The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
If you have ever experienced Springtime in the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado, the fierce winds will allow you to understand very quickly how the Great Sand Dunes, rich in beauty, culture, and history, came to be.
One of Colorado’s four National Parks, this beach-like oasis, nestled up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains provides not only a protected habitat for several species of wildlife within the park, but an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind experience for anyone who visits, including you and your four-legged adventure buddy!
From the cool, crisp waters of the Médano Creek, to the top of the towering dunes, this park offers 30-square miles of awe-inducing adventure you and your pup must experience to believe! The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of North America’s most dog-friendly National Parks, and, provided you follow a few regulations and guidelines and prepare a little in advance for your trip, you and your pup are sure to have a good time!
What You Should Know Before You Go
If you and Fido are planning a day trip to the Great Sand Dunes, or if you intend to camp out for a few days within the National Park, there are a few things you should know before you go.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of only a handful of national parks that allow pets to join their owners and experience the park first hand–or rather, first paw, so long as the regulations and guidelines are followed.
- Pets must remain on leash at all times – less than 6 foot leash is recommended
- Pets must remain within the regulated pet-friendly areas of the park (see map below)
- Pets may not be left tied to vehicles, trees or other objects
- Owners must clean up after their pets and carry out any waste
- Owners must not allow pets to chase (or interact) with wildlife
Any pet owners found violating park regulations in any way may be cited and/or fined. It is up to each pet owner to act responsibly and follow all regulations so the park will continue to allow pet owners to bring their favorite furry friends along to share in the fun!
It is important to check the weather before heading to the park if you plan on bringing your pup along to hike the dunes!
During the summer months, the sweltering sand temperatures can reach up to 150 degrees F from late morning into the late afternoon, so plan to hike first thing in the morning or closer to evening to avoid heat exhaustion and burnt paws!
Thunderstorms can also be cause for concern while at the park with your pet. Many dogs experience fear and anxiety as storms approach, and will be less likely to listen to commands or stay close to their owners if unleashed. If thunderstorms start to roll in, it’s best to pack up and quickly head to the safety of your vehicle.
Plan ahead for all weather conditions by checking the webcam, National Weather Service Pinpoint Forecasts, and review the average temperature by visiting the Great Sand Dunes Weather page of the NPS.gov website!
Another thing to consider before heading to spend a day at the dunes with your pup during the warmer months is the conditions of the seasonal Médano Creek.
The Médano Creek flows out of the mountains seasonally, dependent solely on how much snow is received in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above the dunes.The creek winds and washes across the park, providing much needed cooling relief for both people and pets from the heat and hot sand.
To check the creek’s current conditions, webcam and forecast flow before you head to the park for a day of romping around in the sun and sand, please visit the Médano Creek page of the NPS.gov website!
Pet owners can still visit the park with Fido even if the creek is not flowing, but keep in mind that pets can easily overheat, and paws can easily be scorched! Sand temperatures can easily reach 150 degrees F from late morning through late afternoon.
To insure you and your pet have a positive experience when visiting the park and preserve, there are several regulations and guidelines that should be followed and kept in mind when visiting the park with your pup:
- Collar with Current Tags – it is recommended that your pet have a collar with current tags and up-to-date owner contact information on at all times while inside the park
- Leash Law – Pets must be on a leash less than 6 feet long at all times
- Pets in Vehicles – Pets must never be left unattended in vehicles – even with windows cracked, dogs can still easily overheat when left in vehicles
- Protect their Paws – invest in some dog booties to protect their paws from the extreme temperatures of the sand, or plan to visit early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the scorching sand temperatures
- Cactus Spines – desert grasslands that surround the dunes contain prickly pear cactus; walk carefully through grassy areas to avoid injury to your pet from the sharp spines of the cactus – consider carrying tweezers or pliers to remove any cactus spines your dog might pick up while at the park
- Bring Plenty of Fresh Water – although the Médano Creek provides fresh, cool water from the mountains’ snow runoff, there is still a possibility of microscopic organisms in water that can make your pup quite sick. Giardia and cryptosporidium are just a few of the possible bugs in water that can cause gastrointestial upset in your pup. Aside from the possibility of upset-tummy-causing micro organisms in the water, toxins from sunscreen is another concern for your four-legged friend. Although it would take excessive amounts of sunscreen-contaminated water to cause stomach irritation, it’s still a good rule of thumb to bring plenty of fresh drinking water to keep Fido hydrated.
