The sleeper hit of my road trip from St. Louis out to Wyoming and back was Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend there but I knew I wanted to make a stop here. So, I needed to figure out what was the best time to go. Was it mid-day? Sunset? Turns out, a Great Sand Dunes sunrise was the dream I needed, and was even better than I anticipated.
My Tips for a Enjoying Stunning Great Sand Dunes Sunrise
What to Wear
- You’re going to be hiking through sand, so I highly recommend wearing hiking boots and trekking socks so that sand doesn’t get in your shoes.
- Additionally, it’s going to be chilly because it’s early in the morning. I wore leggings, a long quarter zip, and also a long sleeve zip up because I am a creature of habit. If you’ve read any of my packing list blog posts (Wyoming and Hawaii, for reference) you’ll know that I live by those items.
When to Arrive
- Arrive 20 minutes before the sunrise time, which you can find with a quick Google search.
- The dunes will be mostly empty other than a handful of others who had the brilliant idea you did, so don’t worry about it being crowded. You’ll have tons of space to socially distance and enjoy the Great Sand Dunes sunrise with some privacy.
What to Bring
- If you bring your camera make sure to have a lens cover just in case it’s too windy to use. You don’t want to ruin your lenses with sand and your camera phone will work just fine as a backup. It was fine while I was there, but I have friends who couldn’t pull their cameras out due to the wind.
- Depending on how long you’re staying on the dunes, you’ll want to bring water and snacks.
- Also, if you can hang a little longer after sunrise, bring a sled!
- Anyone with long hair, pack either a hair tie or a hat because it’ll turn into a real rat’s nest if you don’t. It kind of will anyway but at least with one of these items it’s a nest for small rats instead of Godzilla ones.
Where to Park
- Park by High Dune; you’ll see the lot after the Visitor Center if you just follow the signs.
- Use the restroom in the parking area before you hike up because you won’t want to miss any of this beauty.
What to Do
- Hike up to one of the dunes and claim your spot. High Dune will be a slightly strenuous hike because it is super tall and also, well, made of sand. We hiked to a shorter dune because from a photography perspective, we liked the option of having High Dune in photos vs. shooting from the top of it.
- If you want tons of sand in your photos, I’d say go farther away from the mountains. But if you want a more even split, I’d hike a dune that’s closer to the mountains.
- Hang out and watch the sun start to peak over the mountains and turn the sky and sand incredible shades of pink and orange. Take a million photos, it’s gorgeous.
- If you brought your sled, time to go sledding!
But seriously, as you can see this sunrise was incredible. It was truly just a pastel dream and I loved it so much. Take a look at my Instagram Highlights to see a little more behind the scenes action, and take a peek at my other posts on National Parks for more ideas!
Additionally, I talked to Magnificent World about my time at the Great Sand Dunes, so check out my interview with them and some other recommendations for your day on the dunes.