Great Sand Dunes National Park Backcountry Permits

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park offers two different backpacking experiences – seven designated sites along the Sand Ramp Trail and 20 non-designated sites in the Dunes Backcountry. Backpacking permits are available all year long and provide the visitor with an opportunity to spend the night in unique environments and allows for solitude in the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  

Designated sites along the Sand Ramp Trail are the perfect getaway for backpackers to experience a variety of landscapes - with views of the dunes, amongst mixed conifer forests at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Camping within the tallest dunes in North America is the more popular option for backpackers. The Dunes Backcountry is defined as “west of the high ridge and beyond the day-use area” a minimum distance of 1.5 miles west of the Medano Creek bed.

Permit & Season Information

Permits are available for advanced reservation year-round on a rolling basis, three months prior to the trip start date at 7:00 am PST/10:00 am EST each day.

Permit Options:

A parking lot is assigned based on the location of the first night’s stay. You may request a certain parking area as you book your trip; Great Sand Dunes staff cannot guarantee your request will be accommodated. Your assigned parking lot will be on your printed permit or view your assigned lot from your Recreation.gov account. If your parking request is granted, you cannot make changes or modifications to your permit.

Need to Know

All permit holders are responsible for following all the rules and regulations, as well as informing their guests of the rules and regulations. The following rules and regulations apply: 

• No on-site permits or changes will be available.

• Limit of 6 people, 2 vehicles per permit.

• Dunes Backcountry non-designated sites: You must camp past the Day Use Area, beyond the first high ridgeline of dunes. Plan a minimum of one-hour hiking to reach the top of the first ridge, where you will see the entire 30-square-mile dunefield. Find a low spot past this ridge, away from the main visitor use area. 

• Sand Ramp Trail designated sites: Camp in designated locations, within 50 feet of the metal arrowhead post. No trenching around tents.

• No pets, hammocks, or glass containers.

• Gas stoves, only. No campfires allowed (except in the metal fire ring at the Sand Creek designated site). 

• Pack out trash including food items such as orange peels and shells. 

• Use a bearproof container or hang food/scented items in a tree at least 10 feet (3m) up and 5 feet (2m) out from the trunk. Campers must use the bear box at the Sand Creek campsite. Bear hangs not required in Dunes Backcountry.

• Bury human waste 6 inches deep, 200 feet from water and trails. Pack out toilet paper.  

• Use privy at Indian Grove or Sand Creek. Pack out toilet paper.

• Pack animals (horses, mules, burros, donkeys, asses, llamas, alpacas) are allowed in the following areas overnight - Dunes Backcountry, Little Medano, Aspen, Cold Creek and Sand Creek. Livestock must be picketed at least 100 feet away from the campsite marker post. Leave-no- Trace principles must be followed at all locations where stock is kept overnight to prevent damage to natural or cultural resources.

• Check the park website for current conditions, and trip planning tips. 

• Water sources are seasonal. Be prepared to bring water. Recommend 1 gallon/person/night. Boil or treat all stream water before drinking. Water fill up stations are available in the park.

• Sand temperatures may reach 150° F on summer afternoons. Wear closed-toe shoes. 

• Secure tents with sand stakes or sandbags. Strong winds may occur.

• Afternoon thunderstorms are common in warmer months. If lightning threatens, leave the dunes. Crouch low on top of your backpack if you are in immediate danger.

Fee Policy

Reservation Fee: There is a $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee per permit. 

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation Policy: The permit holder may cancel their permit 7 days prior to entry date. The $6.00 reservation fee is non-refundable. Quota from cancelled permits will be immediately released and available on Recreation.gov. 

Change Policy: The permit holder may modify itinerary locations, group size and group member names, emergency contact, or vehicle information prior to printing the permit.* Changing the entry date requires a new reservation; reservation fee applies.

*You may request a certain parking area in the reservation details as you book your trip; Great Sand Dunes staff cannot guarantee your request will be accommodated. Your assigned parking lot will be on your printed permit or view your assigned lot from your Recreation.gov account. If your parking request is granted, you cannot make changes or modifications to your permit.

No changes or parking requests will be allowed for same-day reservations. No on-site permits or changes will be available.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

11999 Hwy. 150 Mosca CO 81146

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