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My hubby and I took a day trip to our first National Park (together), the Great Sand Dunes! Here’s a peak into our amazing day trip and some tips if you are thinking of adventuring there, too.

To start off, always start your planning on the National Parks website here for up-to-date info on visiting any park! Here’s the page for the Great Sand Dunes.

The Great Sand Dunes is just under 3 hours away from Colorado Springs, so this day trip was totally doable! Both of us have amazing parents who love to babysit, so we were able to make it a date day and enjoy some couple time. (Thank you Mom and Dad.) We went on July 29th, 2023 and arrived right around 10:00am and it wasn’t very crowded yet.

Park pass

We purchased an annual America the Beautiful pass that’s good for entry to any National Park for a whole year! This price is $80 per vehicle. You can also just purchase a day pass per vehicle, which would have been $25.

Once we parked we loaded up on water, snacks, and sunscreen and went to the bathroom. (In the main parking lot as you drive in, there are actual bathrooms if you turn left and porta-potties if you turn right.)

The Great Sand Dunes

Our plan for the day was just to experience this beautiful place for a few hours. We didn’t have any goals to hike the sand dunes. If you want to do that, plan ahead with LOTS of water and snacks and the right kind of shoes to hike the dunes, as it is way too hot to walk barefooted! (I made it a whole 30 seconds…)

We walked toward the sand dunes, turned right, and walked for about a mile where we found a few inches left of the creek water! There’s usually more water earlier in the year, but we were happy just to do some wading in a few inches of water. It was so beautiful and peaceful, and not crowded at all where we were. It was the best!

Visitor Center

After a couple hours, we headed out to the Visitor Center. Here we bought a cute illustrated postcard (the perfect souvenir for scrapbooking!) and a set of all 63 National Park stickers. (There’s also a very nice bathroom inside the Visitor Center.)

Zapata Falls

Our next stop was a photo in front of the sign as you enter the park, then a quick drive to Zapata Falls. Here we whipped up a quick lunch and took an easy, short walk/hike to Zapata Falls. We didn’t stay here for long because it was so crowded. But it’s a beautiful spot and definitely worth seeing during your visit to the Great Sand Dunes.

If you want a complete list of all 63 National Parks, you can read the blog here. And you can grab a free download of a complete checklist here!

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