MOSCA — In our exclusive new series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
More than 150 miles from Colorado Springs, our adventure this week takes us to one of the most popular places in the San Luis Valley.
The Great Sand Dunes date back more than 400,000 years, and were formed when sand from the San Juan Mountains collected against the Sangre de Cristo Range.
Today, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve covers nearly 240 square miles, an area larger than the city of Colorado Springs.
The main attractions at the park are the sand dunes and Medano Creek, but the park itself offers so much more.
"Back packing in the wilderness, hiking, flying a kite out here at the beach, splashing and wading in the water, sand boarding and sand sledding," said Kathy Faz, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services.
Medano Creek is flowing
We begin our adventure at Medano Creek, which is pronounced "med-no". The "a" is silent.
Faz tells News 5 that the creek started flowing this year in mid-April and during our visit, was around one to four inches deep.
"The creek originates from high elevation Medano Lake and also snowmelt from the higher elevation mountains as you can see behind us," said Faz.
Given the right conditions, Faz says that the creek can sustain its flow through summer.
Before coming here, she recommends checking out the latest conditions online.
"The melt-off can occur various times of the year. It's hard to predict, but we're always monitoring that," said Faz.
The Great Sand Dunes
Beyond Medano Creek lies the Great Sand Dunes.
A hike to the top and back down will take you at least two hours.
It's quite a trip, and in sand nonetheless, but it's stunning!
The highest summits soar more than 700 feet off of the valley floor, and at 743 feet, Hidden Dune is the tallest in the park.
It used to be Star Dune, but the sand is always shifting and according to the latest geological survey, Hidden Dune is now king of the hill.
Planning your visit
Our visit in May comes during a perfect 60-degree day, and just one day after snow blanketed the mountains and visitor center.
With summer crowds and warmer weather just around the corner, Faz says that planning ahead is the best advice to making the most of your visit.
"Please arrive early or plan your hike out of the dunes a little bit later in the day as well due not only to the crowds but also the temperatures," said Faz.
Not only can air temperatures soar into the 80s and 90s, but the dunes can get dangerously hot.
Items such as sunscreen, hats, water, snacks, and closed-toed shows come highly recommended by Faz.
"Remember that the sand can get up to 150 degrees in temperature and we want everybody to be protected and not have their trip turn into a doctor's visit," said Faz.
For more information and to plan your visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, you can check them out online at https://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm.