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Medano Pass
Alamosa County, Colorado
San Isabel National Forest
San Carlos Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map

Forest Service Road: 559
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Alamosa, Walsenburg
Nearby Trails: Blanca Peak, Hermit Pass, Pass Creek Pass
Trail Length: 19.9 miles
Elevation: 7,645 to 9,931 feet

Though this is not a particularly difficult trail it is a very unique trail to Colorado. The trail runs next to and through the Great Sand Dunes, which are the tallest sand dunes in North America. These sand dunes stretch up to 750 feet and cover about 39 square miles, all right in the shadow of the San Luis and Sangre De Cristo mountain ranges. Blanca Peak is also within sight.

Medano (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, like "medicine") Pass itself is unique because of the sand you can travel in between a few rocky areas and many water crossings. Depending on the time of year, the water crossings can get to be two feet deep or more. The sand can be challenging, requiring 4-wheel drive.

This is a National Park so you will most likely see some traffic. You can run the trail in either direction, either starting from the Park entrance or from the far end. There is gas and air at the Park entrance so you may want to run it to finish there. In 2003 the fee was $3.00 per adult, which you must pay on the way in if you start at the Park, or on the way out if you finish there.

If you start from the Park entrance you follow a sign to the Medano Pass Primitive Road and will be in sand immediately as you follow the edges of the Sand Dunes. You will most likely see people sledding and skiing down the dunes as you negotiate sand that is either fairly flat or a few inches deep. There are quite a few areas where you can have lunch at picnic benches.

Once you leave the Sand Dunes behind you will start to see more trees, including many Aspens. After about 5 miles you will start to climb Medano Pass itself. The climb is steep in spots and the top of the pass at 10,030 feet is reached pretty quickly.

Once you start down the other side of the pass it does not take long to get to the other side. You will find yourself on an easy dirt road that passes through Wolf Springs Ranch. Stay on the road at all times until you reach pavement and the end of the trail.

Member Reports

Driving Directions

From Denver, take I-25 south. If you want to start from the Park entrance go to Walsenburg and take Highway 160 west to Highway 150 north, before you reach Alamosa (you will see signs pointing you to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument). If you want to start on the north end, take I-25 south to Pueblo, then take Route 96 to Westcliffe. From there take Route 69 south about 23 miles to turn right on road 559.

Meeting Places

Meet at the Conoco Gas Station at exit 184 in Castle Rock, just west of I-25.

Low-End Rating: 2
High-End Rating: 3
Rock Crawling:
Dirt & Mud:
Water Crossings:
Cliffs & Ledges:
Climbs & Descents:
Other Activities:
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Trail Photographs

Sandy trail next to the Dunes One of many water crossings Sign at the trail entrance at the Park

Trail Movies
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Maps and Coordinates
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Trail with Great Sand Dunes
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Medano Pass (GPS Exchange File)
Medano Pass Trailhead (Google Earth Placemark)
Medano Pass Track (Google Earth Track)

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Trail information is only accurate on the date posted. Trails may have changed or closed since that date. Use this information for historical purposes only. Contact the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for up-to-date trail information.

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