Where To Stay Near the Great Sand Dunes National Park: Hotels and Glamping

Where to stay near the Great Sand Duns National Park

Even though Colorado is better known for its sky-scraping 14ers, the Great Sand Dunes are an awe-inspiring phenomenon worth your time. With epic hiking, adrenaline-filled sandboarding, and stunning views all around, every visit is memorable.

But before you head out, you need to know where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There are plenty of hotels near the Great Sand Dunes park, including places relatively close to the entrance and some in larger towns less than an hour away, like Alamosa and Monte Vista. 

I’m an adventurer from Colorado and love this area, so this list is packed with unique options, insider tips, and information that you won’t find elsewhere. After reading this, you’ll have what you need to pick a memorable place for where to stay during your Great Sand Dunes visit.

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The Best Hotels Near the Great Sand Dunes National Park

You can pick any of these seven best hotels near the Great Sand Dunes without disappointment. After this table, we’ll dive into details for each one.

And if they don’t hit your needs, keep reading for more options for hotels, RV parks, and camping to get the most out of your visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Best OverallHampton Inn AlamosaReliable 3-star hotel, reasonable distance from the Park, indoor poolCheck Price 
Best BudgetDunes Inn AlamosaBreakfast at neighboring restaurant included, convenient, clean, comfortable, affordableCheck Price    
Best In the ParkGreat Sand Dunes LodgeUnbeatable proximity to Park, amazing views, unique geo domes, spacious roomsCheck Price 
Best GlampingRustic Rook ResortClose to park, premium camping experience with hot showers and flushing toilets, bonfire nights, peaceful daysCheck Price
Best for Movie NightBest Western Movie ManorWatch drive-in screen from your room, clean, comfortable, and friendly serviceCheck Price 
Best Hot Springs ResortJoyful Journey Hot SpringsHot springs for soaking, sauna, massages, yurts and hotel rooms, on-site kennel, high satisfaction rateCheck Price
Best Glamping With MovieFrontier Drive InnYurt glamping, drive-in movie screen, unique experience, new facilityCheck Price
The interior of a room at the Hampton Inn Alamosa

Best Overall: Hampton Inn Alamosa

If your answer for where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park means a reputable hotel with big, clean rooms and a heated indoor pool, this is it.

Hampton Inn Alamosa isn’t quite as exciting as the other unique options on this list, but it’s an excellent all-around hotel with superb reviews. There’s no doubting this hotel’s ability to impress.

See the Hampton Inn Alamosa listings.

Excellent Service and Spacious Rooms

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is in a relatively desolate area of Colorado, and the result is a lack of 4 and 5-star hotels. So even though this 3-star option isn’t the definition of opulence, it’s comfortably luxurious and modern.

The rooms are spacious with available seating areas, expansive desks, and sleek touches throughout. A microwave and mini-fridge are in every room, and there’s an onsite fitness room and a heated indoor pool.

Customer feedback shows the staff’s willingness to go above and beyond, regardless of the time of day. When issues arise, you can be sure that someone will take your requests seriously and do what they can to resolve them.

The Hampton Inn Hotel near the Great Sand Dunes
The indoor pool at the Hampton Inn Alamosa a great option for where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes

Convenient Location and Hassle-Free Option

This Hampton Inn is located in the quaint town of Alamosa, which is the closest town to the Park at about 30-45 minutes from the Park entrance. And even though Hampton Inn isn’t in the heart of town like the Dunes Inn (the top budget option), it neighbors a Walmart, movie theater, and a couple of restaurants.

It’s tempting to put some of the more unique options as the best option for where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. But this hotel provides a hassle-free experience that can’t be beaten with any of the other choices.

You’ll have the peace of mind that a nice hotel room is waiting for you after a long day hiking in the Great Sand Dunes.

Hampton Inn Alamosa: Rooms and Amenities

Distance to Park:35 minutes to entrance
Rooms Available:King or two queens, both available in suite and non-suite
Seating area in room:Every room except two queen non-suite
Breakfast:Included continental
Features:Free EV charging, superb service, heated indoor pool, modern finishes

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here.

