Photographing Great Sand Dunes National Park

great sand dunes
sun rays on the dunes

Great Sand Dunes is another unique, beautiful US National Park. It has a seasonal creek that peaks in May and runs in front of the dunes. This creek is easily accessed and serves as a barrier for photographers wanting to access the dunes, which can get hot in summer.

The sand itself is VERY soft and makes for a hard time when lugging photographic gear up and into the dunes. Pack light.

great sand dunes
typical small piñon pines found in the park

There is a campground, Piñon Flats, but no lodge located inside the park. There are options near the park for both. None of the in-park campgrounds are on a first-come-first-serve basis, so use to book.

When to Visit

Perhaps the best season for photography is the winter for the snow-capped SANGRE DE CRISTO MOUNTAINS that lie behind the dunes. The Medano creek is most active in spring and serves as a mosquito breeding ground as it slows in the summer. The park does not have deciduous trees so autumn does not offer her colors to photographers. The winters are quite cold.

Gear to Bring

Some good lenses to bring are 24-85mm on a full frame camera or 16-55mm on an APS-C sized sensor. Because the park is so large, long lenses can be useful. So bring some longer options like a 70-200mm and even 300mm. Don't forget a polarizer as it can saturate the colors of the sky and dunes when the sun is out. A tripod is really only necessary if focus stacking or doing time-lapse photography.

Cellphone Service

AT&T cell service was unavailable.

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