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Sandboarding and Sand Sledding in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Are you ready for a thrilling adventure on the sand dunes? Look no further than sandboarding and sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park! With 30 square miles of towering sand dunes up to 750 feet high, it’s the perfect spot for surfing the sand.

Sandboarding and sand sledding have become increasingly popular at Great Sand Dunes National Park, drawing visitors from all over the world. And the best part? You don’t need any prior experience to give them a try!

In this blog post, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know to enjoy sandboarding and sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park. You’ll learn about the history of the activities at the park, insider tips for beginners, and how to rent equipment. We’ll also cover safety precautions and environmental considerations to ensure that you have a fun and safe experience while preserving the park’s fragile ecosystem.

So get ready to hit the sand dunes and experience an adventure you’ll never forget!

Man sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park, one of the best things to add to your itinerary to the park.
Image Credit: NPS/Joseph Tumidalsky

Overview of Great Sand Dunes National Park Sandboarding and Sand Sledding

The sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park formed over thousands of years by wind and water erosion, and have been inhabited by humans for at least 11,000 years. The Ute, Apache, and Comanche tribes are known to have lived in the area, and Spanish explorers passed through in the 1700s. But, according to legend, it wasn’t until the 1970s that some intrepid local residents and park visitors began experimenting with sliding down the sand dunes on a variety of objects, including snowboards, pieces of cardboard, and plastic saucers.

As the activity gained popularity, more specialized equipment was developed, including sandboards with specially designed bases and wax to increase their speed and maneuverability. Over time, sandboarding has become a popular activity at Great Sand Dunes National Park, drawing visitors from around the world.

What is the Difference Between Sandboarding and Sand Sledding?

Sandboarding and sand sledding involve sliding down sand dunes using a board or sled. While they may seem similar, there are some key differences between the two activities.

Sandboarding is essentially surfing on the sand. Riders use a board similar to a snowboard, but with a special base that allows it to slide smoothly on sand. Sandboarding requires more skill and balance than sand sledding, as riders need to use their feet to steer and control their speed.

Sand sledding, on the other hand, is more like traditional sledding on snow. Riders sit or lie on a sled and use their hands or feet to steer and brake. Sand sledding is easier to learn and requires less physical exertion than sandboarding, making it a great option for families with young children or those looking for a more leisurely experience. This is what we recommend for most people, and what we’ve done ourselves. Fun fact: The first time Tim and I sand-sledded was in New Zealand!

The last time we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park was in winter. When the dunes are covered in snow, you can actually sled on them with normal sleds if the snow cover is good!

Great Sand Dunes National Park Sandboarding Sand Sledding

Should I Sandboard or Sand Sled in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

It ultimately depends on your skill level, physical ability, and personal preference whether you should sandboard or sand sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park. If you’re an experienced snowboarder or skateboarder, you may find sandboarding dunes to be more rewarding. However, if you’re new to these types of activities or prefer a more relaxed pace, sand sledding may be a better fit. The sandboard is slightly larger and heavier than a sand sled, so that may be a consideration as well (although both are cumbersome to carry after a while!).

Also, some of the sandboards are designed to be used with socks or barefoot, while you can wear whatever shoes you want when sand sledding. Because the sand can be 60 degrees hotter than the air on a hot summer day, going barefoot on the sand can be a painful experience. That is something else to keep in mind when deciding between the two!

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Renting a Sandboard or Sand Sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park

You’ll need to rent a sandboard or sand sled before hitting the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. You can rent a sandboard or a sand sled from a number of local stores, with the Great Sand Dunes Oasis store being the closest one to the park, just outside of the entrance.

Because of the various locations and operating seasons of the shops that rent sandboards in the San Luis Valley near Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park, we compiled this list of stores and included key information to help you snag a sandboard rental!

Rental LocationDistance from Visitor CenterRental AvailabilityContact NumberSpecial Note
Oasis Store4 milesSpring-Early Fall719-378-2222Will not rent sleds on wet sand.
Spin Drift Sand Board Rentals26 milesSpring-Early Fall719-379-4410
Sand Dunes Swimming Pool and Rec32 milesYear Round719-378-2807Closed on Thursdays for pool cleaning.
Kristi Mountain Sports36 milesYear Round719-589-9759Will not rent boards on frozen sand or covered in snow.
Spanish Peaks Outfitters64 milesYear Round720-401-8545

We recommend making your reservations at least a month in advance as shops do sometimes run out of sandboard and sand sled inventory.

Can I Use a Snowboard or Snow Sled to Sandboard or Sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park?

No, it is not a good idea to use your snowboard or snow sled on the dunes. Sandboards for sand dunes and sand sleds are the best equipment for sliding on the sand due to their special design with extra slick base material and wax. Snow sleds, snowboards, and skis are only effective on wet sand after rain or snow. Cardboard, saucers, and soft plastic items are not suitable for sandboarding as they will drag or dig into the sand. Rectangles of rigid, ultra-slick plastic or masonite might slide but are unsafe as they cannot be controlled or steered, and their angled edges can cause injuries. If you want to rent sandboarding equipment, check out the rental locations.

