This summer, we’ve been on a road trip to visit 10 National Parks as a family. After this trip, that will make our grand total as a family at 20 National Parks! If you’re wondering about how we are traveling during the pandemic, feel free to read my guide on How to Travel Safely with Kids During a Pandemic.
During our travels, one of the most unique is the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. If you’ve seen pictures of this National Park, you’ll know what a beautiful and unique place it is. After you visit, you realize that the pictures don’t even do it justice. When you sand sled in Great Sand Dunes, you really get the full experience. You can also sand board, which is similar to snow boarding. But doing this isn’t quite as simple as you might imagine. Keep reading for all of the details on how to sand sled in Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Where do I get a sand sled?
When we visited Great Sand Dunes, we just drove into the Park, and went directly to the Visitor’s Center. When we talked to a Park Ranger, we found out that the only places to rent the sand sled was outside of the Park! We were shocked and the kids were devastated. So we immediately thought we should drive out of the park to the closest vendor to rent some. However, when we approached the exit, we could see the line to get in to the Park. So we realized that was a bad idea! It could take an hour to get back into the National Park!
We decided to offer some nice family some money to let our kids use their sand sled. It turned out to be a wonderful experience and we made new friends. But don’t take the chance that we did! How can you get a sand sled?
Bring Your Own Sand Sled
There’s a lot of debate about whether these products work on the sand or not. However, when I watched other families sledding down the sand at Great Sand Dunes, I saw some success with products like these! The sand sleds that are rentals are generally wooden, but these products are worth a try! Check out these Amazon links (and when you purchase through my affiliate link, it helps support our family):
These standard plastic discs have mixed reviews for sand. Some say that you need to wax them a lot to make them work. For the price, it’s worth a try!
This steel disc is more expensive, but is probably a better bet for sand sledding. You can reuse it if you have a chance to also go snow sledding!
Rent a Sand Sled
According to the National Parks official website there are a few concessionaires that rent sand sleds. ALL of them are outside the Park, so if you don’t bring your own, plan to get them outside of the Park.
The National Park does not rent sandsleds or sandboards; these may be rented or purchased at retailers in the San Luis Valley. Some retailers are a 45 minute drive away from the dunes in the off season. Plan to rent gear before arriving at the park.
Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa, 40 miles southwest of the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center, rents sandsleds and sandboards year round. Follow the link or call 719-589-9759. To protect the special slick material on the bottom of each board, Kristi will not rent them when the sand is frozen.
Sand Dunes Swimming Pool and Recreation, located near Hooper, 32 miles west of the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center, rents sandsleds and sandboards year round. Follow the link or call 719-378-2807. The facility is closed on Thursdays for pool cleaning.
Spin Drift Sand Board Rentals, located in downtown Blanca, 25 miles southeast of the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center, rents sandsleds and sandboards year round. Follow link above to website or call 719 621-8963.
From April through mid-October, sandboards and sand sleds are available for rent at the Oasis Store located 4 miles from the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center near the park entrance. Hours vary; call 719-378-2222. To protect the special slick material on the bottom of each board, Oasis will not rent sleds when the sand is wet.
Spanish Peaks Outfitters located in La Veta, Colorado, 64 miles southeast of the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center, rents sand sleds and sandboards year round. 720-401-8545.
What else can I do at Great Sand Dunes?
Besides sand sledding, there are other things to do at Great Sand Dunes National Park. If you have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle, you can travel on the Medano Pass Primitive Road. If you are ready to travel this road, you can have quite the adventure backcountry camping and hiking where few people can get to!
There’s also a great nature trail for families at the Montville Nature Trail. Before you travel this short and family friendly trail, be sure to pick up a nature guide at the Visitor’s Center. There are clearly marked trail markers that will help you learn during your hike.
Depending on the time of year and the snow melt, you can also play in the Medano Creek. During some times of high water levels, there’s even small waves that kids love to splash in! During out visit, the main part of the creek was dried up, but we did see some families enjoying it further down the dunes.
You can hike and even camp in the sand dunes! The tallest sand dune in the world is located in Great Sand Dunes National Park. This peak is called Star Dune and it is located at 750 feet. I can tell you from personal experience that it is very difficult to hike on sand. We’ve hiked miles and miles on this trip, and hiking in the sand was one of the most difficult things. So if you plan to climb this, I would not recommend bringing small children. And plan for at least 9 hours to make the 8 mile journey.
Take lots of pictures and videos!
Although our family has visited so many amazing places this summer, this one is of the hardest to describe. I guarantee that when you make it out to the dunes, especially if you have small children with you, you will already be tired. Take some time to sit down and rest on the dunes. You deserve it! You made it to this remote place with all of your kids! After you’ve rested, take all of the pictures and videos. That’s the beauty of digital! And this is a place you may never return to again.
So plan the trip, take the pictures, and make the memories. And be sure to have your sand sled!