PHOTO TOURS / SIGHTSEEING TOURS
No need to for travel to Africa to experience the beauty of an endless sand sea. We have such a place right here in Colorado, and it makes for some of the most amazing and unique photographs you’ll ever take. The natural landscape, which includes dunes upward of 750 feet surrounded by 13,000+ foot alpine peaks, make for amazing photographs of shape and texture. The landscapes are not the only photo opportunity in this park however. We will also be working on using the shapes and unique lighting which the dunes create to produce wonderful abstracts. On an even smaller level, the sand can hide a world of great macro photography including insects, flowers and the sand itself.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park
Day 1: We leave from Golden/Denver and head toward the Great Sand Dunes National Park via an amazingly scenic route through the High Plains of the Central Rockies. During our trip we will stop at the town of Fairplay and take some photos of the restored 1800’s town of South Park Colorado. This location provides a wonderful chance to photograph historical architecture and relics from early Colorado history. OR we can take an alternative route which will allow us to visit the amazing geologic structures found at The Garden of the Gods.
We will arrive at the park in late afternoon. When the light begins to turn we will pack up our gear and head into the dunes. Sunset is the best time to photograph the dunes as the sun casts amazing shadows across the dune peaks and causes the light to burn red from the dust which fills the air (it’s generally quite windy here). We will hike to the top of the tallest dune for broad landscape shots which can include the still snow capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristos in the background.
If the skies are cooperative (and the winds calm enough) we will stay on the dunes and continue to capture amazing imagery as the moon casts its surreal light through the “moonscape” terrain. If the moon is not out then we are still blessed as the sky will fill richly with more stars than you’ve ever seen before. At 8,000 feet and without any cities to produce light pollution, the atmosphere is clear as a bell. The Milky Way can turn the night sky white with stars. This is a fun time for us to practice our long exposure photography.
Day 2: Depending on how late we all stayed out shooting stars, we may again summit the dunes to catch the morning light as it taps the East faces of the dunes and mountains. In general this will not be as colorful as sunset since the air has cleared overnight and does not produce the colorful haze of evening. If we are here during autumn we can hike up the Medano Creek on the Eastern side of the dunes and photograph the cottonwood trees which are bright with color as the leaves turn lovely colors.
We also have the option to visit the unique Zapata Falls. This high altitude water fall is set back within a small cave and provides for some really exciting photographs. In addition it’s just a lot of fun to play in, and a great way to cool off. From the falls we also have views in excess of 100 miles on a clear day with the Great Dunes clearly visible below us.
Around noon we will begin our journey back to Denver.
We will be staying in the nearby towns of Alamosa or Monte Vista. You specify the level of accommodations you wish to have and we will make all the arrangements for your party. Pricing will vary dependent on the level of accommodations and its proximity to the park.
About the Park
The Park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres (77 km²). They are perhaps 12,000 years old.
There are several streams flowing on the perimeter of the dunes. The park also contains alpine lakes and tundra, six peaks over 13,000 feet (3,940 m) in elevation, ancient spruce and pine forests, large stands of aspen and cottonwood, grasslands, and wetlands — all habitat for diverse wildlife and plant species.
One of the most unusual features of the park happens at Medano Creek, which borders the east side of the dunes and is located next to the Visitor Center and Bookstore. Because fresh sand continually falls in the creek, Medano Creek never finds a permanent and stable stream bed. Small underwater sand dunes that act like dams continually form, and break down. So waders in the stream see surges—which look like waves—of water flowing downstream at intervals of just a few seconds to a minute or more. In a high-water year, these surges can be as much as a foot in height, resembling ocean waves. Building sand castles with the creek sand is a popular visitor activity (this information was sourced from the park’s visitor guide).
- Time of Year: Year Round
- Tour Length: 2-3 days
- Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
- Landscapes: Rocky Mountains, high plains, sand dunes, waterfall
- Wildlife: Insects, lizards, birds, deer