Sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park can be a ton of fun for the whole family. A few tips for sand sledding to help you get started will make this sport more fun and your sledding more effective. Here is our best advice for how to sand sled on these amazing sand dunes.
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Where is Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sands National Park is just east of Alamosa, Colorado. It’s about half an hour from the state’s southern border, about 3 1/2 hours from Denver CO, and 2-1/2 hours from Santa Fe, NM.
During our road trip, we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park after spending a few days in Denver. After exploring the park we headed on to Santa Fe. Great Sand Dunes is a great addition to any road trip through Colorado and New Mexico.
If you’ll be in Santa Fe, don’t miss: Exploring Meow Wolf with Kids: The House of Eternal Return
Sand Sledding versus Sand Boarding
Riding down sand dunes is similar to sledding or boarding in snow, you can have a lot of fun sledding on a small hill, but for sandboarding, you need a larger and steeper hill.
The first set of good, sledable dunes is about a half-mile walk from the parking lot. These initial dunes are great for sledding but too short if you are a serious sandboarder. You will need to keep going another half mile to find a decent run for sandboarding.
For people who are not experienced snowboarders, sand sledding will be easier to master than sand boarding, and a lot of fun. Sand sledding is not just for small children- the boards go fast, and you can have a ton of fun as an adult, with fewer skills to master, and less chance of injuring yourself. Though, to be fair, we saw a few people end up bloody from sandboarding.
Like in deep snow, it takes a lot of energy to climb up a sand dune, so plan accordingly. You will spend a lot of time and energy climbing up the dunes in between runs. You can get in a lot of shorter runs, have fun steering and feeling out the dunes, and have fun in the sand.
We often did runs with one adult and one child sitting together on a sled, which means the adult could then carry the board back up the dune.
With the summer sun, the heat can be intense. Make sure to bring water and stay hydrated.
Not sure when to visit? Check out The Best Time to Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Tips for Sand Sledding in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Here are some tips for sand sledding to help successfully sled down the sand dunes, without ending up with a mouthful of sand (although, that does happen). It takes some practice to get the hang of it, but with these tips, you’ll be zipping down the hill (likely screaming in delight) before you know it.
1. Rent Your Sled the Night Before
If renting a sled, pick it up the evening before you go sledding. This allows you to get to the park early and get out onto the dunes before it gets too hot. You will also have an easier time getting into the park and can avoid some of the people and lines. Most places will not charge you extra to pick up the sled the evening before.
2. How to Sit on the Board
You want to sit on the padded seat, as far back on the board as possible, while safely keeping your feet in front of you on the grip tape and pointed downhill while holding on to the handles. This will keep the nose of your sled up and help you go faster.
3. How to Steer the Board
Steer by leaning to one side or the other, as well as extending your hands out behind you. This is most effective, and also helps with balance.
4. How to Slow Down the Board
To slow down, lean forward and use your hands. Don’t use your feet.
5. Sand Dunes to Avoid
Avoid dunes with sudden flat transitions at the bottom, as these can catch the front of the sled and send you flying head over heels.
6. Waxing your Sandboard
Waxing the bottom of the sled is important to getting a good glide, but you do not want to overwax. Apply a few large scribbles of wax to the bottom two-thirds of the sled, not the top.
7. Don’t Over Wax
Reapply wax after every few runs. Most people tend to overwax the board, which will slow you down.
The amount of wax you need will vary, depending on the temperature, humidity, slope, and sand dune size. It may take a few times to get the right mix.
9. Double Up!
If you have little kids, ride down with them. The added weight of you in the back and someone to steer will make the ride more fun and you will likely get a faster and longer run.
10. Be prepared to get sandy!
We sledded barefoot but still got sand everywhere. It’s part of the fun. Be prepared to fall, bail out mid-ride, and generally make a fool of yourself. Sand sledding looks simple, but takes a little trial and error to get right.
On summer days the sand can get quite hot, be prepared to sled in socks rather than bare feet to avoid burns and blisters.
11. Clean Up
There are outdoor showers near the parking lot for rinsing off the sand when you are done. This is a great way to clean up and cool down after sledding.