The bed and seating area inside the Dunes Inn Alamosa hotel near the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Best Budget: Dunes Inn Alamosa

Scoring some of the highest reviews out of any hotel near the Great Sand Dunes, the Dunes Inn Alamosa has what it takes to give you a great night of sleep. 

And it’s amazingly affordable. What else could you ask for?

See the Dunes Inn Alamosa rooms and prices.

Superb Location, True Breakfast, and Blissful Comfort

The Dunes Inn Alamosa has a central Alamosa location with restaurants, bars, and shops just steps away, including the San Luis Valley Brewing Company, Ruby Slipper Restaurant, and Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant. After dinner, bring your leftovers back and let the included fridge and microwave take over.

For breakfast, Dunes Inn Alamosa goes far beyond the usual continental breakfast bar and instead gives you a voucher for the onsite All Valley Cafe. You can get a filling meal before your day of Great Sand Dunes National Park hiking. And the lobby coffee bar is always stocked to get your caffeine fix without a hassle.

The rooms are amazingly clean with comfortable beds. It’s evident the owner takes a lot of pride in this classic hotel and it shows in the well-maintained rooms and amenities. Exposed brick provides a nice touch in the spacious rooms.

The TV and desk at the Dunes Inn Alamosa

Not at the Park Gates and No Special Frills

Even though this is a great option for where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, there are some downsides. 

Obviously, the Dunes Inn Alamosa is not located right at the Park gates. The Park is isolated, so the selection of hotels near the Great Sand Dunes is limited. And if you choose to stay at the Park, don’t expect the food or entertainment options of Alamosa.

Speaking of entertainment, you can find hot springs near the Great Sand Dunes and two hotels both offering a drive-in movie experience next to your room.

So if you want a hotel in the Great Sand Dunes or something with a special twist, keep reading.

Dunes Inn Alamosa: Amenities and Rooms

Distance to Park:30-minute drive to entrance
Rooms Available:One to two queen beds with or without disability access
Seating area in room:Yes
Breakfast:Included voucher for restaurant meal
Features:Clean accommodations with superb location near restaurants and more

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here.

The view of where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park at the Lodge Hotel

Best In the Great Sand Dunes: Great Sand Dunes Lodge

If you want a hotel in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, this is the option for you. 

Unfortunately, the only accommodations literally in the Park is the Piñon Flats Campground. But the Great Sand Dunes Lodge is located right at the Park entrance sign, as close as it gets.

Check the Great Sand Dunes Lodge availability.

Starry Skies and Spectacular Views

And just like the Park itself, the views from any room in the hotel are spectacular. Enjoy the star-filled night skies away from light pollution and be ready to enjoy every minute you can at the park, instead of driving around.

There’s a wide array of different room styles, including the usual double queen beds and a luxurious king suite. They also rent out parked RV campers with ensuite amenities as well as unique geodesic domes with shared bathrooms.

You can also rent boards and sleds to go sandboarding in the Great Sand Dunes in the kiosk right next to the hotel.

An interior of a room with a seating area at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge
A camper for rent at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge Hotel in the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Lacking Food and Paying for Location

Although you can’t find a closer hotel in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you can find others with more food to offer and at a lower price.

A continental breakfast is included and there is an on-site restaurant with decent reviews for its American and Tex-Mex offerings. But the restaurant is only open from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. If you want other food or stores of any kind, you’ll need to drive ~30 minutes to Alamosa.

And even though you’re away from big crowds, the law of real estate applies. With the golden location of this hotel in the Great Sand Dunes National Park comes a higher price tag than most other hotels nearby.

Great Sand Dunes Lodge: Amenities and Rooms

Distance to Park:Directly outside the entrance
Rooms Available:King, two queens, RV campers, geodesic tents
Seating area in room:In select rooms (campers also have kitchen)
Breakfast:Included continental
Features:Closest to Park, spectacular views, nearby restaurant, plenty of room options

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here.

The Rustic Rook Resort at night under the stars

Best Glamping: Rustic Rook Resort

Knowing where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park is all about knowing the options. The Rustic Rook Resort offers a premium glamping experience, superb location close to the park, and is sure to be a great experience overall.

