GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (The Gazette) - As Medano Creek continues to have an above-average flow this season thanks to a wet winter, crowds have flocked to the Great Sand Dunes National Park to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder.
Long lines of cars were found at the park’s entrance over the weekend, accompanied by crowded parking and stretches of people to be found along the water’s flow. It took us around 45 minutes to get through the park’s main gates at around 10 a.m., with a slightly shorter line still present when we left the park at 2:30 PM. Several hundred people could be found along the creek’s banks throughout the time we were there.
Thankfully, the Great Sand Dunes National Park is an easy place to find some separation from the crowds. A short hike into the dunes can have you feeling like you’re the only person there. The view from the top of High Dune, the second-highest dune in the park, revealed less crowding on parts of the creek further from the easy-access walkway.
Medano Creek hit its peak flow on June 9 and has been decreasing in flow since. On June 15, the creek was flowing at 45 cfs, still above the average annual peak of 40 cfs. This year, the creek peaked at an extremely high 71 cfs on June 9.
It’s estimated that close to 450,000 visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park each year, with a majority of these visitors passing through during the warmer summer months. Given the big crowds and hot temperatures of the sand, it’s recommended that you arrive early. The park is open 24 hours a day, though the visitor center opens at 9 AM, 8:30 AM during summer months.
The Great Sand Dunes is one of Colorado’s four national parks with the other three including Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Rocky Mountain.