Located in southern Colorado, this national park is composed of enormous sand dunes, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the Medano Creek and beach at the base of the dunes. This unique national park offers a variety of outdoor recreation activities that draw visitors from around the country. If you plan to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park, be sure to take the necessary safety precautions.
Strong winds can spew sand rapidly and violently which can become a serious safety hazard. This is particularly common in the springtime and during storm fronts at any time of year. Serious storms can also occur without warning in this area and the dunes are highly prone to lightning strikes. If you see a storm approaching, leave the dunes and seek shelter immediately.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to a community of mountain lions, so it’s important to remain alert when exploring in this area. If you do encounter a mountain lion, do NOT run. Stand your ground, make yourself seem as large as possible by making noise and extending your arms, and if it attacks you, fight back as hard as you can. Black bears are also found in the park, so it’s important to store your food safely and securely and make plenty of noise while you hike so as not to surprise a bear.
Check yourself frequently for ticks if you plan to visit the forests surrounding the dunes, as they can cause serious illness if left unchecked. You may also encounter wildlife such as deer, elk, pronghorn, and smaller mammals. Never approach or feed any wild animals and always keep a safe distance for your safety and theirs.
The sand on the dunes can get dangerously hot, especially during the heat of summer. Make sure to bring proper sun protection, including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, as well as plenty of water and closed-toe hiking shoes for exploring the dunes.
Great Sand Dunes National Park lies at a very high elevation, with the highest peak reaching more than 13,000 feet. Make sure to spend the necessary time acclimating to the elevation, remain hydrated, and bring altitude sickness medication just in case.