See the Rustic Rook Resort availability and prices.

All-Inclusive Camping With Full Amenities

I love camping near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and if you’re looking for a similar experience but without all the problems of the usual experience, you’re in luck. 

Forget about the hassle of bringing your own gear or being away from hot showers and flushing toilets, and enjoy the comfort of regular beds and comfortable seating.

Located just 15 minutes from the Park entrance, the Rustic Rook Resort gives you the outdoor experience without compromise. Each room features high-end canvas tents on elevated platforms with well-decorated interiors complete with beds, rugs, seating areas, and other elegant touches.

You’ll find firepits for evening bonfires and s’mores, plus a wood-fired stove in your tent. And of course, amazing views all around, including the Great Sand Dunes themselves and a sky so clear you can see the Milky Way Galaxy like a vibrant stripe across the black canvas.

The inside of a tent glamping room at the Rustic Root Resort near the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Covering Your Needs

One of the worst parts about camping is dealing with faraway bathrooms, but Rustic Rook Resort gets rid of that. You can book estate rooms that have a full bathroom with flushing toilets and hot showers in the tent.

Their more-affordable options rely on shared bathrooms, but they’re centrally located to be no more than 2 minutes from any tent. And they’re single-stall bathrooms with plenty of privacy and running water.

A complimentary breakfast is included, and you can order drinks whenever you want. Plus, Rustic Rook offers order-ahead meals including adventure lunches for your big Park day and full grilling packages.

Despite being far away from most things and offering a truly rustic vibe, all your bases are covered.

The biggest downside is that all this catering and its location close to the park means the price is fairly expensive for a camping experience, even if it’s glamorous. 

Rustic Rook Resort: Rooms and Amenities

Distance to Park:15 minutes from entrance
Rooms Available:Estate tents (5 ppl with bathroom), Homestead tents (4-5 ppl & central bathroom), Add-on kids tents
Seating area in room:Yes, butterfly chairs with sofas in select rooms
Features:Premium glamping experience with staff to cater to your every need, great way to be close to the park and stay in a memorable spot, amazing views

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here.

Entrance to the Best Western Movie Manor Hotel

Best for Movie Night: Best Western Movie Manor

Who doesn’t love a drive-in movie? This hotel near the Great Sand Dunes National Park delivers that same experience but from the comfort of your hotel room. It even throws in movie concessions and playful-themed lobby decorations to dive into the fun.

The rest of the experience hits all the right marks too with clean, spacious rooms and a complimentary breakfast. All at an affordable price.

This is a great place to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, but it is in Monte Vista, about 45 minutes away from the Park entrance. 

See the Best Western Movie Manor rooms and rates.

Settling In for the Show

Make sure to book a room to catch the silver screen from the comfort of your hotel bed or balcony. The rooms have a built-in speaker and a view of both screens. It’s a great way to settle in before or after a day exploring the mountains of sand.

And if you want the authentic drive-in experience, use your room card to drive into either of the theaters to see the show. Don’t forget to grab some popcorn from the concessions.

A room with a view of the drive-in screen inside the Best Western Movie Manor

Well-Serviced Hotel

If you are concerned about the movie experience distracting from hotel accommodations, I’m pleased to settle your nerves. The rooms get stellar reviews. They are clean and spacious, with seating areas and comfortable beds.

Even things like wall-mounted full-size toiletries are there to ensure your satisfaction.

It is a 45-minute drive to the Park entrance or about 1 hour to the parking lot, so be sure to factor that into your decision. But there is a highly-reviewed Mexican restaurant next door and the town of Monte Vista is a stone’s throw away.

Best Western Movie Manor: Rooms and Amenities

Distance to Park:45 minutes to entrance
Rooms Available:Variety of king, queen, and double size selections (with and without movie view)
Seating area in room:Yes
Breakfast:Complimentary breakfast bar
Features:Two drive-in movie screens with views from select rooms, clean and comfortable rooms, but a little far away from the Great Sand Dunes

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here.

