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Tallest Dunes Out-and-Back

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 4.7 (12) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A route through the most rigorous and beautiful parts of the Sand Dunes.


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Map Key

15.3

Miles

24.6

KM

Out and Back

8,705' 2,653 m

High

8,047' 2,453 m

Low

1,810' 552 m

Up

1,810' 552 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (3°)

10%

Max Grade (6°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildlife

Standard NPS regulations. Pets are permitted up to the top of the first tall ridge of dunes, between High Dune and Castle Creek Picnic Area.

Overview

A route that will take you from the main parking lot to High Dune, Star Dune, and Highest Dune.

Need to Know

Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and potentially an umbrella. Don't bring your pets.

Description

Start in the parking lot. Once you cross the creek, you'll need to look for the tallest dune you can see. It should be right in front of you. Work your way up to the top of High Dune. It is best to zig zag, or switchback so you do not get overly exhausted. Now remember that there is no real trail, it is all sand, so don't get lost.

Once on top of High Dune, follow the ridge down to the SW, and after a little ways you'll need to do some switchbacks down into a little valley. After that, you'll start a the climb up to Star Dune. This climb is also steeper, so use switchbacks.

Once on top of Star Dune, you can follow its northern arm out, and then branch off to the east. Just follow the sand field to the NE, and try to stay on flatter ground. After a ways (6.2 miles), you'll come between two dunes, after this is your ascent of Highest Dune. Switchback your way up this one also. Highest Dune is much higher then Star Dune, or High Dune. This is only because it sits at a much higher elevation (2,650+ feet), but the actual sand portion is smaller.

To return, just head back the way you came.

Flora & Fauna

Sand. Sand. Sand.

History & Background

The Great Sand Dunes have formed over thousands of years, that is the speculation at least. No one is quite sure because there is no good way to date sand.

Contacts

Shared By:

Isaac Bozeman

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 12 votes

#803

Overall
  4.7 from 12 votes
5 Star
67%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#163

in Colorado

#803

Overall
19 Views Last Month
1,628 Since Sep 5, 2018
Difficult

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Photos

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Apr 1, 2020 near Crestone, CO
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Apr 1, 2020 near Crestone, CO
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Apr 1, 2020 near Crestone, CO
mt herard from dunefield
Apr 1, 2020 near Crestone, CO
blue medano
Apr 1, 2020 near Crestone, CO
Group of hikers heading to Star Dune
Sep 6, 2018 near Crestone, CO

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Check-Ins

Oct 31, 2020
Anjana Sasi
Jul 26, 2020
Connor White
A mostly self-paved trail that results in great up close views of the dunes. 2mi
Jun 14, 2020
Clay Stennett
6.5mi
Feb 24, 2020
Lee Sybert
2.5 in to the high dune and back 5mi — 9h 45m
Jan 19, 2020
Andrew Avila
Sep 8, 2019
Scott S
Hiked to just short of high dune. Saw bobcat tracks? And chipmunk tracks. Had the opportunity to sled one of the lower dunes as well! 5mi — 10h 30m
Jun 21, 2019
Aaron Fagerwick
1.2mi — 0h 48m
May 24, 2019
Jes Karpen
We made it to high dune and came back! So much better to zig zag along the ridges. We did a straight shot for the first tall peak and OMG it was rough 2mi — 9h 00m