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Information

Contact Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, 11999 Colo. 150, Mosca, CO 81146 (tel. 719/378-6300; www.nps.gov/grsa).

For information on other area attractions, lodging, and dining, contact the Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau, 601 State Ave., Alamosa, CO 81101, at the corner of State Avenue and U.S. 160 (tel. 800/258-7597 or 719/589-4840; www.alamosa.org). Note: For some reason, the folks in Alamosa use the names State Avenue and State Street interchangeably, but it's the same road.

This building, a restored historic train depot, also houses a Colorado Welcome Center, open daily 8am to 6pm in summer, 8am to 5pm the rest of the year. Closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Also in the depot is the ticket booth for the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.

Visitor Center

The park visitor center (tel. 719/378-6399) has exhibits on dune formation and life in the dunes, a bookstore, and a short video that shows throughout the day. It's open daily year-round, except for federal holidays. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, hours are 8:30am to 6:30pm; the rest of the year hours are 9am to 4:30pm.

Fees & Permits

Admission to the park for up to 7 days costs $3 per person, free for children under 16. Camping costs $20 per night.

If you are planning to explore the backcountry, you'll need a free backcountry permit, which is available at the visitor center.

Special Regulations & Warnings

Although summer air temperatures are pleasant, sand temperatures can soar to 140°F (60°C), so park officials strongly advise that shoes be worn when hiking in the dunes. Also, summer thunderstorms are fairly common. Hikers are advised to leave the dunes quickly when lightning threatens, to avoid the chance of being struck.

Elevations range from 7,515 feet to 13,604 feet, so those from low elevations are warned that they should take it easy until they have adapted and drink plenty of water to avoid altitude sickness, which causes shortness of breath, headaches, and nausea.

Pets are permitted throughout the park and preserve but must be leashed, and officials ask that owners clean up after their pets. They also warn that the sand in the dunes can be hot and will burn the pads on dogs' feet, so they suggest dune hiking with pets early or late in the day, when the sand is cooler.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.