- Sunscreen – Dogs, especially breeds with short fur, white fur, and pink skin, can easily sunburn, so it’s important to limit your dog’s exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and apply a dog-safe sunscreen to the ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.
- Pet First Aid Kit -It’s a good idea to always have a pet first aid kit handy if you plan on taking your four-legged adventure buddy hiking or camping, so it would be wise to bring one along with you to the sand dunes in case any small pet emergencies arise.
- Ticks – Anytime your pet has been out romping around in nature, it’s a good rule of thumb to check them from nose to tail, and everywhere in between, for ticks. In the event that you do find a tick on your dog, you should use fine-point tweezers or a tick removal kit to avoid tearing the tick and spreading possible infections into the bite area. Start by spreading your dog’s fur, then grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and very gently, pull straight upward, in a slow, steady motion.
- Wildlife – To prevent injuries, never allow your pet to get close to a wild animal. Deer may kick, mountain lions or bears may attack, coyotes may chase, badgers may bite, and porcupines may release quills. Avoid all possible contact with wildlife within the park and preserve.
- Emergency Veterinarians – In the event that you do find yourself with a pet emergency while at the Great Sand Dunes, there are several pet clinics and hospitals in the San Luis Valley to choose from! Alpine Veterinary Hospital in both Alamosa and Monte Vista offer after-hour emergency veterinary services for an additional fee.
The National Park Service has put together a printable PDF regarding pets at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve that outlines where pets are and are not allowed within the park, pet safety, and protecting the park and other visitors.
What to Pack
A quick list of things you should definitely not forget to bring to the Great Sand Dunes, for a day of fun in the sun, if Fido is coming, too:
- Collar with current tags
- Spare Leash
- Plenty of fresh water and a water dish – check out these collapsible pet dishes, or, even better, the Highwave AutoDogMug that offers the convenience of a water jug and dish in one!
- Dog-Safe Sunscreen – Epi-Pet Sun Protector is our top choice!
- Poo Bags – Earth Rated Pet Waste bags are durable and made from recycled materials!
- Pet First Aid and Tick Removal kit
- High-protein treats
- Proof of vaccinations and/or your veterinarian’s contact information
- Toys for Fido – We love the Kong Aqua toy for water time! It floats, easy to throw, and provides hours of fun!
- Seat Covers – Trust us when we say, if you have not yet invested in a seat cover hammock, you will want to do so before your trip to the sand dunes! The BarksBar Original Pet Seat Cover is our favorite! It’s waterproof, keeps all of that sand your pup is sure to bring with him from slipping into every crevasse in your vehicle, and it is completely washable!
- National Parks Service printable PDF for Pet Owners
Dog-Friendly Adventures Await
The Great Sand Dunes offers 30 square miles of the highest sand dunes in all of North America, some of them peaking around 755 feet, a seasonal creek to splash and cool off in, maintained camp grounds that your pup is allowed to join you in, breathtaking views, a plethora of tantalizing odors your canine companion is sure to enjoy, and a setting for incredible adventures that are sure to make your pup’s tail wag years from now at the mention of the Great Sand Dunes National Park!
So what are you waiting for? Dog-friendly adventures in the San Luis Valley await!
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Visitor Center Address:
11999 State Highway 150
Mosca, CO 81146
Visitor Center Phone Number: (for general visitor inquiries)
Main Phone Number: (for specific extensions, or listen to recorded park information)
Contact the Park:
SLV Pet Resources is not directly affiliated with the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We do our best to keep all of the information we provide to you as up-to-date as possible, however, if you have any questions about anything you have read, it is best to call the park ahead of time to verify all information and regulations are current.