Great Sand Dunes Camping Adventure


By Citlalli Rojas-Duarte , ELK 2016 Urban Ranger

When I first started dreaming about this trip, I was working as an Urban Ranger during the summer of 2016. I was told about Great Sand Dunes National Park. I heard quite a lot about this place and was very eager to climb its sand hills and see its beauty. From what I was told it sounded like a fairy tale, and became my symbolic idea of freedom.

From our office, with all of my Co-Workers and a group of amazing kids involved in our summer program, we drove three hours through valleys and pastures of the Rocky Mountains towards Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We saw a sign labeled Zapata Falls and quickly decided to on the trail. To get there involves driving~20 minutes up a bumpy dirt road to the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Zapata Falls ended up being a magical place. The elevation of the campground provided spectacular views of the sand dunes and a short hike gave access to the base of the Zapata Waterfall. I had never seen anything like it.

I woke up with excitement the next day, ready to climb the dunes.

I was sure it wouldn’t take me long to reach the top. Surprisingly, it was very difficult to move in the sand. For every two steps, you sunk one step down and the sandy slopes exposed to the sun burned your feet if you didn’t move quickly enough. But every now and then a cool patch of wet sand would provide your feet with sweet relief.

The climb was worth the effort and the journey to the top was sprinkled with tired footprints and beautiful patterns of windblown sand.

Great Sand Dunes National Park was wonderful. It contained nature in so many forms – mountains, snow, forest, sand, stream, and desert. I felt grateful for my time there, for feeling accomplished with life at the top of the Dune. It was truly amazing. Again and again, good things kept happening to me on this trip that I couldn’t explain.