Home > Vacation > Road Trip – Great Sand Dunes

Road Trip – Great Sand Dunes

Second in a series of posts covering our Texas, New Mexico, Colorado road trip. The destinations for the trip came from Volume 3 of Laurent Martes’ Photographing the Southwest: Colorado & New Mexico.

Park entry sign

Next stop was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This was a long drive from Amarillo and we arrived around 6 or 7. If you makes this drive in the near future, be aware there is a great deal of road construction through Texas and New Mexico. The drive is rather dull, but starts to get scenic the closer you get to the Colorado border. Once you’re in Colorado, WOW. It is just a beautiful area. You have to struggle to keep your eyes on the road.

Part of the lodge

We stayed at the Gread Sand Dunes Lodge next door to the park. It’s not cheap due to the location, but it was worth every penny. Just walk out the back door and watch the sunset on the dunes. In the morning, you can watch the sunrise. If the skies are clear, the night view is incredible as you are in the middle of nowhere. It was fairly cloudy, but cleared up enough for me to get a couple of shots. And bring a jacket. Even June nights can be cold. Hummingbird feeders are set up by the patios at the back door. The hummingbirds have no interest if you are there or not. You can walk right up to them. Be careful of ant beds!

Night sky at the lodge

The wind was blowing hard when we arrived. I was very worried that the dunes would be unvisitable in the morning due to ‘sandstorms’. Thankfully, the winds were not an issue. From the lodge, it is actually a plus. The blowing sand at sunset sets up an eerie glow that is surreal.

Dunes at Sunset

In the morning we drove down to the base of the dunes. You have to walk across a creek to get to the dunes. The water is COLD. I’m guessing the water comes from the snow melting off the mountain. The creek was never more than a few inches deep, so no worries. Even on a weekday, there were alot of people, most of whom are set for a day at the beach. Because that is where you are. Sun’s out, the kids play in the water, and there’s oodles of sand. Very odd for the middle of country. Anyway, I recommend wearing sandles when crosssing, but take a pair of shoes. By late AM, the sand was already getting hot enough to be an issue. Afterwards, we hit up the visitor center again.

Medano Creek

Photography-wise, the usual advice of finding something interesting for your foreground is especially true here. If your photos are nothing but sand, they won’t be too interesting. Look for interesting features or unique patterns the wind or people have created. There’s some grass scattered around the dunes which makes a good foreground. Snow-capped mountains make for an excellent background. Looking back at my photos, I think the camera struggled to find focus sometimes. If you’re not in a rush and you can see your screen, try manual focus. Wide angles worked well for me. We were fortunate to have some excellent clouds to add that extra punch.

While I was gathering links, I discovered some unfortunate news. A few days after we left, lightning started a fire nearby. For now, the dunes are still open.

Photo Gallery

Categories: Vacation
  1. bobzeller
    July 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Wow, What great photos. “Night Sky at the Lodge”, and “Medano Creek” just blow my socks off.


  2. nosajio
    July 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks Bob. I think this was my favorite area. It’s hard to not take a great photo here!

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