeast winds are the strongest and have been known to exceed 90 miles per hour. Southwest winds vary from mild to violent. Fall is generally mild, with Indian Summer days. There are only 30-40 days a year when the clouds block the sun for most of the day.
View from Visitor Center showing, from top:
1) Cleveland Peak, 13,414' (4088m)
2) First ridge of dunefield
3) Medano Creek bed
4) Cottonwood Trees, Ponderosa Pines, and Pinyon Pines
Great Sand Dunes National Monument is located 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado, reached by US Highway 160 and Colorado Highway 150 from the south; or from Colorado Highway 17 and County Six Mile Lane from the west.
Map for a PDF map click here.
No public transportation to the Monument. Greyhound Bus service is available to Alamosa, 35 miles southwest.
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