Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hiking Trails in Colorado | Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail

Trail Information

Trail Name: Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp TrailDunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail

Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Date: February 8, 2020

Time at the Trail Head: 9:00 am

Trail Length: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 380 feet

Elev. at Trail Head: 8,378 feet

# of Hikers Passed: 2

# of Mnt. Bikers Passed: 0

# of Horses Passed: 0

Mosquitoes: 0

Trail Research

We had a significant snow storm over the last few days with 1.5 feet to 2 feet in the mountains and 6 inches to 8 inches in much of the area from Colorado Springs to Denver and on to Fort Collins, so we needed to look to the south in order to find and area that did not get a lot of snow.

I had heard a lot about the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa, Colorado. A lot of people drive dune buggies and also do things like sand surfing in the summer but we thought it might be good to visit there in February.

Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail

I did some research using AllTrails and found that some of the roads are closed in the winter and other roads are only open to 4-wheel drives but there are several trails that are open to 2-wheel drive vehicles, so we decided to take our shot at this trail, but had a back up trail in mind in case we couldn’t reach it.

I need to warn you about this trail and how it is shown on AllTrails. The trail is accurate up to the river but once you cross the river and enter the sand dunes, forget trying to find a trail. The best you can do is find ridge lines with a more gradual ascent and just have a good time hiking in the sand.

Foot prints in the sand

The good thing for us is that it was easier hiking on the sand in the winter then the summer, however, my son thought it would be more fun to scale the steep sections of the sand dunes. Right! Well, we eventually made it to the peak of one of the highest sand dunes and were rewarded with some incredible views, but I still wanted to beat him up a little.

Drive to the Trail

The drive to the trail was absolutely stunning. It was beautiful driving south on I-25 from the Dever area, past Colorado Springs, Pueblo and to Spanish and from there we drove through what is called the Spanish mountains to just east of Alamosa, Colorado.

Drive to the Great Sand Dunes National ParkDrive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park

The views were incredible and I almost felt as though I didn’t need to go on the hike after the beautiful drive.

Drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park

My Day on the Trail

The trailhead is fairly small and there are not bathroom facilities there but there is a nice visitors center about 1 mile back.

Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trailhead

The trailhead is at the Point of No Return, where only 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed past that point. Fortunately for us, our trail started right there.

The trail is almost 1 mile long to the river and it s easy to follow up to the river, however, the sand dunes start immediately on the west side of the river, so forget trying to follow a visible trail after you cross the river.

Sand Dunes Trail

The river was frozen solid but the top was melting so we had to be careful that the ice was strong enough to support us.

River Crossing on Ice

After crossing the river, the trail disappeared and I wanted to choose the most gradual ascent to what I thought we might be heading towards, but my son had other ideas. He wanted to head into no mans land and go up the steep slopes. Fortunately for us in is winter here and it is easier to walk on the sand then it would be in the summer.

Dunes Hike

To say the least, I was calling him some name, all in good fun.

Dunes Hike

The hike was difficult but it was easier to hike in the darker, wet sand, but no…he wanted to go straight up the hard softer stuff. I really was about to disown him at that point.

Steep section on the sand dunes

We finally did reach some more firm darker sand and I was able to catch my breath and realized I might just make it back home alive, when my son saw a high point on the dunes that would offer some incredible views. I agreed it would but the challenge was getting there, after he decided to take the hard way up.

Potential Ascent to the Sand Dune Peak

He was thinking this was all really funny to see me suffering from the fun path he had chosen for us.

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I agreed that there was a potential to reach the summit, but we should wait until we climbed higher to get a better view.

Sand Dune Ascent

Things were not looking much better, the closer we got, but as all great hikers do, we headed on up what would be some painful climbing.

Sand Dune Ascent

Well, we finally reached the top of the steep section and I couldn’t kill my son right then and there as I was trying to breath and not be taken off the dunes in a stretcher.

The hard work was over…after I got my breath back, and the remaining stretch to the top was easy, compared to what we had just accomplished.

Almost There

The last several hundred feet wasn’t bad and we were about to see some outstanding views.

The Sand Dune Peak

This was actually an incredibly fun hike and you can see from these views that it was well worth the pain.

Views from the Sand Dune Peaks

Views from the Sand Dune Peak

Views from the Sand Dune Peak

I hope these panoramic pictures do these views some justice.

Panoramic views from the Sand Dune Peak

Panoramic views from the Sand Dune Peak

Panoramic views from the Sand Dune Peak

Who would believe that you would have these incredible sand dunes in the middle of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.

