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Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip Itinerary

Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Journey from Denver to Southern Colorado’s desert paradise, where you’ll find North America’s tallest sand dunes, some of the most mystifying stargazing opportunities in the country, and perhaps the most unexpected beach in all of Colorado. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is less than 4 hours away from Denver, though it feels like a world away from the bustling city. To help get you started, we’ve compiled the ultimate Colorado road trip from Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Travel Time from Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park

This Colorado road trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park follows a round trip route, starting and ending at the Escape Camper Vans location in Denver. This drive would take approximately 8 hours to complete without stopping and covers 476 miles. We recommend allotting at least four days to complete this trip.


Directions Tips:

From Denver, we recommend taking 285 S down to Great Sand Dunes National Park for a beautifully scenic drive. Your other option is to take I-25 south most of the way- it’s usually a bit faster, but the drive is far less picturesque.

TOTAL MILES: 476 miles

TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: 4 days, driving 8 hours

Best Time of Year for a Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip

The best time of year to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park is either in the fall or spring. The crowds aren’t overwhelming, and the temperature is perfect for exploring the dunes. If you want to swim in Medano Creek, late May and early June are usually ideal.

While the summer is the most popular time to visit, the sand can be unbearably hot under the blazing sun. Without any shade on the dunes, there’s little respite from the immense heat. Because of this, driving to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park may be a better fit for a summer road trip. 

The winter into early spring brings challenging conditions, especially in March and April. The weather in Great Sand Dunes National Park becomes unpredictable and there are very heavy winds, which are especially unpleasant on the dunes. 

However, if you do want to see the towering dunes under a blanket of snow, January and February provide amazing opportunities to experience the park in near-solitude. Just remember that many nearby facilities and campgrounds will be closed during the off-season, and you will need to add in snow chains for your campervan rental.

Preparation for a Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip

Setting out on a Great Sand Dunes National Park road trip is guaranteed to be a memorable journey, though a bit of planning ahead is required. To make sure that your trip goes off without a hitch, here’s how to prep for your upcoming adventure:

Plan Ahead

Camping: Because of Great Sand Dunes’ popularity, aim to book your campsites at least two months in advance. If sites fill up before you’re able to book anything, you may want to look into dispersed (or free) camping options nearby.

Supplies: Since most restaurants are 30 minutes away from the park, we recommend planning your meals and stocking up your campervan’s fridge with everything you need before hitting the road. Escape Camper Vans has tons of helpful add-ons, so be sure to include a kitchen kit, along with camping chairs for added comfort at your campsites. 

Sun protection: If you’re driving to Great Sand Dunes National Park in the summer, be prepared for hot temperatures and minimal shade. Add in a door canopy to help protect yourself from the sun, and don’t forget to pack your sunscreen!

Navigation Tools

Phone Chargers: Since your smartphone can serve as your GPS, don’t forget to bring a charger. A portable charger is also necessary, as you won’t be able to charge anything while your campervan is off.

Park Map: Great Sand Dunes National Park has very minimal cell reception. As an extra precaution, grab a free park from the ranger when you arrive.

Which Campervan is Best for a Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip?

Escape Camper Vans offers an extensive fleet of campervan models to choose from. From our Denver location, choose from the Del Mar, Mavericks, or Mesa. All sleep up to 5 people (with a rooftop sleeper), have a queen sized bed, and contain a kitchenette. The Mavericks is slightly more compact than the other two, so consider your group size and how much extra space you need when deciding which model is best for you.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip Stops

Day 1 – Drive from Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Your journey to the dunes begins bright and early at the Escape Camper Vans in Denver, CO. Once you’re on the road, take 285 S down to Great Sand Dunes National Park for an incredibly scenic drive. If you drive straight to the park without stopping, it should take about 3 hours and 45 minutes, though we have a feeling you’ll want to make a few pit stops to take in the gorgeous scenery!

Once you arrive at Great Sand Dunes, you’ll be met with a vast landscape of North America’s tallest sand dunes. After settling into your campsite, have some fun exploring the dunes- but make sure you save some energy for the evening. Because of its high elevation and lack of air pollution, Great Sand Dunes is a premier spot for stargazing!

