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View Full Version : Anyone spent any time down at the Sand Dunes?


Hulk
05-22-2007, 11:41 AM
We're planning a trip to Great Sand Dunes Nat'l Park this weekend. We're planning to leave Thursday to get a camp site, since it will be a busy weekend.

I've never been. What is there to do?

This may be a stupid question, but it there a good reason to take my 80 rather than the Honda minivan? The 80 is always more fun, but the Honda gets much better gas mileage.

Somebody told us to take plastic sleds, which I assume is for sliding down the dunes.

I don't know much, so any tips or advice would be great!

TIA.

treerootCO
05-22-2007, 11:43 AM
if the sun is out, do not walk on the dunes with bare feet
if the wind kicks up, you will need sunglasses and a bandanna to get back to camp.

there is a creek in front of the dunes to play in, lots of sand...

MDH33
05-22-2007, 11:46 AM
The Medano Pass 4x4 road looks like fun.

Red_Chili
05-22-2007, 12:07 PM
Medano is definitely fun and rather easy, but quite pretty. You can go over the pass (assuming snow conditions) and play around up there on the east side as well, good picnic spot. There is some wheeling around the area, including Blanca Peak (very challenging). Don't forget the alligator farm, d00d! It almost cured me of tilapia (it is really a tilapia farm, but they got the alligators as dispose-alls, and the rest is history).

The Cumbres and Toltec RR is not too far from there. Ride it if you've never done it. And of course, antiques for your lovely bride. Lots of easy-paced activities.

It would take a minimum of variants to convince me to not take a Honda minivan.

60wag
05-22-2007, 01:12 PM
The best skiing/sledding is on the Medano road where it starts to climb away from the dunes. You need to drive through a 1/2 mile or so of sand to get to it - definitely not mini van material. and yes, definitely hit the 'gator farm.

Jacket
05-22-2007, 01:28 PM
Funny you should ask.....I was just there last weekend. It's definitely a zoo around there right now. We arrived Friday at 10 ish (left the house at 6am :eek: ), got a good spot, and the camp sites were full at 11:30. Getting there Thursday should help, although it was full there on Thursday as well (according to the ranger), but a bunch of folks packed up and left on Friday to free up some spots. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances.

I took my truck so that I could run the pass. It's a fun trail - not very hard, but definitely scenic, and a bunch of deep water crossings. Besides that, if you have kids, the river is a great place to play (almost like a beach), plus hiking the dunes, sledding the dunes, there's a waterfall hike, and a visitors center.

Some pics of the trail.

http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h201/mralsto/CIMG0349.jpg

http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h201/mralsto/CIMG0350.jpg

http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h201/mralsto/CIMG0339.jpg

More here:

http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/t193935.html

Crash
05-22-2007, 01:57 PM
Last year at this time, we met the Binghams, up from Albuquerque, and camped just outside of the Dunes park towards Medano Pass. James and I got to pull a Park Ranger's Ford 250 4x4 who was pulling a dead Honda Pilot that had tried to cross Medano Creek when it was over three feet deep, through the sandwash area on the east side of the Dunes. Pilot still had temp tags on it and was too much dead weight for the Ford to pull by itself so the 62 was pulling the Ford pulling the Pilot. Quite the parade and James and I got many a thumbs up as we barrelled down the deep sand - almost pulled the Ford's winch bar off in the process. The tow lasted about mile and the Ranger told the Pilot driver that we had saved him a $400 tow bill. He said thanks and James and I went back to camp with a lasting memory.
Matt, if you do take the minivan, don't try the road past the sign that says air down your tires - we won't be there to save you this year. The Dunes are in incredible place.

Red_Chili
05-22-2007, 02:39 PM
20 years ago you could drive around on the wet flats below the dunes. We did a bunch of zipping around, spraying sand all over. I started to get a bit nervous about our, um, Jr. Hi level recreation, and sure as shootin' a Heep in our party had a head-on with a new 1984 minitruck.

The Heep was totalled. The 1984 mini towed it back to Denver with a very ungracefully angled left front wheel, and subsequently it was totalled as well.

Probably a good thing you can't do that any more - just encouraged high speed antics. It was fun though.

P.S. no unlicensed vehicles west of the Medano Pass summit. National Park, doncha know. ATVs regularly scoff at it - and get tickets from rangers who are packing heat.

Beater
05-22-2007, 02:47 PM
and they draw them guns too...

but that's a story for beer, and it didn't even involve yours truly..

Good family thing, but camp in the national forrest side if possible, unless you dig car camping..

oh, and the store at the mouth of the park has beer.