A view from one of the hot springs pools near the Great Sand Dunes at Joyful Journey Hot Springs Resort

Best Hot Springs Resort: Joyful Journey Hot Springs

Whether you do some Great Sand Dunes National Park hiking or sandboarding, you’re sure to work up a sweat. Heading back to your hotel for a massage and soaking in hot springs might be exactly what you need.

If so, the Joyful Journey Hot Springs is where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s located about 45 minutes north of the Park entrance and is a well-rounded hot springs spa that you’re certain to find relaxing.

Learn more about the Joyful Journey Hot Springs resort. 

Peaceful Lodging and Mineral Hot Springs

The Joyful Journey Hot Springs offers six types of lodging, all on peaceful and beautiful property. You can stay in The Lodge’s traditional hotel rooms, The Casita rental house, yurts, tipis, RV sites, and tent/car camping spots. It has it all covered.

But most importantly, the retreat is packed with multiple soaking pools and jacuzzis, running from a temperature of 98 F up to a therapeutic 108. 

These Great Sand Dunes pools feature sodium bicarbonate water with boron, calcium, lithium, magnesium, and other beneficial minerals. They’re known for their therapeutic healing powers.

The interior of a room at the Joyful Journey Hot Springs Lodge Hotel

Delicious Food and Plentiful Activities

The on-site food receives rave reviews as the best in the valley, packed with vegan and vegetarian options from breakfast to dinner. A complimentary breakfast is included with every overnight stay.

There is an entire selection of amenities and activities for you to enjoy. The full-service spa handles next-level relaxation, but there’s also a peaceful meditation hill and a labyrinth modeled after the Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. It has eleven circuits for meditation purposes.

Weekend morning yoga sessions are included for overnight guests as well.

Joyful Journey Hot Springs: Rooms and Amenities

Distance to Park:45 minutes from entrance
Rooms Available:Double queen, king suite, king, rental house, yurts, tipis, RV/car/tent camping sites
Seating area in room:Depends on room and accommodations type
Features:On-site hot springs, relaxation areas, yoga classes, vegetarian food, full-service spa

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here. 

The restored original sign of the Frontier Drive-Inn

Best Glamping With Movie: Frontier Drive Inn

If you’re having a hard time deciding between glamping and the drive-in movie experience, I have great news. The Frontier Drive Inn hotel near the Great Sand Dunes National Park has both.

This gem is recently renovated, bringing life back to a local drive-in theater that first opened in 1955, but now as a drive-inn with overnight suites and glamping yurts.

When you want to know where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes and want to enjoy a well-rounded experience, this is it.

See the Frontier Drive Inn rooms and rates

Bring Back Valley Greatness

After running movies for 30 years, the Frontier Drive-In Theater sat empty since 1986. But a small group of passionate owners brought it back, not only as a drive-in theater but also as an overnight place to stay and a hub for culture and the arts.

They’ve restored the original neon sign and 40’ screen, and added a full glamping experience plus luxurious suites.

Every element has been carefully selected with supreme taste, from the art on the walls to the blankets on the bed. This labor of love is far from the tasteless corporate experience you can find at other hotels near the Great Sand Dunes.

A room at the Frontier Drive-Inn Hotel near the Great Sand Dunes
The interior of a yurt at the Frontier Drive Inn Hotel

Check the Schedule First

Since the Frontier Drive-Inn is just picking up steam again, they are currently sticking to playing movies and offering chef-prepared food Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Outside of that, there is a full kitchen available for communal use, and the grounds are still worth staying in. But the movie won’t be part of the fun unless perhaps you put up your own mini projector

Also, since it is only recently reopened, the customer feedback so far is fairly limited. Usually, this would cause us to leave it off our best-of list.

But in this case, the available feedback is spectacular. And the entire Frontier Drive-Inn mission and experience appear so well done, we want to drive people there in droves. 

With a great mission as a revival of a local gem that brings in camping and art, this is one of our favorite places to stay near the Great Sand Dunes.