12. Bring a first aid kit.
The sand can be rough and after a few tumbles, you may have scraps or cuts. We always carry a kit and while we were there, a member of the family next to us went head over heels and opened up her shoulder. We were able to offer water, gauze, Neosporin, and bandages.
Can I Bring My Own Sled to Great Sand Dunes National Park?
Yes, if you have one! You can also rent them quite easily and affordably in town. We rented two from Kristi Mountain Sports. They have sand sleds and boards and were very helpful and knowledgeable, we highly recommend them.
However, regular snow sleds will not work well on the sand. Sand sledding boards are specifically created to work on sand. They have a specific shape, raised nose, and even handles to make your experience easier.
What to Wear Sand Sledding
You will get covered with sand, and it will get into everything you are wearing. With that in mind, what you should wear depends on the weather. The sand can get quite hot in the summer, so foot protection is advised.
Some people wear socks and shoes, which is advisable in the warmer months. A good pair of hiking sandals, not slip-ons, will protect your feet and will let the sand and water (if the creek is running) out during the shoulder months when the sand is not as hot.
Shorts and a T-shirt work fine, but a long sleeve sun shirt and loose pants to protect against the sun and getting banged up by the sand are best.
We visited Great Sand Dunes at the end of July and found the sand to be quite hot on the walk out and back to the dunes. However, we ended up doing a lot of our actual sledding in bare feet. Be prepared with either sneakers or at least socks so you don’t burn your feet on the sand.
Where to Stay Near Great Sand Dunes National Park
Alamosa is just a half hour from the park entrance and has a wide range of accommodations.
We recommend the Best Western on Main Street in Alamosa. With breakfast included, clean rooms, and an indoor pool to cool off in at the end of the day, we highly recommend it.
FAQ: Sand Sledding in Great Sands National Park
We recommend renting a board or a sled from Kristi Mountain Sports. They have good prices and friendly and knowledgeable staff who will give you a quick rundown of how to use the board or sled. They are located at 3223 Main Street in Alamosa. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Yes! Sand sledding is great for the whole family. Our four-year-old enjoyed taking a few runs, before spending the rest of the time playing in the sand. The sled can go quite fast, so it’s fun for adults too, without a high learning curve to have fun.
Older kids will enjoy trying sandboarding, but this is more difficult to master. We had a few kids borrow our sand sled who were frustrated with the sandboards.
Well, you can try, but snow sleds do not work well on sand, you’ll have more fun with a specially designed sand sled or sandboard.
When you rent your board, the rental company will give you the correct wax to use for your sand sled. Remember not to overwax or you will actually slow down your sled!
Sandboard wax is specially formulated for sand sledding using coconut oil and beeswax.
Sand sledding is not hard, but it takes a few runs and some trial and error to figure it out and have a good run. Hopefully, our tips for sand sledding will help you get off to a great start!
Sand sledding is much easier than sandboarding, which takes more practice and expertise than is possible in just one day on the sand dunes.
Sand sledding is relatively safe, though you can go quite fast so bumps, bruises, and scrapes are possible. We advise carrying a basic first aid kit, as we did witness a few bloody scrapes on the dunes.
Like any sport, take precautions, and start small, working your way up to faster, higher dunes.
You should wear long-sleeved, loose clothing to protect you from the hot sun, and from scrapes and bruises when sledding.
The sand can get quite hot, so plan to wear closed-toed shoes or sneakers, and sled or board in socks.
Bring a hat and sunglasses, and plenty of water up on the dunes with you. There is no shade, and you’ll need to stay hydrated.
If you’d like to cool off in Medano Creek after sand sledding, make sure to bring a swimsuit with you.
You will probably spend 1-2 hours sand sledding or sandboarding. For every ride down the dunes, you have to hike back up the dune carrying your sled or board. This can get quite tiring!
There You Have It: 12 Tips for Sand Sledding in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great way to explore and play in the dunes. With these tips for sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes Nationa Park, you should be on your way to having a fun, memorable experience your family will laugh about for years to come.
Don’t forget to take videos- the faces you will make flying down the dunes are priceless!
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