Shark Bait
05-22-2007, 03:14 PM
I pulled a vehicle through the sand, myself, once, with one of the vehicles I've owned. Either the gold '81 or the yellow '67 FJ40. Came in from the east over Medano pass. I remember the ranger approaching in her jeep to check things out. She was a cutey. Wouldn't have anything to do with me. :eek: :D

SteveH
05-22-2007, 03:32 PM
The campground located in the park is frequently full all summer long, but there is a vendor-type campground with a couple hundred tent sites just outside the park on the east side. I've given up on staying at the campground in the park, as it is so frequently full, even on Fridays. We put our popup camper at a tent site in this other campground and it worked just fine. It can be very windy at this campground, so consider that. There are a few primitive tent sites back up the Medano Pass road, and they are first-come, first served, but they are likely mosquito ridden and being a chance deal, and not camper-friendly, I didn't try them.

The Medano Pass road is fun, and airing down is necessary. I had to laugh at the Range Rover and Jeep drivers all trying to see how fast they could drive through a sandy wash, leaving the tires full, and essentially trying to get stuck. I aired down the 4Runner tires, engaged the diff lock, and eased through in great style. A few of them were gawking - and it's hardly as if I'm greatly experienced in sand 'wheeling, but having a clue or two helps. There are a few old log cabins up the pass road, so there are a few things to see other than the road and trees.

If you go early in the summer, Medano Creek spreads out on the sand, creating a wide band of water 1-4" deep - fun to play in with kids. Later in the summer, the creek totally poops out and soaks into the ground before it gets that far. I'm going earlier this summer to see the water in that stage.

Uncle Ben
05-22-2007, 05:38 PM
The best skiing/sledding is on the Medano road where it starts to climb away from the dunes. You need to drive through a 1/2 mile or so of sand to get to it - definitely not mini van material. and yes, definitely hit the 'gator farm.

Ditto! The best dunes to play on are off of Medano Pass at the little picnic area that Bruce is referancing. Mini-boggins work very well as does old snowboards! The trick is to find a nice steep bowl with no tracks and the black wind packed crest. It's important when shredding the dunes to find a hard crest to get going! If your laying flat on a sled/mini boggin you don't want to drag the "rudder" across any deep foot prints! Trust me on that one! The water way throough that area of the dunes is big time family fun and sparsely populated vrs the over crowded visitor center and dunes close to the campground. Skeeters and sand flys are also quite aggressive at times! My family loves playing there!

Uncle Ben
05-22-2007, 05:41 PM
The campground located in the park is frequently full all summer long, but there is a vendor-type campground with a couple hundred tent sites just outside the park on the east side. I've given up on staying at the campground in the park, as it is so frequently full, even on Fridays. We put our popup camper at a tent site in this other campground and it worked just fine. It can be very windy at this campground, so consider that. There are a few primitive tent sites back up the Medano Pass road, and they are first-come, first served, but they are likely mosquito ridden and being a chance deal, and not camper-friendly, I didn't try them.

The Medano Pass road is fun, and airing down is necessary. I had to laugh at the Range Rover and Jeep drivers all trying to see how fast they could drive through a sandy wash, leaving the tires full, and essentially trying to get stuck. I aired down the 4Runner tires, engaged the diff lock, and eased through in great style. A few of them were gawking - and it's hardly as if I'm greatly experienced in sand 'wheeling, but having a clue or two helps. There are a few old log cabins up the pass road, so there are a few things to see other than the road and trees.

If you go early in the summer, Medano Creek spreads out on the sand, creating a wide band of water 1-4" deep - fun to play in with kids. Later in the summer, the creek totally poops out and soaks into the ground before it gets that far. I'm going earlier this summer to see the water in that stage.


Another good play by play! You did forget to mention the local residents (a plenty) at the NF camground! ;) Hint- 6 legs red and black....

Red_Chili
05-23-2007, 08:13 AM
Lots of hummingbirds too. My younger son had a little red bugcatcher container when we were there last, he was about 8 or so. The hummingbirds decided something good must be in there, so after a few divebombs we decided to fill it with sugar water. The hummingbirds would stick their beaks through the airholes of the container. He will never forget it.

A ranger came by and said we probably shouldn't do that, but what the heck... we had a great conversation, 4x4er to environmentalist. He is the one who gave me the quote from the founder of one of the big green groups (forget which one, Audubon or Sierra Club): "What good is wilderness if you can't get to it?"

Hulk
05-23-2007, 08:35 AM
Thanks for all the info, guys! We're looking forward to the trip, and now I feel like we'll be better prepared. :)