Frontier Drive Inn: Rooms and Amenities

Distance to Park:40 minutes from entrance
Rooms Available:Steelmasters luxury rooms for 1-2 ppl with bathrooms or glamping yurts for 1-2 ppl with separate spa-like bathhouse
Seating area in room:Yes
Breakfast:Communal kitchen available
Features:Drive-in movie screen, luxury suites and glamping, history-filled venue with new art installations

Check to see if there’s a room available for your dates by clicking here

The Great Sand Dunes National Park as seen by the entrance

Other Alamosa Hotel Choices

If the best of the best list doesn’t have what you want, there are many other choices. We’ll start with this list of other hotels near Great Sand Dunes in Alamosa, then hop up to Monte Vista, and finish up with rental houses and camping.

Let’s kick things off with the rest of the top hotels in Alamosa, which are about 30 minutes from the Park gates and 45 minutes from the parking lot.

The Sunset Inn: Great Value

With a focus on customer satisfaction at an excellent price, The Sunset Inn offers a reliable place to stay in a convenient Alamosa location.

Each room has a kitchenette with a sink, fridge, and microwave so you can prepare some food in the room. It also includes a decent complimentary breakfast.

See if rooms are available for your dates.

Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott: Reputable and Reliable

Everyone knows the Marriott name, and the Fairfield Inn and Suites deliver exactly what you’d expect from this global brand. The rooms are clean and there are home-like suites complete with sofa and desk. You’ll also find a Great Sand Dunes pool at this hotel, along with a fitness center.

The reviews are overall positive, and even though the neighboring Hampton Inn is more upscale, this hotel offers more reasonable rates for a similar experience. It is closer to the highway than the Hampton Inn but still has a little separation.

Check to see if there are rooms available for your dates.

Best Western Alamosa: A Nice Surprise

As another well-known name, Best Western Hotels are typically a pretty safe bet. And this location in Alamosa is no different. In fact, I think this one punches outside of its weight class with the greenhouse-like pool roof and more modern amenities.

There were more negative reviews that I like to see, some about road noise and some related to maintenance or cleaning. Nonetheless, it seems like a reliable hotel near the Great Sand Dunes National Park that can work well for your visit, especially as a more affordable option.

Check room availability and prices by clicking here.

The dry Medano Creek during September; other times this is a flooded valley

Monte Vista Hotels: The Alternatives

Located 45 minutes from the Great Sand Dunes National Park front gate, Monte Vista is a nice town to call home for your visit. As described above, our top choice is the Best Western Movie Manor with its unique drive-in theater visible from select rooms.

Check the prices and availability.

But Monte Vista has other viable alternatives.

Rio Grande Motel: Colorado Feel With Excellent Price

This hotel makes it clear you’re close to the wonderful Rio Grande National Forest, sporting a cabin-like feel with hunting trophies and rustic decor.

The price can’t be beaten, the location is superb, and most guests are satisfied with their stay. It’s a little more homey than other options, and it seems like there’s a caring owner who puts together a solid overall stay. Likely the best budget option in town.

Check availability and prices by clicking here.

Sandhill Inn & Suites: No Frills Rest

As an affordable hotel near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Sandhill Inn & Suites is a good place to get a little rest. Most people are happy with the rooms, beds, and cleanliness. Plus, the included breakfast seems to hit the spot.

The pool looks like it’s been out of commission for some time and there are some other maintenance worries, but if those aren’t a priority and you’re just looking for a bed and breakfast, this hotel will do the trick.

Check the prices and availability by clicking here.

Monte Villa Hotel: Surrounded by Goodness

The Monte Villa Hotel has excellent curb appeal and is right next to some of the best things in Monte Villa. Rain House Restaurant and Bar, Quincy’s Steakhouse and Spirits, and Nino’s Mexican Restaurant are all right out the front steps.

It is a 3-star option with relatively low prices, but the interior is a little less impressive. 

And the owner’s public responses to negative feedback are concerning, to put it mildly. There’s no shortage of long-winded rants about why the poor experience was the guest’s fault, including mentions of race, calling people dirty, and overall demeaning behavior.

With so many other options for where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes, I’m not sure it’s worth risking this kind of treatment as a patron.

