The quickest route between Denver and Santa Fe is straight down I-25, and whilst not being the most boring Interstate drive in the US, it definitely isn’t the best way home if you have some time on your hands.
Leaving Santa Fe, we took Highway 285 home, which took us up a very picturesque drive through Carson National Forest and offered spectacular mountain views until we hit Alamosa. Once there, we had a choice on our hands, keep heading North through the mountains, or take a cheeky detour East and check out what I can consider one of Colorado’s more bizarre sights.
Whenever you can, always take the detour.
Upon exiting Alamosa, we skirted the gorgeous Blanca Peak to go visit the Sand Dunes. Adam and I often wonder what the first Pioneers thought upon seeing certain aspects of Colorado’s terrain. I was certainly wondering that when we first caught sight of Great Sand Dune National Park. The Dunes sit in a basin of mountains, looking completely out of place, as if someone randomly dumped a million tons of sand underneath the ridge.
I cannot describe the awe inspired by the sheer size of them. When you see them from a distance, they look so small against their mountain backdrop but as you get closer, you can begin to appreciate just how gigantic they are. We had fully intended to climb to the top of the first ridge, but upon arrival we discovered we were very much underprepared for such an undertaking. The sand was so soft, it was like walking through syrup with our heavy hiking boots. Even though it was only 60F out, the unrelenting Colorado sunshine made walking barefoot more than a little toasty too.
So, we wimped out a quarter of the way up and had tons of fun having a family photo shoot instead- Great Sand Dunes is one of the of the few National Parks that allows our four-legged friends to go beyond their parking lot, so Dave had some fun in the sand too! If you are visiting later in the year, I would thoroughly recommend booties to protect your pooch’s paws from the heat of the sand. It was tolerable in the spring but I can’t imagine how hot it gets in the summer!
Lots of Families were enjoying the closest we get to a beach front here in Colorado. The Medano Creek flows through these parts through late Spring usually and that snow melt water is wonderfully cool!
All in all, we found the park to be a awesome and most welcome rest stop on our way home from New Mexico, and I would highly recommend going out of your way to visit if you are road-tripping in the area!