Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Thursday September 11, 2014
Piñon Flats Campground
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Mosca, Colorado


We leave Black Canyon separately again because of the mountains.  My last post from there did not show up on blog rolls so if you have not seen it and would like to read about our final day, the steep East Portal Road and the Gunnison Tunnel you can find it here.

This 198 mile trip to Great Sand Dunes was a slow rough go over mountainous roads with very bad pavement. I really wish we could have driven together because we did go through some very beautiful scenery along CO 114.  It was very slow going with  twists and turns and necessary low speed limits. I was sure wishing I could have stopped for pictures but not knowing for sure what day we would get here, I made no reservations.  The campground does have a first come first served loop but it’s a FRIDAY and when you have a rig that’s at the size limit for the park you don’t have many site choices.  So no stops and no pictures.   If you aren’t in a hurry, I really recommend a slow mosey along Colorado 114.



I started out at 8:30, before David and Winnona, for the campsite grab.  I arrived at the park around 12:30 after a stop in Gunnison, Colorado for gas at $3.799.  Sure hope gas prices decrease as we move east.  They usually do.

While driving down the last stretch of road before the park, Colorado Lane 6 North-isn’t that an odd road name, I did have to stop for a picture of this wood sculpture next to a ranch driveway.   The sign was just too funny







Arriving at the park, I go directly to the campground and after driving around all 3 loops I find Loop A is walk ins, loop B can be reserved.  Loops A & B have a mix of RV only and tent only sites.  Loop C is tents only. 

Most sites in all 3 loops are not level.  As in many National Parks, the campground is older, has no hook ups and was originally designed for tents and pop up trailers.  With the constant cutting of funds to the National Parks, they have been unable to afford to redo the campgrounds.   The way they have accommodated motor homes is to make pull out sites along the road.   I pick the widest one I can find and hope that we can level it up.  It is in Loop B so I will have to reserve in order to make sure it is not taken by someone else.


While I wait for David, I go down to the Visitor Center for a map, a schedule and a first look.  The building has  a very lovely entryway with a map of the park and some beautiful stained glass above it and the entrance to the restrooms.







I wished these stained glass panels had been hanging in front of windows rather than against the wall and so high up.  They weren’t being displayed to their greatest advantage although they were very safe here so perhaps that was the intention.









In the entry way, there are a few exhibits about the park including one on early visitors which has artifacts.  Archeological evidence shows that nomadic people visited the San Luis Valley, where the park is located, at least 11,000 years ago.  These people, known to us as the Clovis people, hunted mammoths, bison and other animals.  They gathered seeds and plants and made their camps near springs and creeks.  Fragments of worked stone, grinding stones and pottery sherds indicate that groups spent time here.

Inside the visitor center the first thing I notice is the dune.  The back wall is a giant window looking out on the great dune.  Not sure how it compares with the Dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore which we visited early in the summer but this is one big dune right out here in Southern Colorado.   What a great surprise as you first walk into the center.   I can’t wait to see it up close.

The visitor center also has a film and many interesting displays with information I’m anxious to see.  But that will have to wait until we get settled in.



I return to the site I’ve picked which gives me a very nice shady place to wait for David and Winnona.  They don’t arrive until 3:00.  He has had to go even slower than I over the rough roads and the steep and winding curves.  He also stopped at the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass.  The elevation climb is why Winnona didn’t pull Ruby.  Easier all around.




His late arrival makes it a very good thing I came when I did because this site would not have been here by the time he arrived given the way the campground is filling in.  A person with a 39’ 5th wheel came in and drove through at least twice, but there are clearly no spots except perhaps ours that would fit them and even it is unlikely.


Our site from the front gives us good sun for the solar panels.




The back is shaded, as is our picnic area up a few steps.






We have a great view of the mountains out the front window down the campground road and of the dunes not far away.



It is amazing how the dunes change color with the light.  Just a few hours ago they were a sandy brown, now they look gray.