What to Wear for Great Sand Dunes National Park Sand Boarding or Sledding

When sandboarding, you’ll want to dress appropriately for the weather and the activity. Wear comfortable, breathable clothing that will protect your skin from the sun and sand. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Closed-toe shoes with good traction (hiking shoes or boots) -OR- water shoes if boarding
  • Comfortable and breathable clothing (long pants, t-shirt, sun hat)
  • Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and sand
  • A neck gaiter (like Buff) to shield your face from the sand if it gets windy
  • Sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from the sun’s rays
  • Gloves to protect your hands while sandboarding
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Where is Sandboarding Permitted in Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Sand dune boarding, sledding, and skiing are allowed anywhere on the dune field that is away from vegetated areas at Great Sand Dunes National Park. To access the slopes, visitors need to hike a minimum of 0.7 miles (1km) from the main Dunes Parking Area to reach small or medium-sized slopes, while the top of the first high ridge is 1.25 miles away. The smaller slopes at the base are suitable for young children, while longer slopes near the top of the first high ridge of dunes may be preferred by teens and adults.

How to Sandboard and Sand Sled at Great Sand Dunes National Park

  1. Choose the right equipment, either your sandboard or sand sled, plus wax.
  2. Hike to the top of the dune that you want to board or sled down. Note that carrying the sandboard or sled does get cumbersome and clunky, and that the board is slightly heavier than the sled.
  3. Apply wax to the board or sled: Apply a layer of wax to the bottom of the board or sled to help it slide smoothly over the sand. You need to apply the wax before each and every ride. Your rental company should give this to you when you rent your board or sled!

How to Sandboard:

  1. Strap on the board: Strap the board onto your feet, making sure your feet or shoes are securely fastened to the board.
  2. Stand on the board: Stand on the board with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keep your weight centered over the board to maintain your balance.
  3. Start small: If you are new to sandboarding, start with small dunes to get a feel for the board and the terrain.
  4. Lean back: When you are ready to start riding down the dunes, lean back slightly on the board to help you maintain your balance. Keep your weight centered over the board, and use your arms for balance.
  5. Use your feet to steer: Use your feet to steer the board as you ride down the dunes. Lean your weight to one side or the other to turn in that direction.
  6. Stay low: To maintain your balance and control, stay low to the ground as you ride down the dunes. This will also help you stay in control if you hit a bump or a dip in the sand.
  7. Control your speed: Use your feet to control your speed as you ride down the dunes. Dig your heels into the sand to slow down, and lift your toes to speed up.
  8. Be safe: Always wear appropriate protective gear such as a helmet and goggles, and follow any rules or regulations set by the park or rental company. Take breaks and hydrate regularly, and don’t attempt anything beyond your skill level.

How to Sand Sled:

  1. Position yourself on the sled: Sit or lie down on the sled with your feet pointing downhill. Grip the handles or ropes firmly and keep your weight evenly distributed.
  2. Push off: Use your hands or feet to push off from the top of the sand dune and start sliding down. Use your hands or feet to steer the sled and adjust your speed.
  3. Use your hands or feet to brake: To slow down or stop, drag your hands or feet in the sand behind the sled.
  4. Get off the sled safely: When you reach the bottom of the dune, let go of the handles or ropes and roll off the sled onto the sand. Make sure to clear the landing area for other riders.

Need-to-Know Tips for Great Sand Dunes Sandboarding and Sand Sledding

  • Plan your dunes time for early morning or evening during summer to avoid high sand surface temperatures or thunderstorms. In spring and fall, sand temperatures are usually moderate throughout the day, but spring afternoons can be windy.
  • Sled on the first high ridge of dunes accessible from the main Dunes Parking Area. The base of most dunes in this area is softer sand and has a gentler runout to slow you down, which makes injury less likely if you fall. Also, sledding beyond the first high ridge of dunes makes it more difficult to receive timely assistance if injuries do occur.
  • Pack at least 3 liters of water per person and bring hydration salts to prevent dangerous dehydration out on the hot sunny dunes.
  • Bring salty snacks like CLIF bars or trail mix.
  • If you’re new to sandboarding, start with smaller dunes to get comfortable with the board and the sand.
  • Wax the board! Waxing the board will help it slide better on the sand, making for a smoother ride.
  • Use proper technique. Keep your weight balanced on the board, and use your toes and heels to steer.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park charges an entrance fee of $25 for 7 days per vehicle.

If you plan on visiting three or more national parks in a 12 month period, you can save money on entrance fees with the America the Beautiful pass! After purchasing the pass, you can get entrance to more than 2,000 national park locations in the United States at no additional cost!

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Final Thoughts on Sandboarding and Sand Sledding in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sandboarding and sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park is a bucket list experience that you simply cannot miss. It’s an adventure that will leave you breathless and exhilarated as you slide down the towering sand dunes. By following the tips and advice we’ve provided in this post, you can ensure that your experience is not only safe but also unforgettable.

But sandboarding and sledding in Great Sand Dunes National Park is just the beginning when it comes to exploring this Colorado park. If you’re planning a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, be sure to check out our other Great Sand Dunes National Park guides for more tips and recommendations. From hiking trails to the perfect itinerary, we’ve got you covered. And don’t forget to share your experiences with us – we love to hear about your adventures in this beautiful park!

So what are you waiting for? Grab your sandboard or sand sled and head out to Great Sand Dunes National Park for a day of thrills and excitement. And when you’re done, be sure to check out our other blog posts for more inspiration and ideas. Happy adventuring!

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