Thursday, May 31, 2012

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Zapata Falls

It’s been windy for a few days here in Colorado, so we took advantage of a lull on Wednesday and took a drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  It was about a 60 mile drive for us west on US 160 then north on CO 150. From a distance, they don’t look terribly impressive. They looked like a sandbox at the base of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.


The further down CO 150 we went, however, they started to really look impressive.


Once we reached the park and got our free senior admission, (have I mentioned how much I LOVE the Senior Pass? :) ) it was just a short drive to the parking area. We climbed a few steps on a small boardwalk and we were there!


Huge! Impressive is a good word.


I was amazed at how many people were actually headed toward the dunes or already climbing them. It’s not something either of us wanted to tackle. From the base straight up is 750’ but climbing would be much, much further.


This place was a child’s dream. The water that you see here is actually the Medano Creek. There isn’t a lot of water right now but it sure was enough to give these kids plenty to play in and build sand castles with. In wet years, there is more water and the kids can even raft in that creek. How’s that for a beach?!


On our way back on CO 150 we stopped at the Zapata Falls Recreation area. We turned left between mile marker 10 and 11 onto a washboard dirt road which gave us quite the ride. This has to be the very worst dirt road we’ve ever been on and the longest 3.5 miles we’ve done :)  We eventually hit the parking lot noticing that this must be a very popular place. We got the last open spot. I changed into my tennis shoes (flip flops don’t work well climbing), grabbed my hiking poles giving one to Rick and we headed up the 1/2 mile trail to the falls. The trail was very rocky and had a steady incline to the top. Those hiking poles sure came in handy!


When we arrived at the top, there were people all over. (I cut them out of my photos :)) The stream was beautiful with crystal clear water flowing quickly over the rocks and the sound of the water rushing was so peaceful. It would have been better if you could have experienced it alone instead of with a crowd :)



This is part of the feed to the stream, but in order to see the actual falls, you had to hike through the water and climb the rocks to enter a gorge.


Rick was game, but I wasn’t :) First, that water was COLD! Second, the rocks were slippery and I’m scared I’ll fall and reinjure my leg or worse, break my good one! I’m klutzy enough on solid ground! So, I sent him in alone.

This may look like he’s just walking on rocks, but believe me, that’s some cold water he’s in!


Because I was afraid to let him take the camera, feeling certain he’d get soaked, I had to borrow this photo of the falls from Wikipedia.


As it turned out, the only thing that got wet was his feet/shoes. He said his toes were a bit numb but it was a great experience. Here he is after the fact, looking no worse for wear. I almost sent him back with the camera but I didn’t think that would go over so well :)


We took a short detour off US 160 on the way home taking another dirt road (and a sheer pleasure to drive after the Zapata Falls road) that led us up “Old La Veta Pass” and some spectacular views.


I’m not sure what we’ll get into the rest of our time here. We may just kick back and enjoy the I Love Lucy RV Park! We’ve been treated like family since we’ve been here.

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle


  1. Very cool! I'd love to get a neat top of the dune rippley picture when we go, but don't think I can do that climb! I saw the 400 foot dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan, and wouldn't try that!

  2. Aah, perhaps we should pack those waders we bought for our bear watching trip a few years ago; the shoes that go with them would be perfect for this kind of an outing. We climbed the sand dune at Jockey's Ridge in the Outer Banks ... no easy feat ... I think I would have sat this one out, too.

  3. Erin, waders would be good :)

    These dunes are the tallest in North America. I'm just not up to the challenge! :) But gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

  4. Yea, we did Jockey's Ridge but we wanted to see the top of Grand Dunes;o(( Really Gail...there are no snakes up there;o)) LOL

    We're loving the places you are taking us!!!

  5. You guys are killing me! You are in a gorgeous part of our country! Keep posting the pics so we can live vicariously through you!

  6. We did Jockey's Ridge and Sleeping Bear Dunes. The latter was tall enough for me. This looks gorgeous. We missed it on our trip west so onto the list it goes. You two really are troopers to go back such a road to see that falls. Thanks for the pictures.

  7. I was biting my nails looking at that picture of Rick walking over the water. I'm with you Gail -- I wouldn't want to take any chances of falling. . . again!

  8. We loved the dunes when we were there and The falls. If you get the chance they have a jeep trail that goes around the back of the dunes an through the forest that's excellent. (THE Berry's RV TRAVELS ).hope to make it back one day.

    1. Thanks for the tip! Unfortunately, I'll have to put it on the list for the next time through. We have left that area and moved further north. Sounds like it would be a great ride!

  9. Cold toes, but it was worth the trip. "Cool" pictures, too.

    I have enough trouble walking on sandy beaches, I'm with you on opting out of climbing that dune. :c)


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