We reserve our site through the week-end just to be safe.  Had we been in Loop A, where the sites are not reserveable we could have  decided one night at a time, up to the limit of 14 days of course.  But sadly we don’t have anywhere near that much time anyway.   Still, I would love never having to make reservations.   We determine that we don’t have enough time to do justice to the Visitor’s center but there is a loop hike from the campground and back that will take us to it so that’s up for tomorrow.


  1. I have heard of this place before, and would love to visit it. I'm struck by the contrast in the dunes from your shot in the visitor center to later in the day. And I love the stained glass.

  2. Just so you know, I got your post from yesterday just fine :)

  3. Reservations are the pits, but our parks are SO popular. Our campground offers similar pullthroughs. Haven't been to Great Sand Dunes so really look forward to your visit. I hope the gorgeous stained glass panels at least had lights behind them.

  4. Finally! The comment box is here. Those dunes are HUGE! What a great time for you two.

  5. I've been there twice. The last time, I stayed at a state park some miles away as I was heading south for the winter. The first time, I was just 20, and stayed at the campground in a pop up with my younger brother and my parents. That would have been in 1967! The sand may shift, but it's still there. ;)

  6. Looks like Jockey Ridge in NC. Have to wonder just how aall that sand got there. Was it a beach once upon a time or a desert?

  7. Ooh, cool! Love the stained glass and looking forward to the tour :)

  8. The huge sand dunes are amazing. The way they shift and move but just hang in there:o)) Can't wait to see more!!!

  9. I like to live on the edge as much as possible and never make reservations (except for Fort Wilderness). Glad you were able to get a good site. Good call on not towing Ruby over the pass, I'm sure Winnona appreciated that.

    Those dunes are huge and should be fun to climb around on!

  10. Love that last picture! The dunes look amazing!

  11. We absolutely loved the dunes when we were there a couple years ago! We did not stay there because we're not boondockers, but it was a great day trip from our location in La Veta, CO. Hope you were also able to take in Zapata Falls while you were there. It's just down the road and worth the stop.

  12. One spot high on my list....thanks for tour!

  13. Those stained glass panels are fabulous. I am amazed that such a rendering of a bighorn sheep can be done with only 16 or 17 pieces of glass. How do they take such a complex image and break it down to so few pieces? Truly a gift to be able to do such a transformation.

  14. Loved the waving bear - it would be hard not to feed him! I'm sure Winona appreciated Ruby's efforts on her behalf :-) I can't remember ever being in a visitor center of and state or national park, and now I am so looking forward to them. Don't think I appreciated the history and geology so much as just the seeing. Having the time and slower pace will make for such a better experience. Looking forward to the big sand box.

  15. I've heard of this NP .... but haven't been, so I'll be looking forward to your post.

  16. Don't feed the fake bear! LOL. I like how his paw was raised toward the moon. What a nice view from the visitors center and from Winona. Sounds like it was worth it to drive over the mountains and get there early - no doubt it was a pretty drive, but, I have no doubt the pictures from your explorations there will be great too. Not a cloud in the sky!

  17. We skipped this one due to lack of time so will love seeing it through your eyes. And I regret NOT taking the time as it is out of the way enough that I fear never getting back there. You have no idea how hard it is for me to pass a brown sign of ANY kind and not check it out. Well, actually I guess you DO have an idea as I suspect you are exactly the same way! LOL! I highly advocate using a reading...you never miss anyone's post, you get them in the order they are posted, you can separate them into categories, heck, you even get posts people post and then delete!! LOL!

  18. What a gorgeous place! We've never been, but seeing your photos, it's now on our list. Beautiful visitor's center, and I agree, they should put those stained glass pieces where the sunlight can shine through them.

  19. I did not even know there are dunes in CO. I agree with you on NP campgrounds, I don't think they realized lots of us in big rigs would love to camp there too. We were just in one in AK, just water and electric and surprisingly a concrete pad.


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!