Dunes Overlook Trail was our favorite hike within the boundaries of Great Sand Dunes National Park. This trail was fairly short at around 2.75 miles roundtrip. However, there is consistent elevation gain, which may pull this hike into the moderate realm. It can also be very hot to hike during the middle of the day. To avoid this, we decided to hike to the overlook in time for sunset. This proved to be the right decision as it was beautiful and just the right temperature.
This hike starts right in the campground on loop 2. There is a sign for the trail, as well as a few parking spaces just north of the bathroom. Another reason you should hike in the morning or evening is so you can find a parking place. We parked and crossed the road to the trailhead. There is a large trailhead sign, so you can’t miss it.
The Dunes Overlook Trail starts off headed north. There is a bit of climbing as it winds back and forth up the low hills. We found this area to be quite pretty, with low scrubby trees, and a rocky trail, rather than the sand that covers a good portion of this area. This was much more a forest hike than a beach walk. We even saw two very large bucks (male deer) in the twilight. The third reason to hike in the morning or evening is that you might see some animals.
The trail is never very steep, but it does climb steadily to a viewpoint. This ridge looks out to the west over the sand dunes. Hence the name, Dunes Overlook Trail. We didn’t find the view of the sand dunes itself to be very spectacular, though it was okay, but the sunset was really amazing. Make sure to walk out toward the dunes where there are a few benches to enjoy the view.
Of course, the Dunes Overlook Trail is an out-and-back trail. Since we watched the sunset, we had to hustle back before it got too dark. This wasn’t difficult, and we made it easily before full dark. Then we stayed in the park for some night sky viewing. To read more about Great Sand Dunes National Park, check out our family guide.