Although this area is not a prime fishing destination, anglers with a Colorado fishing license can fish Sand Creek and Medano Creek. You may catch some Rio Grande cutthroat trout, which are catch-and-release only.
Driving in the dunes or off-road in any section of the park is specifically prohibited, but those with high clearance 4WDs can get wonderful views of the dunes and gain access to the national preserve on the Medano Pass Primitive Road, which takes off from the main park road near the amphitheater and heads north out of the park. This rugged road, which has a lot of deep sand, is closed by snow from November through April.
Horseback riding is permitted in most areas of the park and all of the national preserve; those bringing their own horses should contact the visitor center or see the park website for information.
Guided horseback trips are offered at nearby Zapata Ranch for guests staying there. Other outfitters licenses to lead trail rides in the park are Atalanta Association, which operates the Baca Grande Stables (tel. 719/256-6200 or 719/256-4656; www.bacagrandestables.com) in Crestone, Colorado; and Rocky Mountain Horseback Adventures (tel. 719/298-9009) in Alamosa.
Sandboarding, Skiing & Sledding
Who needs snow when there is all this sand? All unvegetated areas of the dunes are open to sliding, sledding, and skiing. Rangers advise that cardboard doesn't work at all, so come prepared with a flat-bottomed plastic sled, snowboard, or skis. Also be prepared to hike. Even the medium-size slopes are over a half mile from the parking area. Among the steepest slopes is by the Castle Creek Picnic Area, accessible only with a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle via the Medano Pass Primitive Road, but be careful -- this 300-foot slope ends abruptly and may dump you into Medano Creek.
Among the animals that survive in this unusual environment are the Ord's kangaroo rat, a creature that never drinks water, plus several insects found nowhere else on Earth, including the Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle. Among more common wildlife you're apt to see are Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, coyotes, black-tailed and white-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontail rabbits, golden-mantled ground squirrels, and Colorado chipmunks. Just outside the park, look for bison. More than 150 species of birds have been sighted in the park, including both golden and bald eagles, ravens, white-throated swifts, broad-tailed hummingbirds, Lewis's woodpeckers, Say's phoebes, violet-green swallows, yellow-rumped warblers, black-headed grosbeaks, and chipping sparrows. Prime bird-watching areas include the Montville and Wellington Ditch trails. You're also likely to see all kinds of wildlife along Medano Creek, which runs along the base of the dunes and usually flows in spring and early summer.
Also see the sections on Zapata Ranch and the Alamosa/Monte Vista/Baca National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Attractions.
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.