The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado was our first real stop on the Desert Vacation of 2018. I had be*en to this park once before, twenty some years ago and in reflection, it seemed as if I missed something. So, back we went for one night, a pit stop, a stretch break on our way to some other place.
We had desired to stay at Great Sand Dunes Oasis, a full hookup campground, just a few feet from the entrance. Even though our travel dates seemed inconspicuous, last year we juggled Memorial Day Weekend, we soon learned about Medano Creek. Once a year, Medano Creek swells from the spring thaw. Locals and tourist love to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park during this time to play in the water and see firsthand how those amazing sand dunes exist in the middle of Colorado.
So, with Great Sand Dune Oasis full, we began searching for another campground. We ended up landing at Base Camp Family Campground outside of Alamosa and 27 miles to The Great Sand Dune National Park.
The Great Sand Dune National Park
After dropping the campers off at the campground, we drove over to the national park. booklets ahead of time but we were not able to do that for this park. So, the first thing we did was obtain our Junior Ranger badges. Next we set about to do some sand hiking.
I learned a few things during my time at Great Sand Dunes National Park. First of all, I learned that hiking in the sand is hard work! The ground moves, the sand gets in your shoes making walking difficult, if you take your shoes off, the sand is hot and prickly making walking difficult. So basically walking is difficult in the sand.
Second thing I learned, when the wind blows and the sand is being blown all over you are get pelted. Imagine a full body microderm abrasion facial. And, the wind does blow at The Great Sand Dune National Park. Like, it blows a lot, Which is another key factor in why there is sand dunes in the middle of Colorado.
Third thing I learned, sandsledding is a popular sport in the Dunes. But you must have a special type off board and it is important to rent a board before you find yourself standing on a dune wondering where everyone got their boards.
Fourth, I decided I was too out of shape to be walking around the dunes. We hiked to a nearby “hill” and played around. I thought for a few minutes about trying to hike more hills but I called uncle and my dear husband and I started heading back to the truck.
During our time on the dunes we did notice haze all around us. We later learned that wild fires were blazing around us. To our south, areas of New Mexico were on fire as well as to the west of us, areas north of Durango were on fire. We are accustom to watching for thunderstorms, tornado’s, and hail storms but wildfires was new to us. You can see the haze in the photo below.
San Luis Lakes State Parks And Wildlife Area
On our way back to Base Camp Family Campground we noticed signs for a state park so we took a detour and did some extra exploring. The water seemed low to us but we have no comparison.
Base Camp Family Campground
We arrived early in the afternoon, shortly after check in at 1:00 p.m. We were assigned three spaces in a row, sites 11, 12, and 13, all of which were giant pull through sites. Ya’ll, when I say giant I am telling you for a private campground these sites were unbelievable.
After exploring, we returned to find the campground had filled up. Several families we saw on the dunes were now camping by us. Funny story, as we waited in the parking lot for all our group to finish exploring the dunes, this family walked by our parked truck and one of the kids randomly hit their head on our tow mirrors. Their momma, reached up and swatted her head for not paying attention. As a social worker it caught my eye. As a mother it caught my eye, there was not a moment that the momma asked if her child was okay before swatting them for not paying attention. As the owner of the truck, I just snickered. When we arrived back at camp, what would be the odds that this family was now tent camping just a few feet from our RV!
The afternoon winds settled and we enjoyed chicken tacos for dinner. We built a fire and settled in to experience a night under a dark sky. We were recommended to catch the sunset behind the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The name translated to English means Blood of Christ, and it is commonly believed the name originates from the alpenglow that occurs at sunset. We only had one night in this location, and we had already experienced the impact of wildfire, so I am not sure if it was the best sunset the area had to offer. But, for a girl from the Midwest, who was camping in sand for the first time ever, it was a memorable night!