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Two of the most visually-stunning trails behind S-Mountain in one fantastic loop.


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Map Key

3.9

Miles

6.3

KM

Loop

7,943' 2,421 m

High

7,041' 2,146 m

Low

924' 282 m

Up

924' 282 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

26%

Max Grade (15°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Geological Significance · Views

Overview

Sand Dunes is one of the oldest trails in the Arkansas Hills Trail System behind S-Mountain, and it's still one of the most interesting trails to hike today. Sand Dunes runs up a narrow valley that hides a natural dune tucked down in the hills, from whence the trail gets its name. Higher up, the trail runs through towering rock formations—there's always something interesting to look at. With the recent addition of the hiking-only Pano and Backside trails, Sand Dunes can now be looped with an aesthetic ridgeline hike along Pano, providing wide-ranging views—an utter contrast from what came before on Sand Dunes!

Description

Begin the hike from the F Street Bridge trailhead by crossing the railroad tracks to the bottom of Rise-n-Shine, then quickly picking up Lower Sand Dunes to head straight up the narrow valley that climbs into the Arkansas Hills. The climb up Sand Dunes is quite achievable, but there are plenty of rocks, ledges, and short, steep pitches along the way. Be sure to watch out for downhill mountain bike traffic, as this is a popular descent.

Cross the four-way junction with Backbone to continue climbing Sand Dunes, past the dune itself and the aforementioned rock formations. At the top, take a right on FS 173 to climb a bit on the road, and then a left on Pano at the top.

Enjoy the panoramic views from the top of Pano before beginning your descent on this hiking-only trail. The descent is steeper than Sand Dunes and filled with steps and ledges, thanks to its hiking-specific design. Backside in particular is home to a beautiful natural rock staircase. To transition from Pano to Backside, hike down FS 173 from the bottom of Pano, then find the Backside trail at the junction on the saddle where Little Rattler, Backbone, Rusty Lung, and Pano all meet. Backside is a bit up the hill and on the left from where Little Rattler ends.

Backside crosses Little Rattler and Tenderfoot on the way down. At the bottom, you'll meet back up with Lower Sand Dunes—take a right to head back down to the trailhead.

Contacts

Shared By:

Greg Heil

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote

#2186

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  5.0 from 1 vote
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Recommended Route Rankings

#342

in Colorado

#2,186

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Photos

Climbing the Frontside Trail.
Apr 15, 2024 near Salida, CO
Bighorn Sheep on Frontside.
May 5, 2024 near Salida, CO
View of S-Mountain
Apr 15, 2024 near Salida, CO

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Current Trail Conditions

All Clear 12 days ago
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