Pinon Flats Campground is located in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in southern Colorado. The huge dunes are the tallest in North America and comprise about 11 percent of an enormous sand deposit that covers more than 330 square miles.
The dunes have long stood as a landmark for travelers from ancient North Americans to Southern Ute, Jicarilla Apaches, Navajos, early explorers, gold miners, homesteaders, ranchers, farmers and migrant field workers, to you - today's park visitor.
Great Sand Dunes' wide range of natural features provides endless outdoor recreational activities. The park is perfect for kids, who love exploring the dunefield on foot or by sled. Medano Creek, at the base of the dunes, is a popular place in the summertime. Kids and adults alike love to splash in the cool water.
Many kid-friendly, ranger-led activities and a junior ranger program are available.
Many miles of hiking and backpacking trails lead through the park's forests and alpine terrain, including the Mosca Pass Trail, Dunes Overlook/Sand Ramp Trail and Indian Grove Trail.
Pinon Flats campground offers 86 campsites; all are available to reserve in advance. Sites that are not reserved will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis at the park. The park recommends making a reservation in advance, especially for peak summer weekends and holidays. Private first-come, first-served camping is also available just outside the park boundary. For more information about camping, visit www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/camping.htm. During visitor center operating hours, you can see a park film, experience interactive exhibits, speak with a helpful ranger and visit the Western National Parks Association store. Kids of all ages can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet or participate in the Junior Ranger Explorer program.
Great Sand Dunes are the magnificent centerpiece of a natural system that includes high mountain peaks, sparkling streams, vast grasslands and lush forests.
The campground is situated among pinon pines and sagebrush beneath the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Most sites have beautiful views of the snow-covered peaks.
A wide variety of grasses and wildflowers can be found throughout the area, and mule deer are commonly seen in and around the campground.
Zapata Falls is just south of the national park off Highway 150. A short but slippery 1/2-mile hike leads to a 25-foot high cascade. Simply driving to the trailhead provides an excellent view of the entire dunefield and San Luis Valley, especially at sunrise or sunset. San Luis State Wildlife Area is located at the western edge of Great Sand Dunes National Park. It features a large natural lake popular for boating, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing and fishing.
ADA Access: N
A busy campground, it's very difficult to get a spot without a reservation, and people start roaming and asking if your leaving before 6AM. Some sites are definitely better than others, but beggars can't be choosers. Be bear aware. Always a good amphitheater chat from the rangers. Our favorite time to go is near Memorial day or early June when the river is flowing. A favorite memory.
Love the silence!
I really enjoy staying at Pinyon Flats, of all the park service campgrounds this is on the top of my list. If you get the right sight you will have amazing views of the dunes and surrounding mountains. The sites have plenty of room for the tent camping folks, things can get tight for RVs. Some of the site are pretty close to each other, but spacing for most is quiet nice. The restrooms were very clean with flush toilets, and dish washing facilities outside. Each site has a picnic table, metal fire rings, and bear proof food lockers. Be sure to watch the dunes in the evening as the low setting sun cast shadows over the sand dunes. Get hiking opportunities in the park, but one of the best is hiking through the dunes. Campground roads and parking pads are paved. Campground takes reservations so it can get difficult during the summer months to find a spot if you don't have a reservation. This last visit in the beginning of October we found plenty of open sites for the night. Campground has 88 sites at$20 a night.
This campground has three loops, the first two have sites for RVs, and the last loop is for tents only. There are hiking paths from the campgrounds out to the dunes, and it's only a three minutes drive to the dunes parking area. There are bear boxes and all trash containers are bear proof, they do see bear here so use the boxes properly. It's $20 a night, or $10 if you have an Access pass, and you can stay 14 nights every 30 days. You will need to make reservations if you want to stay the full 14 days, as the walk up sites are few and far between and you'll have to move every couple of days if you don't have reservations. The Point of no Return 4wheel only road is at the beginning of the campground and has camping down it, but that's another campground and another review. There are plenty of trails to hike, both up the surrounding mountains, and to the dunes. The weather I'm August is beautiful, it can get hot so pack plenty of water with you. There is a free RV dump and fill station right before you get into the campground, great even if you don't stay at the park. The camp store is rarely open and limited on items, so prepare before you head here. The visitor center is not far and that's where you get your permits for overnight backpacking, parking, camping in the park. This place is like being on another world, views are truly breathtaking. If you only stop one place in the San Luis Valley make it the Great Sand Dunes National Park, you won't regret it.
