One of the best perks of RVing is the ability to move to a new destination when the weather takes a turn for the worse. We found ourselves in that situation while visiting Buena Vista, Colorado. The forecast was calling for several days of rain so we canceled our current reservations for a small fee. The forecast favored a turn south towards the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We knew the national park campground would be full so we searched Campendium.com for ideas nearby. To our delight, we found FREE CAMPING without reservations about 15 minutes south of the park.
Free Camping: Sacred White Shell Mountain
WOW! Sacred White Shell Mountain campground is on a massive tract of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. So much space. So quiet at night. So close to the Great Sand Dunes. Beautiful views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Rainbows. Sunsets. You get the idea – PERFECT – if you enjoy dry camping. We do.
The access road for Sacred White Shell Mountain land turns into a four-wheel drive road as you leave the open area of the San Luis Valley and head up into the mountains. We enjoyed taking Comet (our Chevy Colorado) on this road to check out the trailhead for Blanca Peak. The views are spectacular and the ride is rough.
Between the campground and the national park is Zapata Falls. Before exploring the recreation area, we drove through the Zapata Falls campground. The campground sits high above the valley and is accessible for RVs. We put it on our bucket list. Next, it was time for a hike. We chose to hike the South Zapata Lake Trail (our final hike of the 52 Hike Challenge). The hike was strenuous but well worth the effort to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
Zapata Falls is a special place to visit and we could’ve stayed a lot longer. Unfortunately, we only had a few days and didn’t want to miss the sand dunes.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
There is something about sand dunes and water that brings out the kid in all of us 😀. The Medano Creek was flowing during our visit so we hopped in and waded across to play in the dunes. The dune field is dog-friendly so Barley came along for the fun!
Dunes Overlook Trail
The crowds tend to gather in the dune fields. If you are looking for some solitude drive on by the crowded dune field parking lot and explore the trails. We decided to check out the Dunes Overlook Trail. It was worth it.
The views from the overlook were inspiring. We soaked in the beautiful landscape and lingered as long as possible.
Before leaving the Great Sand Dunes, we decided to sign up for another challenge. Why not? We love to hike and we love our National Parks so it just made sense. The Dunes Overlook Trail is our #hike1 of the 52 Hike Challenge National Park Series. 51 National Park hikes to go!