Postcard: Great Sand Dunes National Park

The great dilemma for those who prioritize leisure interests has always been whether to choose the mountains or the beach. Finding both in one place is hard, but it does exist, in some form at least. On a road trip through the San Luis and Wet Mountain valleys last week in southern Colorado, we lucked out with a sunny day on the dunes then got a few wishy-washy ones around Crestone and Westcliffe. No matter. The Sangre de Cristo range held glowing aspen groves and empty campsites, and by the third day we had removed (nearly) all the sand from our pores and crannies. (Click image to enlarge)

Photo by Larissa O'Neil
Photo by Larissa O’Neil

One thought on “Postcard: Great Sand Dunes National Park”

  1. I’m a native Coloradan who has long appreciated those dunes, but never considered them “iconic” Colorado — an anomaly. When a friend from back East was visiting, I asked my wife, also from back East, where I could take her on the one chance we’d have for sightseeing. She replied, “The Sand Dunes, of course.” I replied that, though it was certainly a wonderful place, it just didn’t seem to me to represent the Colorado that people expect. She grabbed me by the wrist and said, “Come here idiot.” We went to our west window from which there was a spectacular view of snowy Mt. Shavano. She said, “That’s what people expect Colorado to be — the sand dunes are an unforgettable surprise.” Smart woman.

    Piri and I took my old Jeep down through Salida and Cotopaxi and Westcliffe and over Medano Pass. It was November, and so the snow was new & shallow, the stream crossings low, and the Jeep-trapping sand mostly frozen. We had a wonderful day on those remarkable dunes, dinner in Crestone, and a heartbreakingly beautiful drive back up 17 and 285 with the captivating Sangre de Cristo Range immediately to our right, the incomparable San Luis Valley stretching away on our left, and a view of sunset on the Sawatch Range ahead.

    Enjoying beers back home at the Yellow House in Maysville, I remembered the old highway signs that used to welcome drivers to Chaffe County that read, “Now THIS is Colorado” That’s how I felt about our day at the dunes.


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