Skip to Content

Everything You Need to Know About Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping

Are you thinking about planning a Great Sand Dunes National Park camping trip and need some advice? Look no further to learn all you need to know about this stunning national park!

I’ve put together this Great Sand Dunes National Park camping guide to assist you in learning about the best campsites and help you plan your visits to local and outdoor surrounding activities. Keep this camping guide handy so you won’t miss out on anything this excellent national park offers! 

What You Can Expect While Camping At Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park camping
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Exploring The Park

Come and explore the beauty of the great state of Colorado! You’ll love the stunning views of the dunes, especially the Star Dune. Medano Creek also makes for a fun place to visit. If you choose to explore the backcountry areas, especially Medano Pass Primitive Road, you can find it cutting through canyons leading up to the Sangre de Cristo mountains. 

Concerning the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll find that you can camp on both inside and outside of the park. 

First, I will talk about the campgrounds located directly within Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping: Pinon Flats

You can find Pinon Flats Campground just north of the Visitor’s Center. You’re able to camp here from April through October. Make sure to make reservations ahead. For an individual site, plan six months in advance. If you plan to bring the crew, you should start planning up to a year early!

In case you can’t snag a site here, I’ve also gathered a few camping locations just outside of the National Park. It’s always great to have a few backup options in your pocket!

Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping: Oasis Campground

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

You can’t go wrong with a stay at Oasis Campground, located right outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park entrance.

This campground features a total of ninety different campsites. You can set up a tent, bring your RV, or even do a bit of primitive camping if you prefer the experience of roughing it. If you want to experience a cabin, those are available for rent! The RV sites offer complete hookups for your convenience. 

Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping: Zapata Falls Campground

Next, especially if you prefer to go primitive camping and don’t need all the bells and whistles, you’ll want to consider Zapata Falls Campground. Here, you’ll be camping across the Bureau of Land Management!

This option is a bit farther, at eleven miles from the Visitors Center at Great Sand Dunes National Park. The elevation of eleven thousand feet gives you amazing views of the entire dunes layout and valley.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping

Camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

For this section, I’ll be focusing primarily on the campground located directly within Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Pinon Flats Campground is open between the standard camping months, April through October, and requires reservations in advance.

Camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park: Individual Site Rates

If you choose to camp at an individual site, it allows up to eight visitors, two tents, and two vehicles per campsite, per stay. Anything larger will need a group reservation. 

For these sites, the going rate is twenty dollars per night. There are eighty-six campsites available for both tent campers and RVs. 

Camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park: Group Site Rates

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Suppose you need to accommodate around fifteen to forty people, reserve one of their group campsites. You can plan to book these sites up to a year in advance between April and October. 

Group Site A: This site accommodates twenty to forty people and costs eighty dollars per evening.

Group Site B: This site is also for twenty to forty people and costs eighty dollars a night.

Group Site C: These sites are perfect for smaller groups of fifteen to thirty people, and they charge sixty-five dollars a night.

Important Things To Know Before Camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Group campsites are only available to tent campers, as RVs and other camping vehicles simply won’t fit in these areas. 
  • You’ll only be guaranteed a spot if you make reservations four days in advance at minimum
  • If you have a larger group than above, it’s possible to request group site reservations next-door to each other. 

 Booking Spots for Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping

Before camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park, be sure to settle on the best campsites and make reservations at least four days in advance.

There’s an excellent interactive campground map here that covers just about everything and anything you’d need to know about every one of the campsites. 

We’ve already talked about the different rates depending on your needs above. Now you’ll have to decide if you want to camp in an RV with full hookups at one of their individual sites or if you’ll be bringing along your tent and crew to one of the group sites. 

Moving Around The Park and Highway Access

This campground has three different loops: Loop 1, Loop 2, and Group Loop. According to their map, near the camping registration, theater, and visitor center is an entrance and exit that will take you to the CO Highway 150. 

