After leaving Pagosa Springs, we headed north for a short stay in Alamosa, Colorado. The scenery changed from meandering streams, colorful wildflowers, and lush green trees that scaled the sides of mountains, to flat plains of tumbleweeds, distant purple hills, and in the foreground, every imaginable shade of beige. We would only be in Alamosa for a day and decided to check out Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, home of the tallest sand dunes in North America. But first, more hot springs.
Valley View Hot Springs:
Over the past month we’ve visited four different hot springs. Two required a hike and were located right on the bed of a river, one had multiple tiled pools and felt more like an upscale resort, and the fourth was somewhere in between. Valley View Hot Springs is located on a non-profit land trust and is a very popular spot for naturalism. There are a few developed pools, a swimming pool, and a few natural pools that require a short hike to reach. Admission was $15 per person and because only a limited number of daily passes are sold, reservations were strongly encouraged. The vibe here was definitely peaceful and we had a wonderful time relaxing in the springs and talking with other guests. I didn’t take many pictures out of respect for most guests who were enjoying their day in the nude or semi-nude. If you look closely you can spot a deer on the right in the photo below.
Next we decided to hike to Zapata Falls, possibly the worst idea ever after relaxing our muscles in the hot springs all day. Nevertheless, we hiked up a somewhat steep trail and then through an icy, cold creek to get to the falls, which were housed in a narrow, cave-like crevasse. Our feet were completely numb but the chill was definitely worth the thrill of seeing the falls up close.
Soon we were off to see the dunes.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve:
It was pretty spectacular to see the massive dunes in front of the gorgeous San Juan Mountains. This year Medano Creek was dry by May, but usually during June, visitors can enjoy a shallow beach with gentle waves. We arrived a little before sunset and were exhausted at this point in our day but we managed to hike up to the dunefield. It was windy on the dunes and when the sand takes flight it can be brutal. We soaked in the scene for a while and watched people barrel down the dunes on sand sleds before heading back to our home-on-wheels.
Zapata Falls and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are somewhat accessible. The Zapata Falls Campground has accessible parking spaces, restrooms, and campsites. A paved scenic overlook offers stellar views of the sand dunes, San Luis Valley, and the San Juan Mountains. However, the trail to the waterfall itself is not accessible.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has two sand wheelchairs with inflatable wheels that can be checked-out and used on the dunes. One wheelchair is available for children and the other for adults. The screenshot below is from their website and shows the sand wheelchair in use. How cool!The park also has accessible parking, restrooms, changing rooms, and a plastic mat that serves as an accessible path leading partially down to the dunes.
Thanks for reading!