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Old 06-10-2019, 10:34 AM   #1
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Seeking camping tips for Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hey y'all,

This fathers day our grand daughter, daughter and son in law are going to join the DW and I for a quick Great Sand Dunes National Park trip in southern Colorado. We camped there about 30 years ago and it was great. From research we have done it sounds like the old RV park run by the NPS has been shut down and RV camping is far and few between. My wife got a reservation and the Oasis for this coming Friday night but nothing was available for Saturday.

It sounds like the San Luis Lakes has sites that are pretty baron but offer electricity with a Colorado Wildlife Pass. We have found that if you have a Colorado drivers license these passes can be purchased for about $35 for the year or simply have a Colorado fishing license. We also found that each member of the party has to have one of these licenses so that could get rather expensive if none of us fish. Although we are currently living in CO, we both have out of state drivers licenses so then the fee goes up to around $95 per person.

I understand there is camping beyond the park but it is limited to more serious off road vehicles and people who are tenting. Our rig is about a 30' Glacier Peak 5th wheel. We pull it with a 4X4 GMC crew cab single axle short wheel base. I can get her in a few off road places but very limited on height so thinking this us probably not an option for us.

We want to be as close to the Dunes and river as possible so any advise or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:07 PM   #2
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There's great camping right in the park. I don't know what you've been reading to say it's closed down but every national park has a great website giving camping information (in the park and nearby), things to do, road information, special alerts, etc. Read the whole site thoroughly so that you can have a good trip. Staying in the national parks is the best way to go. Plus, you can take advantage of the ranger programs easily.

https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/camping.htm
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:29 PM   #3
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Rentals and Accommodations | Sand Dunes Swimming Pool - Hooper, Colorado, Hot Springs Pool
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:39 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by twogypsies View Post
There's great camping right in the park. I don't know what you've been reading to say it's closed down but every national park has a great website giving camping information (in the park and nearby), things to do, road information, special alerts, etc. Read the whole site thoroughly so that you can have a good trip. Staying in the national parks is the best way to go. Plus, you can take advantage of the ranger programs easily.

https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/camping.htm
Twogypsies and Riverburt,

Thank you both for you replies. Please let me apologize. I misunderstood my wife (not the first time in 40 years btw). 2G, you are correct, Pinon Flats is a campground that is near and run by the park. My wife went on their website several days ago. Iit is not closed but booked several months in advance and is showing full all summer. I thought she said it had been closed. She just found out after I posted this thread that they do have cancellations but that they are on first come first served basis.

My first question would either of you know if there a good chance of getting a cancellation site the day of at Pinon Flats?

She also found the Sand Dunes Pool and Spa but we were hoping to be a few minutes away from the park not 40 minutes away. RiverBurt, I drive thru Hooper all the time and honestly this would not be my first or second choice for an overnight stay but from the website you sent their place looks clean and nice. The DW just called on it and they too are fully booked and was told cancellations rarely happen.

We just thought of this impromptu trip a couple of days ago and learning nowadays that advance planning is a must. Thank you for this suggestion btw.

The park we stayed in 30 some years ago is no longer there and must have been replaced by the Pinon Flats site. That would be our first choice so if any of you have any suggestions on getting in on a cancellation there, I am all ears. Maybe bribery (I could bring them some great Northern NM green chili) or a fresh homemade pie from a local restaurant or something like that.

Does anyone know of any primitive sites beyond or near the park, we can certainly boondock if we have to? Thank you both for your insight, it is very helpful.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:52 PM   #5
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Seeking camping tips for Great Sand Dunes National Park

I just went on nps.gov and looked up the park. There is a link to the closest campgrounds and info on their campground.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:28 AM   #6
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Look at the link I gave for the national park & there are some other places mentioned.

For the park campground it gives this statement:

"During the peak flow of Medano Creek in late May and early June, expect all campsites to be reserved well in advance. On weekends during peak flow, expect long lines of traffic, overflowing parking lots, and most campgrounds within 20 miles to be full. For a better experience in early summer, plan your visit on weekdays".

Therefore, if you don't have a reservation for any place chances are it will be a very busy place on Father Day weekend. Hope you can find another place to stay. Since you're planning to arrive on a Friday night chances are slim.

Are your guests bringing their own RV or are they staying in yours. If in yours and if you can go on Wed or Thurs you'd have a better chance of getting a first come site. Then the others can join you on Fri or Sat.
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by jlillie01 View Post
I just went on nps.gov and looked up the park. There is a link to the closest campgrounds and info on their campground.
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Originally Posted by twogypsies View Post
Look at the link I gave for the national park & there are some other places mentioned.

For the park campground it gives this statement:

"During the peak flow of Medano Creek in late May and early June, expect all campsites to be reserved well in advance. On weekends during peak flow, expect long lines of traffic, overflowing parking lots, and most campgrounds within 20 miles to be full. For a better experience in early summer, plan your visit on weekdays".

Therefore, if you don't have a reservation for any place chances are it will be a very busy place on Father Day weekend. Hope you can find another place to stay. Since you're planning to arrive on a Friday night chances are slim.

Are your guests bringing their own RV or are they staying in yours. If in yours and if you can go on Wed or Thurs you'd have a better chance of getting a first come site. Then the others can join you on Fri or Sat.
Thank you Jillie and 2G, all very helpful.

We have quickly discovered it is poor planning on our part. We used to RV 20 years ago when there was always availability anywhere you went. The US has changed and the people RVing have multiplied 10 fold since then.

Yes our daughter and son in law will join us, they have an off road tent trailer so they can get about anywhere their truck can go. This is just one of those improptu trips that we talked about at the beginning of the week. If we do that again we will go off grid and avoid the crowds. We appreciate your advise, thank you.
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Old 06-12-2019, 02:26 PM   #8
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There is also a KOA that is 30 miles (I believe west of the NP)from the Great Sands Dunes - easy ride. We don’t care that much for KOA campgrounds but they have proven to be good stops of last resort. If you’re interested here’s the link https://koa.com/campgrounds/alamosa/local-area/

We haven’t stayed there but did stop to see if they would let us fill our fresh water tank - they said yes but I was not desperate enough to pay $30 for 25 gallons of water. We were able to get a full tank of water and dump our tanks for free at the Great Sand Dunes park - just outside the campground.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:33 PM   #9
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We stayed at Great Sand Dunes NP September 6, 2018 without reservations. There are two loops, and many of the sites are small and sloped. We did manage to find a pair of open sites, but we had fairly small trailers & were about 5 sites apart. Some photos.
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