Directions: The Sand Ramp Trail starts at the Pinyon Campground. Enter the park and follow the park road past the Visitor Center to the Pinyon Campground. You may have to park along the road if the parking lot is full but parking should not be a problem. Walk through the campground to the northeastern edge and you'll find the trailhead.
The Sand Ramp Trail is the main hiking trail in the park and it heads north then west skirting the edge of the Dunes. While you could hike the entire trail, it would take multiple days and a shuttle car at the other end. This hike description takes you only 2.5 miles up the trail but makes for a great day hike. You can also camp at one of the backcountry campsites. I strongly suggest doing so. Hiking at Great Sand Dunes is more difficult then you might think since you are walking through sand and loose soil for most of the way. Spending the night is a wonderful way to get more of an experience than the typical tourist.
From the trailhead head north through open meadows and scrub forests. The first part of the trail weaves through the "escape dunes" and provides wonderful views of the Dunes and Mount Herard in the distance. When you reach the Point of No Return stay on the Sand Ramp Trail, do not turn left and head towards the dunes. After the Point of No Return the trail is more of the same until you reach the wash for Castle Creek, it is just before the Escape Dunes backcountry campsite.
Head west down the wash on a faint trail (or make your own) and follow the wash until it reaches the Castle Creek Picnic Area and the Medano Pass Dirt Road. The Dunes at Castle Creek are phenomenal and awe inspiring. The steep cliff of sand defies physics and medano creek flowing at the base of the dunes is wonderful. Once you are finishing playing the sand and water, head back up the wash to your campsite and return to the trailhead. If you are day hiking, then you can return to the Point of No Return via the Medano Pass road to make a loop.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Sand Ramp Trail to Escape Dunes Backcountry Camp Site
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Distance: 4.8 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 1,000ft
Managing Agency: National Park Service