Campervan Friendly Campsites near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Piñon Flats CampgroundGreat Sand Dunes NP&P, 11999 CO-150, Mosca, CO 81146: As the only campground inside the park, this is an ideal base for making the most of your time in Great Sand Dunes. The site is open from April through October, requires advanced reservations which can be made up to 6 months ahead of time, and does not offer any hook-ups. 

Zapata Falls Campground– Highway 150, Mosca, CO 81146: This year-round, primitive campground can be reserved up to 6 months in advance. The site is located only 7 miles south of Great Sand Dunes, and offers stunning views of the park.

Oasis Campground800 CO-150, Mosca, CO 81146: Open from April through October, this facility is located just outside of the park entrance, making it a super convenient alternative to sleeping inside Great Sand Dunes National Park. Reservations must be made in advance, and the site features showers, a small convenience store, and an on-site restaurant. 

Day 2 – Explore Great Sand Dunes National Park

After a hearty breakfast at your campsite, it’s time to experience the dunes! The sand dunes don’t have any designated trails, so you’re free to roam freely around the 30 square mile dunefield. High Dune on First Ridge is one of the most popular dunes to explore, while Hidden Dune and Star Dune are tied as the two highest dunes in North America, with both measuring at 741 feet. 

The dunes can get very hot in the summer, so if you need to cool off there are three forested trails in the park to check out. Mosca Pass Trail is a popular, 3.5 mile trail that provides plenty of shade!

Things to do in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Go Sandboarding and Sand Sledding: While hiking up the park’s giant sand dunes is a must, soaring down the dunes might be the most fun way to experience them! There are numerous locations outside of the park to rent boards or sleds, and riding them is permitted anywhere on the dunes, as long as you’re not near a vegetated area.

Medano Creek: Cool off in this seasonal creek, which creates one of Colorado’s most peculiar beaches. Due to the snowfall from nearby mountains, the stream’s “peak” flow is usually from late spring to early fall. Viewing the unexpected body of water surrounded by the country’s tallest sand dunes is truly a special sight!

Zapata Falls: While located outside of Great Sand Dunes, this stunning waterfall in San Luis Valley is only 15 minutes away from the park’s entrance. The impressive falls are worth the side-trip, and provide a breathtaking view of the dunes.

Places to Eat near Great Sand Dunes National Park

For most dining options near the park, you’ll need to drive 30 minutes to the city of Alamosa. Otherwise, use the park’s remote location to put your campervan’s kitchenette to good use!

The Oasis Restaurant $$ 7800 CO-150, Mosca, CO 81146: Located at the same campground outside of the park entrance, this restaurant is the only dining option within 25 miles of Great Sand Dunes National Park. The setting is very casual, and the menu features an array of Southwestern classics, burgers, and comfort food.

Cavillo’s Mexican Restaurant $$400 Main St, Alamosa, CO 81101: This family run business has been operating since 1997, and has some of the best Mexican food in town. The atmosphere is super inviting, the ingredients are always fresh, and they’re also known for making great margaritas! 

The Friar’s Fork & Sanctuary $$– 607 Fourth St, Alamosa, CO 81101: Opened in 2022, this is one of the newest restaurants in Alamosa, and so far it’s been a big hit! Enjoy delicious Italian and Mediterranean dishes in a gorgeous setting, and then pop next door to their Sanctuary lounge for a refreshing craft cocktail.

Escape camper van tour 2017.

Day 3- Drive to Pueblo, Colorado

After packing up your camper van and enjoying a filling breakfast, it’s time to say goodbye to Great Sand Dunes National Park. After about two hours on the road, you’ll arrive at the charming city of Pueblo, CO. Known as “Steel City,” Pueblo is one of the largest steel producing cities in the country.

Explore the historic Arkansas Riverwalk, try the classic “slopper” burger, or relax by the stunning Lake Pueblo. Not only is Pueblo a convenient halfway point between Great Sand Dunes and Denver, but this Southwest city also has plenty to offer for overnight visitors!

Things to do in Pueblo, Colorado

Arkansas Riverwalk: Spanning 32 acres along the Arkansas River, take in stunning waterfront views from historic downtown Pueblo. Admire art installations from local creatives, or find a quiet spot along the river for a relaxing picnic.

Lake Pueblo State Park: Go for a swim in this gorgeous lake, bike along one of many trails, or go for a hike in this picturesque park. There are also several campgrounds inside the park, so this is likely where you’ll camp for the night. 

