Saturday, July 25, 2020

High Dune (Great Sand Dunes NP)

No trail, open route up to High Dune
Trailhead Elevation: 8,242 ft.
High Dune Elevation: 8,709 ft.
Distance: 1.93 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 850 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 9:44am
End Time: 10:49am

Trip Report:
We hit all the nails on the head with our visit to Great Sand Dunes. We had read on the NPS website beforehand about the potential for 2-hour waits for entry at midday on weekends. We were planning to head down there on a Saturday morning before my brother and his family had to leave town. We made it down there just after 9am and had only 2 cars at the entry booth ahead of us. When we left later on around noon the line may have been 30-40 cars deep. Arriving early also helped with parking. The Dunes Parking lot is definitely not big enough to handle a busy summer day. The lot was probably 90% full when we arrived. Later as we were leaving cars were hunting spots in the lot and ending up parking along the road or in the picnic area up the hill. We also hit the weather well today. Temps were low 60s and almost felt cool with a light breeze upon arrival. The temp maybe hit low 70s when we had left. The cloud cover stay consistent and so the sun never really had a chance to overheat the sand. All of this made for great hiking weather.

The hike up to High Dune is a choose your own adventure. There are no trails within the dunes except the temporary foot paths put in by the individuals before you. It doesn't take much on a windy day however to blow those footprints in creating a clean sheet on the sand. High Dune was quite evident in its location when viewed from the Dunes Parking so the destination is not hard to pick out. The route mostly involved trying to use the ridgelines on the dunes to gain elevation up to the Dune without losing too much elevation in the ups-and-downs along the way. The sand was moist for us this morning from some overnight rain. This helped give some firmness to our footing. It also helped following in the footsteps of the person before you.

Our hike was simply climbing up to High Dune, enjoying some of the photos of the entire Great Sand Dunes NP from atop and then making the hike down. The descent is quite fun as you can heel step (plunge step) down the dunes nearly running the whole way back. I believe our ascent took about 45 minutes while the descent was under 20 minutes. We were barefoot most all the day with the temps as they were. The NPS recommends closed toe shoes on warmer days to protect the feet from hot sand.

The sand dunes during the drive in

View of the dunes from the edge of the Dunes Parking Lot

Beginning the hike up to High Dune

Many people were riding special sand boards down the steep slopes for fun

View of the dune field from atop High Dune

View over the dunes to the Sangres, the Crestones are hidden in the clouds

Looking back down, our group was on blankets on the dune center photo

Family photo atop High Dune

I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in the embedded Google Map. Check it out and use at your own risk.

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