Great Sand Dunes National Park

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.

Great Sand Dunes 1

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.

Great Sand Dunes 2


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!

Optimized-Sand Dunes Family

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!


Medano Creek

Paddling in the Medano Creek was a treat on our way back!



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!

Optimized-Great Sand Dunes National Park

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A Weekend in Santa Fe

Adam and I are thoroughly in the “Why spend money on Stuff, when you can go on Vacation instead?” camp. We just celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary and buying presents gives my dear husband major anxiety, so I thought I’d spare his pain and suggest a road trip instead. Of course he jumped at the idea, because we are soul mates and agree that making memories is waaaay better than filling our house with junk! We soon settled on a long weekend in Santa Fe seeing as Colorado and Wyoming can be a bit more bipolar weather-wise at this time of year. As it so happens, we could not have asked for a more perfect weekend in New Mexico!

So, I will start with our digs for our stay!

The Accommodation

We are avid fans of Airbnb, VRBO and the likes. We haven’t stayed in a hotel in years, and this trip was no exception. This time, I selected Anita’s Casita and couldn’t have been happier with the place. The casita consists of a main bedroom, bathroom and huge outdoor space complete with firepit- the perfect space for a couple and their dog for a long weekend. We were so grateful it was dog friendly and had 24 hour check in, which makes that long drive a lot less stressful! We will 100% book this place again if we are back in the area.



Dave approved of all our outdoor space!



Santa Fe is well known for its food scene and whilst I won’t list everywhere we ate, we do have a few favorites that deserve honorable mentions!

Maria’s of Santa Fe

If you’re wanting to get stuck into that famous New Mexican cuisine, Maria’s is the place for you!  Unassuming from the outside, and not in the center of town, you must get here somehow during your stay! Everything we ate here was phenomenal. The posole and green chile stew alone would have me coming back for more, but the complementary Sopaipillas are to die for! We also tried the Carne Adovada and Galisteo Chicken which were also fantastic picks- Adam was making the yummy noises he usually only reserves for my cooking; I normally would have been jealous but holy crap, that food was amazing! I am sad we live so far away, because I’m sure we’d be regulars if we lived there!

Kakawa Chocolate House

Our sweet little casita was a 2 minute walk from this place, and so was completely dangerous! Kakawa serves a vast array of delicacies that I doubt you could find anywhere else. Blueberry and Basil truffle? Yes please! Goats Cheese and Sage chocolate? Well now I’m curious! The stars of the show however, are their famous Chocolate Elixirs, which will be the most intense Hot Chocolate experience of your life. They have two boards to choose from- the original Mesoamerican recipes based on Mayan and Aztec concoctions, or historical European recipes from 1600-1800’s. I personally went for The Jeffersonian containing a little vanilla and nutmeg and enjoyed it immensely.



We are generally not city people, so seeing all the hiking and sights around Santa Fe was very appealing to us. We did not manage to see all there was to do in just 2 short days, but I think we got a nice taster of the area for when we come back.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

This hike may not be the most challenging we’ve ever done, but it is most certainly up there with the most beautiful!

Pro-tip for this hike. Go Early. Like, go for opening time early. We got there at 8am and enjoyed a relatively private and peaceful walk up the Slot Canyon, but by the time we were ready to come back, the parking lots were already full and it was pretty tricky trying to get past all the people coming the other direction in certain spots.

That being said, if you have limited time and can only do one hike your whole trip, Tent Rocks will not disappoint, especially if you have never been to this area like us. The canyon and the rock formations are so wonderfully unique and bizarre, you sort of feel like you’re in a Star Wars ambush scene! We did not encounter any Jawas on our trip, but the views were spectacular!

slot viewslot


5 years married, we may love each other a little 😉



Atalaya Mountain Hike

So, we did bring our dog with us. If we hadn’t we probably would have gone to do some other non dog-friendly activities such as Bandelier National Monument, but we felt we owed Dave a good hike as he couldn’t go to the Tent Rocks the day before. I hopped on Alltrails and found the Atalaya trail from St John’s College, about 5 minutes away from our digs.

The Atalaya Hike was a lot more challenging than Tent Rocks- 6 miles out and back up to the Atalaya summit, offering views of Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains. The view from the summit is lovely and probably offers a great escape from the heat in the summer- we definitely appreciated the breeze up there after such a challenging ascent. At one point the trail splits into a “Steep Route” and “Easier route”. The steep route is great if you want to push yourself physically but the Easier route (which we took on the way down) is a lot more picturesque as it scales the side of the incline, rather than just ploughing straight up.


As for being dog-friendly, the trail does start off in the brush for the first half-mile or so, but afterwards there is plenty of tree cover to keep even our heat-sensitive pup cool. Dave gives his doggy seal of approval too!



Santa Fe Proper

Other than our hikes we spent a lot of time just wandering Santa Fe itself. We ate tamales in the Plaza and checked out a few of the hundreds of Art Galleries throughout the city. Whilst very touristy in places, Santa Fe has held onto it’s Old World charm which we appreciated.


San Miguel church

San Miguel Chapel- the oldest church in the USA!


We had a wonderful anniversary weekend away and didn’t put a dent in all the things this area of New Mexico has to offer. We look forward to exploring some more some day!

Santa Fe