Late last summer we ventured to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. They call them GREAT for a reason. Trekking through the sand was a bit of a workout. Even more so wearing a toddler and just shy of 8 months pregnant. That’s not to say that Jordan had it easy while he was pulling the boys on the sled. And… it was HOT.
We always talked about going while the creek is running (in May usually and sometimes early June) but our timeline never worked out. We knew we were relocating for Jordan’s job and we wanted to take advantage while we were farther south, so we jumped in the car on a whim and went for the day.
We had a great time. We have Parks Passports books for the boys and they always participate in the junior ranger program so our first stop is always the visitors center. They get to stamp their books with the unique park cancellation stamp. You have to buy the book, but getting it stamped is free. There’s a smaller passport (and it’s also cheaper) that you can buy in each park, but you do have to order the edition that we have. We often times buy the park sticker for the book too, but not always. The junior ranger program doesn’t have a cost either and they can get a badge or patch after they complete the tasks. If you aren’t familiar with it, and you have kids, you need to be. It’s a fun program and Jordan and I regularly learn things too. it’s a great resource for all kids. If you homeschool, roadschool, or unschool it gives you a fantastic jumping off point and your kids may find things that really interest them by flipping through the book!
The visitors center always has hands on activities like this table. The inside of it spun and showed how the wind is constantly changing the dunes. Our boys thrive on activity based learning
so this was perfect for us. We usually spend time in the visitors center before and after we explore outside. Some of the information makes exploring outside easier while sometimes you need to experience the information in action to really understand the information being presented. However you explore, make sure you take advantage of the visitors center.
Here’s the boys outside the visitors center and the dunes in the background. It’s a little drive down to the dunes. The tree line just before the dunes is where
you park. There’s a great picnic area there with benches that are tucked in the trees. It makes the temperatures bearable and is easy to unload a cooler without any trouble.
It was about as hard to navigate as you’d imagine a big pile of dry sand to be. Then add scorching temperatures. Everyone did great, but Jordan wished he’d worn tennis shoes instead of sandals about 30 second in. We only brought the sled, but many people had beach toys and they were a huge hit with the kids. We also learned that you NEED A SAUCER SLED. You could also rent little sandboards that did pretty well, but our sled didn’t. The saucer sleds boogied down the dunes and next time we go we will definitely have one. We tell everyone they need to find a saucer sled to go!
As you look through pictures you’ll often find one of the boys in a carrier. We use a Tula and have the carrier in both sizes. It comes in a toddler size and a standard (smaller) size. Our oldest is just shy of five-years-old and we’ve had our standard since he was just a couple months old. It’s beat up and we just had to replace a buckle on it so we could continue to use it for Graham, but it’s been a workhorse.
We had a fantastic time and we checked another National Park off our list. Which parks have you been to? Do you have a favorite?