Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great Sand Dunes NP - Dunes Overlook + Medano Creek hike

On the second day of our stay in the Great Sand Dunes NP we went for a hike to the Dunes Overlook in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We parked our car at the Pinyon Flats campground and from there we took the Dunes Overlook Trail to the viewpoint from which there were great views of the dunes and also nearby mountains.

Most hikers take the same route back to their car, but we decided to extend our hike and turn it into a 6-mile loop. To do that first we took the Sand Ramp Trail to the "Point of No Return". There we cut across the shrub field to the Medano Creek, and we hiked back to our car along (or rather in) the creek. It was a very pleasant hike that I would strongly recommend to anybody. Views were great all along our way, and hiking in the creek was lots of fun!

From the Dunes Overlook we could see dunes that we hiked a day earlier, as well as the Medano Creek in which we played:

During our hike we encountered lots of deers, seemingly surprised to see any human beings there:

We also saw some nice blooming cacti:

At the Point of No Return we started cutting our way to the Medano Creek:

And then we hiked back to the car in the creek:

This little bird was guarding our car while we were away:

Practical info:
The campground in the park is small and fills up quickly (especially on the weekend). Half of the sites can be booked online (at the NPS booking site), and the other half are "first-come, first-served". We tried to get one of the latter, but we were too late for that. Luckily, there is a private campground just before the park's entrance that has lots of camping spaces. You would have to have a really bad luck not to get a spot there even if you arrive late in the park. This campground also has warm showers, so in a way it is even better than the park's campground.

Other posts about the Great Sand Dunes NP.