A Bevy of Contradictions at the Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Standing on massive sand dunes that look like they are straight out of the Sahara Desert, we see the towering mountains of Colorado to one side and green, grassy farmland to the other.


Opposite the sun, the full moon shines just as brightly so as not to be shown up.


The top of the sand is cool to the touch but when you dig just a few inches down, it feels as if it might burn your hand.


It seemed like the Great Sand Dunes in Mosca, Colorado were a collection of contradictions, one right after another.

It was very windy!  We were being pelted by sand the whole time we were there.

It was very windy! We were being pelted by sand the whole time we were there.

The way we ended of at the Great Sand Dunes was just as contradictory to how we normally travel.  The Great Sand Dunes are about four hours south of Denver.  I had been trying to figure out how to get down there and see them but we just couldn’t find room in the summer vacation days.  There isn’t really anything nearby so I was having a hard time working it into our adventures.

A friend and I were chatting about things we wanted to do in Colorado and she mentioned that she was thinking about taking a day trip to the Great Sand Dunes?

“Really?  I would love to go there,” I said.

She said, “How about this week?”


And that is how we ended up making a four hour (one way) day trip to the Great Sand Dunes.  We thought about getting an early start but were told that the sand gets very hot during the day and that it isn’t very much fun.  We left Denver around noon and made the four hour drive south.  We realized that we passed Zapata Falls about half a mile before the sand dunes, so we decided to stop and do that hike first.

Zapata Falls is a short, though it does go uphill most of the way, 1/2 mile hike to a rushing creek.  From the creek, you scale rocks and stones scattered throughout the creek to get to the back of the waterfall.  The creek isn’t more than a couple of feet deep in this part of it, but you will find yourself getting wet.  We did not know this and did not wear appropriate shoes.  By the time we had arrived at the waterfall, our feet were soaked.

After Zapata Falls, we drove the quick drive to the Great Sand Dunes just in time to stop by the Visitor Center before it closed.  We arrived a little before 6, got a Junior Ranger book and used the restrooms.  The best place to park for the sand dunes when you have small children is the first lot on your left after the Visitor’s Center.


We parked and hurried across the dry Medano Creek.  We were told that you can dig down to find water but the kids wanted to hit the sand dunes.  It felt a little like the biggest sand box ever!


We climbed up and down the dunes and trudged through the smooth sand.  We sat and watched the sun set behind the dunes.  We played in sand and marveled in its fine texture while staring at the mountains of Colorado.


I am so glad that we decided to throw caution to the wind and take an 8 hour drive for just a few hours of playing.  It was totally worth it.

This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.






  1. 1

    Those are some amazing pictures! It looks very “otherworldly.”

  2. 2

    Love it- and great pictures! What a fun place to explore and spend the evening.

  3. 3

    Wow, based on those pictures, yes, I’d say it was definitely worth the long drive! This has been on my list for a long time now, and I hope we get to go someday!

  4. 4

    This looks absolutely beautiful! I don’t blame you for taking the drive…I would too!


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