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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes

Colorado's sled-ready Great Sand Dunes National Park    Photo: Cary Jobe/Aurora

Set among southern Colorado’s rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a terrific place to enjoy the splendors of nature. While going really, really fast. Sand sledding and sandboarding are serious business around these parts—the park has 19,000 acres of dunes reaching 750 feet, and they’re open year-round. To get the scoop on how to best tear it up, we turned to Lon Beale, a.k.a. Doctor Dune, owner of Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon. Lon’s tips: (1) Leave the plastic saucer at home—sand gouges plastic. You want a sled or (better yet) a board made of high-density thermoplastic. Rent one from Kristi Mountain Sports ($18) in Alamosa, 30 minutes from the park, and they’ll throw in a puck of sandboard wax—similar to snowboard wax—which you should rub onto the board every couple of rides. (2) Look for slopes of at least 20 degrees. “If it’s 20 degrees, regardless of whether it’s good or bad sand, you’re gonna slide,” says Beale. (3) Most locals head for the dunes close to the Point of No Return parking lot, two miles north of the visitor center. Beware of too-steep dunes, like the 34--degree slopes in the Castle Creek picnic area, which can plummet directly into the bed of Medano Creek. (4) Come early in the summer. Cold sand is fast sand, so skip a July or August visit, when the dunes can be as hot as an Abu Dhabi sidewalk. (5) After you return the rental board, wash the grit out of your throat with a couple of Grande River IPAs at Alamosa’s San Luis Valley Brewing Company.

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