Wow! I wish I could explain just how gorgeous this experience was but it’s something you really have to see for yourself! I’ll include lots of beautiful photos but imagine smelling, feeling the wind, and seeing it with your own eyes! I would 100% recommend taking this trip if you have the opportunity!
The drive from Denver to Crestone
The drive was approximately 3.5 hours. We took Highway 285 S most of the way which was 10x better than taking Interstate 25 because it was full of scenic views. We drove through several National Parks and went up and down mountains and drove straight in the valleys. Here are a few photos to show you how great the drive alone is.
On the way back we stopped and did a little hiking at Mushroom Gulch. It’s hard to drive past all these beautiful places and not stop so I’d suggest planning a hike/pull over to take it all in at some point on your drive.
Where we stayed
We stayed in Crestone, Colorado at this cute AirBnB. Crestone is located approximately 1 hour drive from the Sand Dunes. If you look on the map it’s much closer to the Sand Dunes (you can see them out your backdoor) but the way the roads work you have to drive a round about way. You have to drive on some dirt roads to get to the house but 2-wheel drive should be just fine! Yes, it’s out there.
Our AirBnB was full of character! To see a little tour, go to my instgram stories under “Sand Dunes.” You couldn’t ask for better views! The kitchen was equipped with everything to cook, beds were covered in organic linens, and the house was clean except….Our first night I saw a mouse run across the kitchen floor under the refrigerator! As gross as it is, I’m sure field mice are quite common in this area. We made sure all of our food was locked in the refrigerator and our RTIC cooler. But back to the good things about the house…there were THREE wood-burning fireplaces (score!), views from every room, and natural plants throughout the house.
Here are a few photos of the place:
Crestone, Colorado is what feels like the middle of nowhere. But really. I constantly asked myself and Andrew, “What do these people do out here?” Being the real estate nerd that I am, I used STDB to look up their stats because I was extremely curious. Here are a few fun facts about Crestone, Colorado if you’re as curious as I am (5 mile radius from town center according to 2018 reports):
- Population: 1,118 people
- 47.8% of the population is ages 55-74
There is a small grocery that carried lots of great organic products. I’d suggest planning and packing all of your food. That’s what we did and it made everything really easy. I think there was a brewery, cafe, and maybe one restaurant so don’t rely on going out to eat this trip.
Remember, this is in the San Luis Valley. There are sand storms and high winds with constantly changing weather so pack accordingly!
Great Sand Dunes National Park
I have long anticipated what it was going to feel like standing on the Sand Dunes. As you drive up, it’s cool and beautiful but it’s so hard to understand how large they are until you are standing on them. In the Spring, the snow melts which forms a small river that you have to pass to walk on the Sand Dunes. It’s best to wear chacos or sandals that you can easily throw in your backpack. You cross (a freezing cold) river to the warm sand welcoming you! From there it’s endless views! It’s interesting how far up the ledges are where you could actually fall off. We had our dog off leash for part of the time but they didn’t grasp the concept of falling off so we kept them close by.
**These are tips coming from a first timer who visited in the Spring (May 2019). I know the sand can change temperature into the summer, etc.
- Bring your camera! You’ll want to take a lot of photos!
- Bring a bandana to cover your face/mouth. Some days it can be extremely windy so the sand will sting. Also, I’m assuming it’s bad to get sand in your lungs?!
- Dress in layers, including a wind jacket! At one point it was snowing while we were further up on the Dunes.
- Plan to stay a while. Many people stay towards the bottom of the Dunes and enjoy sandboarding and sledding. We kept hiking up to seek crazy views (which was totally worth it) and thought it would’ve been nice to pack our lunch and some speakers and just hang out for a while.
- Camping looks like a cool option if you have the gear. We drove around the campsites and Loop 2 (sites 64ish-70ish) looked like they had the best views of the dunes and mountains.
- It’s super dry so pack chapstick and face moisturizer!