Did you know Colorado is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America? Better yet, did you know it’ll take you less than 3 hours to drive there from Colorado Springs!
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is an American national park located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley. The park contains sand dunes approximately 750 feet tall and is estimated to contain over 5 billion cubic meters of sand.
The Great Sand Dunes stems from the formation of the San Luis Valley. Creation of the valley began when the Sangre De Cristo mountain range was created to the east by the rotation of a tectonic plate. To the west, the San Juan mountain range formed from volcanic activity, creating a valley in between the two mountain ranges.
A large body of water, Lake Alamosa, used to cover the San Luis valley floor, until it drained through the Rio Grande. Sand left behind on the valley floor then blew east with predominantly southwest winds towards the Sangre De Cristo mountain range.
Visitors to the park must walk across Medano Creek, a wide and shallow creek with peak flow from late May to early June in most years. From July through April, the creek is usually no more than a few inches deep, if there is any water at all. In the summer months, despite relatively cool air temperatures of 80 degrees, the sand floor can heat to 150 degrees.