El Pueblo History Museum: Spend a few hours learning about the culture and rich history of this charming Colorado city. The museum is located right in downtown, so it makes for a convenient stop if you’re exploring the area.

Places to Eat near Pueblo, Colorado

B Street Cafe $121 W B St, Pueblo, CO 81003: Hearty breakfast and lunch options are served on an inviting patio at this charming cafe. They’re only open until 2 pm everyday, and we highly recommend a cup of their Solar Roast Coffee!

Pho 50 $$191 S Purcell Blvd, Pueblo, CO 81007: If you’re craving a break from heavy road trip food, head straight to this delicious, family-owned Vietnamese restaurant. The menu features a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine, and the restaurant offers a welcoming, laid-back ambiance.

Gray’s Coors Tavern $515 W 4th St, Pueblo, CO 81003: You can’t go to Pueblo without trying “The Slopper”- their signature burger topped with green chilis and raw onions. This historic restaurant is where the original “Slopper” was invented back in the 1950’s,  so what better place to give it a try?

Campervan Friendly Campsites in Pueblo, CO

Arkansas Point Campground640, Pueblo, CO 81005: Located along beautiful Lake Pueblo, this scenic campground can be reserved up to 6 months in advance and is open year round. The campsite provides showers (though not in the winter) and flush toilets, and is only 8 miles away from the center of Pueblo.

Juniper Breaks CampgroundF Lp, Pueblo, CO 81007: Also situated along Lake Pueblo, this year-round campground can be booked up to 6 months in advance. The site features restrooms but no showers, and is just beside a lovely bicycle trail.

Day 4 – Drive from Pueblo to Denver, Colorado

Sadly, your road trip adventure comes to an end today. After breakfast in Pueblo, load up your campervan one more time and head to Escape Camper Vans’ Denver location. The drive takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and you’ll need to remember to drop off your campervan by your designated time. 

Pro Tip: If you can, leave Pueblo early in the morning so that you have time to stop about halfway through the drive, at Garden of the Gods. The dramatic sandstone rock formations of this jaw-dropping natural landmark in Colorado Springs are a must-see!

Why Rent a Campervan for a Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip?

When you’re embarking on a Great Sand Dunes National Park road trip, renting an Escape Campervan offers many advantages over a traditional RV. Here are just some of the reasons why a campervan rental is the best fit for your adventure:

 

Mobility and Compactness: Escape Camper Vans are much smaller and more compact than traditional RV’s. Not only does this make them easier to drive and park, but you’ll have a smoother time navigating the many winding roads you’ll encounter on this trip.

Ease of Use: Since our campervans are similar in size to large family vehicles, they are much easier to drive for anyone who isn’t used to steering traditional RV’s. With so much time on the road, feeling comfortable behind the wheel is essential. Renting an Escape Campervan allows for a stress-free commute, rather than the learning curve that comes with driving a big RV.

No Need for Hookups: Because Escape Camper Vans are self-contained, they don’t require any sewer or electric hookups. Many of the campgrounds you’ll encounter on this route offer minimal facilities, but luckily you’ll already have everything you need with your campervan. A traditional RV would require these hookups, therefore leading to a lot more stress when searching for a suitable campsite.

Convenient: Escape Camper Vans already come with a cozy bed and kitchenette, so you’re guaranteed a comfortable camping experience. We’ll make sure you have everything you need before you’re even on the road, so you can focus on making the most of your time on the sand dunes!

Versatile: Our extensive list of extra-add ons ensures that you have everything you need for your trip, and nothing you don’t. From extra bedding and kitchen kits, to a door canopy for some much-needed shade, we have everything you could need for a dream adventure in Great Sand Dunes National Park! Plus, our colorfully designed camper vans make the trip extra fun (and will look amazing in photos against the looming sand dunes)!

In short, Escape Camper Vans are easier to maneuver and don’t come with the added hassles or stress of a traditional RV. With our camper van, you’ll have that much more time to spend immersing yourself in nature out on the dunes.

Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for Your Great Sand Dunes National Park Road Trip

Race down towering sand dunes, see the milky way shine like never before, and immerse yourself in Colorado’s unique desert oasis. Now that you’re ready to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park, all that’s left is to choose your perfect camper van! Reserve your Escape Campervan by clicking the link below and get ready to embark on a dream Colorado road trip from Denver to Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Book My Great Sand Dunes National Park Trip!

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