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Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail

Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail

While the main selling point of the Great Sand Dunes National Park is hiking on the dunes, there are other options around the park if you are looking for a different perspective or just don’t want to get your shoes sandy! The Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail is a great option for those looking for a short easier hike that has some great views of the entire dune complex from a little further away. The trail is short with very little elevation but it is narrow and dirt so a bit of a different feel than the dunes. I really enjoyed the doing this hike after spending some time down on the dunes!

Getting Started

The Great Sand Dunes are located between Alamosa and Walsenburg in southern Colorado. As you enter the park the visitor center will be on your left and the first right will take you to the trailhead for the Nature Trail. This is also where you can find the Mosca Pass trail.

Once you make it to the small parking area the trail is easy to follow with a clear trailhead and a big sign with a map and some other information. Once you start on the trail it is really beautiful and takes you through some aspen groves and makes its way through a thin section of woods.

Aspen Grove on the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.
Aspen Grove on the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.

The Loop

The loop of this trail isn’t very long and there isn’t much to it other than the a really nice walk through nature. I did want to point out a couple of things though.

A Tablet honoring the first to clear Mosca Pass on the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.
A Tablet honoring the first to clear Mosca Pass.

This sign was affixed to a rock in honor of the first people crossed the Mosca Pass. Lt. Zebulon Pike was among the first to record his thoughts on the area it says. Pike is quoted on the tablet as describing the Dunes as “Appearing exactly as a sea in a storm except as to color” in 1807.

Right after the bridge, there is an option to take the Mosca Pass trail and summit the pass yourself. This trail is for experienced adventurers. Instead, make sure to turn to the left to continue on the nature trail.

More trees on the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.
More trees on the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.

After the turn the trail heads back towards the dunes and through some more of the forest. As you get closer to the start point the woods start to clear out a bit more and you finally get to the amazing views of the of the Dunes themselves.

The Views

One of the best parts of the Nature Trail is the view you get of the Great Sand Dunes themselves. Most of the view of the Dunes come from the car or from really close so it is hard to find a spot where you can take in the majesty in its fullest. Well the Nature Trail takes care of that.

The Great Sand Dunes from the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.
The Great Sand Dunes from the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.

On the northeastern side of the trail the views of the dunes are unobstructed and you really can get a feel for just how impressive they are. I really like being on the dunes themselves but having this other perspective really shows how grand the whole complex is.

The Great Sand Dunes through the trees of the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.
The Great Sand Dunes through the trees of the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail.

Video of the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail

I have put together a quick time-lapse video of my time at the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail in order to give hikers a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video, make sure to Subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get updates for all the latest videos.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around .91 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 95 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 8,353 feet. I was also moving for a total of 19 minutes.

I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Effort

This is an easier hike through the woods that has a little bit of elevation but nothing that is too challenging. The trail is relatively narrow but still easy to follow. I ended up walking on the road to the visitor center as well but that is not necessary. I am going to rank this as an easy hike.

Terrain

The Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail is a well defined dirt path that loops around to finish where it starts. The trail is really easy to follow though it does get a little narrow at parts. It is dirt so footwear that has a bit of grip would be recommended.

Access to the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail

Great Sand Dunes National Park is located between Alamosa and Walensburg. About halfway between the towns on US-160 you will turn on CO-150 and the park is 16 miles up the road. Once you enter the park the Nature Trail parking lot is the first right past the visitor center. There is a 25 dollar vehicle fee or you can use a yearly National Park Pass to enter.

Wrapping up the Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail

Great Sand Dunes is great and I have really enjoyed my trips to the park. The dunes are definitely the main attraction but after playing in the sand for a bit I wanted to get a little bit more secluded. The dunes were really crowded and I was too tired to make it to the top but heading over to the Nature Trail really was exactly what I needed.

The Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail is a quick and easy walk through the woods but still gives tremendous views of the dunes. I was the only one on this trail while the dune parking lot was overflowing. If it is your first time to the dunes I would really suggest to enjoy the sand but if you have been there before and are looking for something a little more low key the Nature Trail is perfect for that!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

2 thoughts on “Great Sand Dunes Nature Trail”

  1. I wish we had known more about this park and found the trail when we went several years ago. We basically drove to the lot by the dunes, looked around, walked on the dry bed to the dune, then headed back. I thought there should have been more…Thanks for sharing the details!

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