This campground was good, solid, the sites were roomy with picnic tables and bear boxes. There were plenty of toilets which had self flushing features and running water for sinks. Also there was a dish washing area, which we love! The mosquitos were awful, swarming like I have never seen, so be prepared. Storms are normal, while we were there we had severe thunderstorms and sat it out in our tent listening to our Midway weather radio, it was scary! There is a camp store, but they have very limited hours, we never got there when they were open. The park itself is unique, lots of fun. Cell service was limited for us, but I think Verizon has coverage. No showers, but this was a great find, the rec center in Alamosa charged 2.00 and 1.00 for each additional person. The showers and bathrooms were clean, lots of hot water with good pressure.
A great site that’s well kept and clean. Very easy access to dunes. Can’t wait to go back!
Note: In July, expect to battle plentiful and aggressive mosquitos. I cannot understate this. Walking back from the dunes I could not swing my arms without hitting several out of the swarm of 20+ around me. They are the worst the couple hours following sunrise and the hour before and after sunset.
Ok, now that I got that out of the way, I can focus on the rest of the campground.
Staying in a national park is always a special experience that is hard to find in a commercial facility. Being close to the hiking trails and visitor center, watching nightly programs at the amphitheater, and just the general ambiance that people are there to enjoy the outdoors, is wonderful. If you stayed at Jumbo Rocks campground in Joshua Tree, the layout of the campground is similar. Sites are a mix of back-in and parallel and widely vary in length and width (be sure to check the reservation site closely to be sure you will fit). There are no hook-ups and the comfort stations do not have showers. They do have running water and dishwashing stations, however, which is nice. If you need to wash the sweat and sand off, stop by the dunes parking lot and go for a dip in the Medosa creek (or use the rinsing off showers they have there) but be warned, the water is cold! Quiet hours are 10 pm to 6 am, generation hours were from 8 am to 8 pm, and both are enforced by active camp hosts.
There is a camp store in between the 1st and 2nd loops, but it was never open when we were there. For basics, you can visit the Oasis store just outside the park. Beyond that, you need to drive into Alamosa, which is about 30-40 minutes away.
Things to do: Drive the primitive road to Medosa Pass or take the dirt road to hike Zapata Falls (be warned, you will want 4 wheel drive for these). Hike the dunes (give yourself a good hour to make it to the top of the first ridge. It is only 600 feet elevation gain but for every step up you slide back a half a step; it is tiring.) Play in the creek (besides the dunes, this is the main attraction. Note that you have to cross the creek to reach the dunes, there is no bridge).
I would love to come back again but I will not be doing so in July. This is the height of the mosquito season.
We just got back from our trip to the dunes. It was a fun experience and we will be returning in the the fall once the mosquito horde has died.
Choose wisely not every site has a view of the dunes. I did my research and was rewarded with a site on the outer portion of the camp ground. Our site had decent shade but many are exposed, bring a tarp or canopy.
July was mosquito madness. Honestly I am from the country and can deal with bugs, but being dived bombed by 30 mosquitos (not exagerrating) is intense. Be ready for battle. Bring a arsenal or bug spray etc. if you come during their prime months. Persobally I will only return in fall or spring prior to these months from now in as it can be tough to relax. They are everywhere except they do thin out the higher you go in the dunes. Just be ready mentally to combat those suckers, they are relentless and thick.
Very close to the creek and dunes. We hiked the dune overlook trail and it was really nice-1 mile long and gave a different perspective of the dunes. There are a few hikes we wanted to try there but the mosquitos were just so thick we stuck to the dunes mainly this time.
No showers. Which can be a bummer in the heat and sand combo so bring shower wipes.
We stayed here mid summer. We picked a perfect time because it rained in the afternoons which cooled things down nicely and kept the sand firm in the morning while we hiked. By the time we got to the top it was dried out enough to board or sled down which was a blast. The falls are really cool as well as beautiful scenery in all directions
We stayed here one night after arriving late to the dunes. Just a short drive from the dunes to this site is convenient. They have first come first serve spots as well as reservations. You have to register each day of your stay. They have bathrooms with flush toilets and running water. Camp spots have a place for tent, fire ring and bear box. You just pull your car right up. Great spot for only $20 a night. Worth it to be so close to the dunes.