The Perfect Day Trip: Great Sand Dune National Park and The Colorado Gator Farm

There is no shortage of incredible adventures that are available when planning your trip to Salida, Colorado. Whether you are a first-time guest of Creekside Chalets or have been coming back year after year, there are even more experiences to be had just an hour away.  For example, the Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve are located in Mosca, Colorado. This park contains a high-altitude desert consisting of 30 square miles of ever-shifting sand dunes. But, that is not all the area has to offer. After your hike, you can refresh your tired muscles in one of the area’s four natural hot springs. But you should not leave without dropping by The Colorado Gator Farm.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

There is no reservation required, and most park areas are open to visitors day and night. The time of year that you plan to visit will determine the available activities while staying. When scheduling your visit, it is important to note that May through June is often a hectic time for visitors to the park. While no reservation is needed, visitors are reminded that the creek and picnic areas will likely be very crowded, and excessive traffic will be on the weekends. Visitors are encouraged to plan for the crowds or plan to come on weekdays.

The Dunes

With sand dunes that reach 741 ft tall and cover 30 square miles, there is plenty of space to roam. As beautiful and expansive as the sand dunes are, they can turn dangerous quickly. Therefore, when visiting the park from June through August, it is recommended that you schedule your hike for very early morning or evening. Afternoon sand temperatures can reach 150 degrees.

Those not acclimated to the higher altitude should allow extra time to complete their chosen hike, allowing plenty of time to complete their trip before the afternoon heat moves in. When hiking the sand dunes, it is important to note that there are no trail markers due to shifting sand. Always come prepared with extra water, sun protection, and comfortable footwear.

Medano Creek Bed

March and April are the snowiest months of the year in this region. Late April into May, the first trickles of snowmelt begin to make their way into the creek bed. By late May, the creek will be flowing. The water levels vary with the yearly snowfall amounts north of the park. The water is warm enough for wading, floating, and splashing by June. June is also known for surge flow, waves caused by large chunks of snowpack falling into the water. 

Any non-motorized or mechanical activities are allowed in the creek. Visitors are asked not to disturb natural plant and wildlife habitats and always leave the area clean to protect the safety of visitors and wildlife. The creek bed dries until it is again filled with snowmelt next year by July.

Montville Nature Trail and Mosca Pass

Montville Nature Trail is a 0.5 loop with changes in elevation of less than 100 feet; from 8,200 feet to 8,300 feet. Its proximity to the park entrance, short length, and lower demand make it ideal for families seeking an easy nature hike and with fewer crowds than the sand dunes. 

Continue past Montville Nature Trail to Mosca Pass. This seven-mile 3.5-hour hike follows a small creek to the summit of a low pass in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Though views are limited, it has shady aspen and evergreen forests. Indigenous tribes and early settlers used this route for travel into the valley.

Hot Springs 

Relax in one of the area’s mineral-rich hot spring pools. Hot spring offerings include therapeutic spa treatment pools and family pools. 

  • Sand Dunes Recreation- Also known as Hooper’s Pool, this hot spring is located an hour south of the chalets in the nearby town of Hooper, Colorado. There is a hot spring therapy pool and a large family pool filled with hot spring water.
  • Joyful Journey Hot Springs- Located in the northern San Luis Valley. This spa resort is in Moffat, Colorado, and features three outdoor hot spring fed pools.
  • Valley View Hot Springs- Operated by the Orient Land Trust, this is the place to experience the springs in their most natural setting. The Orient Land Trust is dedicated to preserving all-natural resources and maintains the hot springs minimally to conserve the land’s natural balance. This hot spring is also located in Moffat, Colorado.

Gator Farm and Exotic Animal Refuge in Alamosa

Alligators and exotic animals are not often associated with Colorado. Initially purchased for use as a Tilapia farm, alligators were later bought to naturally dispose of dead fish. However, as local interest grew in the alligators, the owners embraced the attention, and their business was rebranded as the Colorado Gator Farm. As the gator farm’s reputation grew, it became a safe haven for exotic pets who had been kept illegally or had been abused by owners. Soon after, the owners added bird species to their assortment of alligators, fish, iguanas, turtles, and other reptiles.

Perfect for families and children, all visitors have the opportunity to pet, hold, take photos and feed gators. Visitors can also pet and feed free-roaming tortoises, meet smaller snakes and lizards, feed the fish, fish for carp to feed to the alligators, and go boating!

Contact Creekside Chalets in Salida to Make a Reservation Today

There is no need to camp out after a long hike and a relaxing soak. Located just an hour and a half north of the Great Sand Dune National Park, Creekside Chalets offers the comfort of home. We have nine chalets which provide one, two, or three bedrooms and sleeping accommodation for 6 to 10 people. Each chalet has unique offerings, such as fenced yards, bbq grills, kitchen appliances, fantastic mountain views, and private hot tubs. 

So take a hike in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, dip in the area’s natural hot springs, then pamper yourself and get some much-needed rest and relaxation in Salida, Colorado, at the Creekside Chalets. Visit our website today to schedule your trip to Colorado. We can’t wait to see you after you visit the dunes.