We started the summer field trip season with a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Admittedly, this park has been on our to do list since we moved to Colorado five years ago. Yes, five years ago we planned the trip down and five years ago we wound up postponing the trip...
I'm sad to say it took so long because I have never heard a friend say anything bad about this park and we've known dozens of people from the Boulder- Denver area to visit and come back, some yearly.
I'm also sad to say it took five years because this park is naturally fun! We've been to many parks and monuments within the NP system and very few I have described as naturally fun. While our wanderlusting family almost always has fun on a hike, viewing animals or learning, most parks are very "rulesy" for important reasons... This depends on parks of course some being better than others but GSDNP is mellow. I don't think we saw a ranger patrolling at all and the rangers we met were friendly.
We started the morning off by picking up our Jr. Ranger books from the visitor center. A1 noticed both the badge and patch and told us you get both. Petrified Forest is so far the only park to give us each upon completion so I asked about it and the ranger told me the kids get one or the other when they finish the book but if you make a donation the kids get both.
Fast forward several hours when A2 turned in her book and showed both to me I asked J if he had given a donation, it turns out they did not even mention it. I thought maybe it was a token for the younger kids but the same ranger we talked to that morning did so with all of the kids and never once mentioned donations to the families ahead of us in line.
We did not spend time in the mountains area of the park as we met with "thunder sn-ail" mid day but the dunes were great! Natures sandbox and I think A2's favorite thing ever! Combine climbing, sand, water and sledding- it turns out she was in heaven! Even when flying down some very steep dunes, she had a blast... Maybe not when she realized she was alone at the bottom of the run but she was happy when J boarded down and met her at the bottom.
A1 had a fantastic time learning to board and playing with Uncle E. She has since asked to go back... Today and every year in the future. This has only happened with four parks in the past: Mesa Verde, Arches, Yellowstone and Chaco! I love to see parks make a lasting impact on her for whatever reason that may be. As we were getting ready for bed tonight she asked to learn about the dunes and ecology at the park. NPS has fantastic guides for teachers on their website and tons of information about various parks. I pretend like our tax dollars only fund the Dept. Of the Interior for this reason alone.
So... The list of things we love:
Sand sledding- they allow you to rent from two locations, one in town the other near the entrance to the park. Those sleds fly! While they were expensive to rent at $21/ sled they provided wax and we damaged a sled hitting a piece of debri. We were not charged as it was considered normal wear and tear.
You can also bring your own sleds but several people mentioned it works better with a rental. I think we will look on line for one.... It's probably a better value if you head down for a long weekend.
Sand boarding- again $21/ board but the adult boards are useable by both adults and kids...
She got quite far on her runs!
Sometimes J can get bored, this park meets his requirement to have a possibility of ER visit.
Full disclosure: I tried Sandboarding, not my thing... I will stick to skiing, which coincidentally, you can also do so bring your skis and wax. Word on the dunes is to wait for the wet sand and you should probably leave the powder skis at home.
Thank goodness I was the one with the camera... I doubt my memories will fade so I can do without the photos and videos. I am happy I tried though...
The creek is great, both of our children have raynauds so cold generally repels them but racing across the creek and playing alongside it was fun none the less.
We also love that GSDNP allows dogs! Not many parks do!
Dislikes may come on future visits which I would blog about but this visit was short and fantastic excluding the mildly flooded roads on the way down and the mildly flooded and semi snow covered roads on the way home.