We took some time to enjoy the magnificence of Colorado before taking, “My” easier way down. We still found a few places to run down some steep sand dunes which reminded my of some fun when I was younger in Southern Oregon.

Sand Dune Descent

Sand Dune Descent

After this point, we just needed to cross the river, of course at its widest point, as per my son’s wishes. It was a little concerning but we stayed close and had our trekking poles ready to assist in pulling the other one out of the water if the ice broke.

River Crossing on Ice

River Crossing on Ice

We emptied the sand out of our boots and headed home but had to stop for one last picture.

Drive Home

On the way back to Castle Rock, we had to reward ourselves with the biggest burgers I have ever eaten and I’m still not sure how we managed to get our mouths around these burgers.

Biggest Burger I Have Ever Eaten

Trail Recommendations

This was one awesome trail and the dunes made this one of the most fun hikes here in Colorado in the last 6 months.

I would be prepared for some difficult hiking in the sand, especially if you try this when the weather is warmer.

We loved the trail and this area of Colorado, so make sure this is one of your stops when you visit Colorado.

Lessons Learned

The trekking poles helped a lot when ascending the steep sand dunes.

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  • Carbon section ends are protected by machined Aluminum sleeves for extra long wear. Machined Aluminum connectors help to center shaft sections for quick, snag free assembly. LEKI's original Carbide Flextips provide secure hold on all terrain and surfaces for years of adventure; easily replaced in the field.
  • Interchangeable basket system allows a variety of different sized LEKI baskets to be easily screwed on/off for different seasons/uses thanks to offset threads that keep the baskets securely in place.

Check out this Full length video of the Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail on YouTube.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

I would love to know if you have had any experience on this trail or have other trails you love to hike. Leave a Comment Below or send me an Email.

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Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail

8

Scenic Drive

10.0/10

Accessibility

8.0/10

Mountain Views

10.0/10

Lake or Stream Views

5.0/10

Well Maintained Trails

7.0/10

Pros

  • Grand Views
  • Sand Dunes
  • Camping & ATV Rentals
  • Sand Dune Surfing
  • Incredible Views

Cons

  • Length of Drive
  • Busy in the Summer

8 thoughts on “Hiking Trails in Colorado | Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail”

  1. Amazing photos. I have been there but it was many years ago. It really is stunning. Your pictures do showcase the area quite well. Your story is pretty funny with your son taking the hard routes. lol. I had forgotten about Sand Dunes actually. Thanks for the reminder. It might make a good weekend trip and visit again. How were the temperatures there?

    1. We had an incredible day there, between snow storms, but on this day it was around 45 to 50 degrees with a very light wind which made it an absolutely outstanding day.

      Of course it’s snowing now, but we do watch the weather close and choose parts of the state that have less snow fall when we venture out in the winter.

      Rick

  2. Hey, I enjoy a lot while reading your article on Hiking trails in Colorado. I found it is an awesome trail I see it. Your photos opened my eyes and looks awesome . Your step by step guide is very helpful for me to go on such an awesome trail. We are planning to go in group. It will make more fun during our trail. Thanks for giving awesome info about Colorado hiking trail. 

    1. You are so welcome. Look into renting a dune buggy if you go there when it’s warmer. I have heard many people talk about going and how much fun they had.

      Rick

  3. Wow Amazing! You did a great job on this research. I must confess, this a complete information and analysis of exactly what the hike looks like. As a tourist, it will put an unending smile on my face if I’m opportuned to visit Colorado. This is beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are very welcome. 

      I was surprised at how beautiful it was and how much fun we actually had. Most of the fun was my son seeing me in agony as I tried to follow him up the steep sand dunes.

      It is a great place to visit and play.

      Rick

  4. Many thanks to you for sharing such a wonderful article with us and I love hiking .I went to Colorado a while ago and went hiking there .I went hiking and enjoyed the Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa, Colorado .I’ve been doing things like sand surgery and sand surfing in the summer but intend to go there again in February. And in winter some roads are only open for 4 wheel drive .Me and my friend found the ridge lines with a steep climb and had a great time in the sand. When we went, it was fairly cold so it was easy for us to walk on the sand of the world and it was great to see the footprints. And finally I was able to reach the highest sand dunes and that happiness was not meant to be expressed in words. That incredible scene still floats in the eyes .The train was truly amazing and had nice driving and from there we were called the Spanish Mountains just east of Alamosa, Colorado. All in all, hiking was really nice and wish to go again and the desire to get some more details in your article has increased and will be there soon and will definitely share our new experience with you again.

    1. I found out that they sand surf and sand sled there, which I had never heard of before. 

      It was great going in the winter and basically having the entire park to ourselves.

      Rick

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