Someone sledding down a dune at the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes Rentals: The Comfort of Home Away From Home

Rental houses can be great for bigger groups or when you want the comfort and convenience of having an entire home to use. Plus, when it comes to where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes, the hotels are a little limited and there’s a surprising amount of rental homes.

The Vrbo listings for Crestone have tons of cute cabins, adobe homes, and more Great Sand Dunes rentals. All have excellent views since Crestone is tucked up against the mountains.

You can now also find rental homes on Booking.com, including this Cozy Colorado Retreat. Expedia has a good amount of listings for Great Sand Dunes rentals too, and many of them are in the same price range per night as the best hotels in the area.

Camping Near Great Sand Dunes National Park

You don’t have to stay in a hotel, even if you’re flying in from afar. And camping near the Great Sand Dunes National Park can be a great way to soak in the Colorado air and wilderness near the Park. After all, the towns nearby aren’t the state’s main tourist attractions.

If you want to know how to camp when you’re flying in, hop over to Outdoorsy. You can rent tow-behind or drivable RVs, campervans, and more from nearly any location around Colorado. It’s a great way to enjoy your Colorado visit.

Since I’m all for the remote campsites, my favorite way to camp near the Great Sand Dunes is in the dispersed camping area that’s accessible through the Park’s Primitive Road. But this four-wheel-drive-only road isn’t for everyone.

We have an entire post about camping near the Great Sand Dunes, so check that out for a full rundown of what you need to know. It includes the top campsites, campgrounds, and all the tips you need to make your visit a blast.

The sign for the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs

Getting to the Great Sand Dunes National Park

This National Park is pretty isolated. So getting to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado basically requires a car. 

We recommend DiscoverCars.com as the best way to find a rental car, both in Denver and Colorado Springs. It compiles all the top rental car agencies in the same place, immediately shows you what’s included in the package, and offers excellent customer service to back up all rentals made through the service.

Denver to Great Sand Dunes

There are two major routes you can take to get from Denver to the Sand Dunes. Both take about 4 hours without traffic. Denver traffic can be fairly brutal, so plan accordingly. Traffic around Colorado Springs can be pretty bad too.

The easiest route takes I-25 south out of Denver, through Colorado Springs and Pueblo, before heading west. I-25 is the fastest highway and is essentially flat, offering a quick easy route. If you’re going from the airport, it will probably suggest using the E-470 toll road, which is quick but expensive. You can also take 225, just watch out for rush-hour traffic.

The other route from Denver to the Sand Dunes is going west on I-70 to Highway 285. This drive is much more scenic, bringing you near Evergreen, Buena Vista, and Salida. If you have some extra time or just want to get a feel for the mountains, this is the better route to take.

Salida is a nice little town to stop at on the way, with plenty of restaurants and bars. Riverside Park on the Arkansas River is a nice spot as well. 

There are times when 285 can get backed up with traffic, typically aligned with people coming or going from Denver for weekend adventures (e.g., Friday evenings going west and Sunday afternoons coming back east to Denver). It’s also more susceptible to extreme weather events.

Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes

Flying into Colorado Springs gets you a little closer to the Sand Dunes, by about an hour and a half or so. Once again, you can choose between the quicker route south on I-25 or a scenic route west on US-24 to 285.

South takes you through Pueblo, which is a rapidly expanding city with some excellent restaurants, and a growing area near the recently renovated Pueblo Riverwalk.

If you head west on US-24 instead, you’ll pass near the Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs, known for its natural carbonated spring water (with free fountains in town) and The Incline hike (free reservations required). We have a guide to Manitou Springs.

Great Sand Dunes to Mesa Verde

All of the National Parks in Colorado offer something memorable, and the loop from the Great Sand Dunes to Mesa Verde is a great way to enjoy two of the lesser-known parks. After hiking in the remote, inhospitable dunes, you can head west to see some of the area’s oldest housing, stretching back to 550 A.D.

There’s basically only one route to take from Great Sand Dunes to Mesa Verde, and that’s heading west on Highway 160 through Pagosa Springs and Durango. As far as Colorado driving goes, it’s a pretty easy stretch of road that doesn’t involve intense mountain passes.

