Are you ready to enjoy a little backpacking at one of Colorado's most amazing parks? Great Sand Dunes National Park backpacking permits will be available online starting November 18, 2020.

Great Sand Dunes will be using an online permit system for backpacking in the National Park effective November 18. Backpackers must purchase a permit for the Dunes Backcountry and the campsites along the Sand Ramp Trail through the reservation system at Recreation.gov.

What are the options? Permit options include Dunes Backcountry non-designated sites, where you can pick your own camping spot west of the high ridge in the dune field. Other permit options include seven designated sites along the Sand Ramp Trail:

  • Sand Creek
  • Buck Creek
  • Cold Creek
  • Escape Dunes
  • Indian Grove
  • Aspen
  • Little Medano

Please note, this online permit system only applies to backpacking in the National Park. According to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Facebook page, no changes will be made to backpacking in the National Preserve or for car camping along the Medano Pass Primitive Road.

Here's how you can get a free backpacking permit prior to November 18. Great Sand Dunes will issue free backpacking permits until the close of business on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, at the visitor center between the hours of 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. After that, no permits will be issued at the visitor center.

As of November 18, 2020, backpackers will need to do the following to obtain a permit.

  • Permits will be a non-refundable $6
  • Permits must be reserved using Recreation.gov
  • Your reservation will include the backcountry permit and an overnight parking permit for each vehicle (up to two).
  • Permits can be printed up to seven days prior to your start date. Once printed, no changes can be made.
  • Permits are limited to groups of no more than six people and no more than two vehicles per group.
  • The Sand Ramp Trail designated sites allow six people per site.
  • Up to 20 permits per day will be issued for the Dunes Backcountry non-designated sites.
  • Permits may be obtained for a maximum of 14 nights per permit holder.

From this point, it gets really complicated. There's a ton of fine print, caveats, and addendums, etc, etc. For those, I'll direct you to the official website. Better yet, I'll give you a phone number. For more info on the online permit system, you can call the visitor's center during their normal operating hours at 719-378-6395.

I feel bad saying this, but it's been a long time since I've visited the Sand Dunes. The last time I was there I froze my buns off, leaving me a little hesitant to return. Maybe it's time to get back. This new reservation system goes into effect soon, so I recommend you pounce sooner than later.

Learn more about backpacking options at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

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