Things To Do While Camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Let’s talk about the best things to come and do during your camping trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

The Famous Sand Dunes – Star Dune

Of course, you can’t visit Great Sand Dunes National Park without exploring their namesake! Campers will thoroughly enjoy trekking across the exciting sand dunes; these dunes offer unmatched views of the park, especially the fantastic area of the Star Dune. Star Dune is known as one of the tallest dunes in the U.S., the other being the Hidden Dune. This dune is seven hundred and forty-one feet wide from its base to its summit. 

Medano Creek

Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National park

Medano Creek and the beach also make for an excellent place to visit. Your entire group and family will love it here. Medano Creek is an extremely popular and seasonal outdoor activity. This creek is a good size as it measures about three to fifteen feet in width while keeping a shallow water flow that only reaches about two inches deep.

Sangre De Cristo Mountains

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are a subrange of the Rocky Mountains that you can view directly from this park and canyons. In addition, several trails are here to explore within the forest areas, wetlands, and alpine lakes surrounding The Great Sand Dune National Park. 

Grand Junction

If you’re looking for the ultimate attractions and entertainment on Colorado’s western slope, check out the Grand Junction during your stay. There are stunning red rocks to see, many outdoor adventures to go on, farm-to-table meals to eat, and cultural attractions to experience.

Take a hike on the trails of the Colorado National Monument, or the Grand Mesa, on foot, while mountain biking, or even on horseback. Several water activities, golfing, and even wineries await your visit! 

 Wildlife

Mule Deer, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Mule Deer, Great Sand Dunes National Park

Are you able to handle being near bears? It’s important to know that bears are potential visitors to the Pinon Flats Campground ahead of time. I recommend buying food storage that protects against bears. It’s best to limit aromatic and food odors at your campsites and vehicles. Never leave your food and trash unattended!

It’s important never to feed the surrounding wildlife. The law protects this entire group of animals, even the birds, so save yourself the trouble and view and enjoy their existence instead. 

Besides bears, mountain lions live close by as well. There have been zero reported mountain lion attacks at this park, but always practice safety and stay aware.

You can enjoy the presence of the deer, elk, and pronghorn, the most common animals found wandering the parks and roads. Just be sure to drive cautiously. 

Tips That Can Save A Life

Colorado Mountain Lion
Colorado Mountain Lion

Mountain Lions

Chances of a mountain lion encounter are slim, but always stay aware, cautious, and practice safety nevertheless. If you come into contact with mountain lions, make loud noises, remain calm, and stare them in the face. Never run away; try to scare them off instead. Just like with bears, make sure to make yourself look as large and intimidating as possible!

Black Bears

To lower your risks of black bear contact, keep all your food in lockers either provided by the park or approved vaults of your own. Even keeping food in your car with the windows rolled up works. They are attracted to food and will hunt for it. Also be sure to watch for female bears; their ultimate goal is to protect their young, and they could be quick to become hostile.

First, remain calm; running will excite a bear. Stop and slowly back away while keeping your eyes on the bear; don’t look it in the eyes, but don’t turn your back on it. If a black bear comes toward you, make sure to cause a commotion—yell, make yourself as big as possible, and throw things if you can. In the unfortunate case of a bear attack, use anything you can think of to fight back, such as your flashlight, rocks, sticks, and even your bare hands. 

Geography

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

If you choose to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you can find it in the southern parts of the beautiful state of Colorado within the city of Alamosa. This national park is home to the containment of thirty miles of famous dunes and an excellent array of wetlands and forest areas.

Brief History of the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park was founded in 1932 by President Hoover, who labeled it a national monument. In 2004, its journey continued when congress created a change of the boundary and redesignation. 

Wrapping Up Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping

It’s been an incredible journey exploring the Great Sand Dunes National Park along with you today! I hope this camping guide has shown you the beauty, excitement, and overall greatness waiting for you at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Will you be planning an upcoming visit? I know I will, and I can’t wait to visit the calming creek, hike the trails, see the mountains and canyons, and take it all in; I know you’ll love it here too!

Want to cross more Colorado national parks off your camping bucket list? Check out The Complete Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Camping!

Sharing is Caring!