Pagosa Springs is known for its hot springs, the San Juan River, and Pagosa Lake. It has plenty of rental houses available. I enjoy Durango’s downtown area with multiple breweries and restaurants along the banks of the Animas River. 

Check out our other post on visiting and camping near Mesa Verde National Park for more details.

17 Great Options for Camping Near Mesa Verde National Park

Visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park: Top Tips

There are a few other items worth knowing before going to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

Best Time To Visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes themselves don’t change too much throughout the year, but the hospitality of the surrounding area changes dramatically, and unless you’re prepared for brutal winter weather with blowing winds and serious snow, you’ll want to avoid visiting then.

The San Luis Valley, where the Sand Dunes are located, is a wide open plains-like area surrounded by tall mountain peaks. During the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), fast-moving weather patterns can change everything in an instant. If you visit then, it’s important to be aware of how the weather is expected to change throughout the day and plan accordingly with appropriate gear and travel plans.

The spring can be a great time to visit the Sand Dunes because the snow melt turns Buck Creek into an actual river. Since it runs between the parking lot and the Dunes themselves, it might force you to wade through some water before hiking. It can also make driving to the Primitive Road campsites much more challenging.

But it transforms the parking lot area on a Colorado beach. On a warm spring day, it’s a great place to hang out for hours, enjoy a picnic or barbecue, and do some hiking or sandboarding.

Summer can get a little hot, especially in late July and August. If you visit then, it’s best to visit the Dunes and do any hiking early in the day. Then you can seek shade in the afternoon.

Fall is a great time to visit, especially with the changing leaves in the mountains around the Dunes. The river’s water levels will be at their lowest, meaning you’ll be nice and dry for any Dunes adventures.

Looking for other Colorado camping ideas? Head over to our posts on camping near Red Feather Lakes or Winter Park.

Things To Do in the Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sandboarding and hiking are two of the most common adventures people do when at the Great Sand Dunes. You can rent sandboards on the way into the Park at the gas station and tourist shop that’s by the Park entrance sign (before you drive about 15 minutes to the parking lot).

The Dunes are essentially wide open for hiking, but most people head up to the High Dune, which is exactly what you think, one of the highest dunes in the Park with excellent 360-degree views.

I will admit that hiking and sandboarding are much more intense than I thought before arriving. The Dunes can be surprisingly steep, making long hikes rather challenging, especially with nowhere to rest in the shade.

You’ll want to bring a good amount of water, along with a hat and sunscreen. Also, like most high-alpine hiking, be careful with afternoon hikes as lightning can roll in quickly. You’ll be sticking up like a sore thumb anywhere on the dunes.

Sandboarding is really up to you. Stick near the parking lot for easy slopes that don’t generate too much speed. If you hike up a big slope, you’re going to get some serious speed. And the sand isn’t quite as forgiving as you’d imagine. But it’s a blast!

Also, you can backpack to campsites overnight on the Dunes. An advanced permit and reservation are required. There are routes and campsites for nearly any level of backpacker, from 1-mile hikes to intense 11.6-mile treks. Check the NPS site for more Great Sand Dunes NP backpacking information.  

For other camping, see our post on Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping.

The view of where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park at the Lodge Hotel

Where To Stay Near the Great Sand Dunes National Park: Wrap Up

With so many great hotels near the Great Sand Dunes, you can choose anything to match your tastes. The Hampton Inn Alamosa is a great, reliable option to do the job, while the Dunes Inn Alamosa is a more affordable and centrally located alternative.

The Great Sand Dunes Lodge is the only hotel in the Great Sand Dunes Park by the entrance gate, while the Rustic Rook Resort glamping experience is also nearby. 

Head over to the Best Western Movie Manor or the Frontier Drive Inn for a movie-filled experience. Or go to Joyful Journey Hot Springs for a spa-like relaxing time.

No matter what you select on this list for where to stay near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’re sure to have an amazing visit. Just don’t forget to get up early so you can hike up the massive Dunes!

What’s after Great Sand Dunes? Going to Mesa Verde or the magical Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

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