Great Sand Dunes National Park Weddings and Elopements

Updated March 25, 2021

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Where are the Great Sand Dunes located?

Great Sand Dunes National Park
11999 State Highway 150 
Mosca, CO 81146

It’s a long drive from Denver down to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, but once you get there you’ll be awed.

With no formal site for weddings, this location is best for engagement sessions and elopements.

Read more about elopements and engagement sessions with me.

From their site:

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve protects the tallest dunes in North America… and a whole lot more. The park and preserve contain ecosystems ranging from wetlands to forest to tundra—each supporting specially adapted plant, animal and insect life. Make the most of your visit by taking the time to experience this diversity in your national park!

What is the overall feel of Great Sand Dunes National Park?

Otherworldly in a vast and beautiful way. It’s not every day that you get to climb on the tallest sand dunes in North America! The tallest dune is about 750 feet. If you’re interested in the geologic history of the dunes, definitely read in the National Park Service Website

The dunes are also incredible because they’re surrounded by mountain ranges. So you get the mix of mountain and desert for a truly unique Colorado experience.

What time of year should I plan my elopement or session at the dunes?

January & February: The first two months of the year are cold and snowy. Blizzards are common, as is weekly snowfall on the dunes. Outside of snow falls, though, the sun shines often and roads clear quickly.

March & April: March and April are the two snowiest months and some of the windiest. Plan to visit in the morning to avoid the worst winds. In late April, Medano Creek starts melting and trickling towards the main parking area at the dunes. Piñon Flats Campground opens in April.

May: The Medano Creek flow peaks in late May and is a popular destination for families and kids. To avoid crowds and crowded parking lots, plan your elopement or session for a weekday. Temperatures are pleasant in May (highs in the 60’s and 70’s), but the sand can get as hot as 150 degrees. For the most comfortable barefoot climbing, plan your session for morning or evening. The Medano Pass Primitive Road opens in late May, which gives you more backcountry options for your session.

June: As creek water levels peek and begin to subside, mosquitoes come out in force. They usually start to swarm the second week of June and the season can last 4-6 weeks. They don’t love open sand though, so the further away you stay from vegetation, the less you’ll have to deal with them. To avoid crowds and crowded parking lots, plan your elopement or session for a weekday. Many alpine hiking trails are now free of snow and open.

July: The warmest month at the dunes, with temperatures in the 70’s, you’ll still want to plan your session in the morning or evening to avoid scalding sand temperatures. Mosquitos are plentiful near the slow moving creek, so avoid areas with lots of vegetation. Afternoon thunderstorms are frequent, so make sure you’re prepared with the right clothing. However, wildflowers are plentiful in the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve area.

August: Conditions are pleasant at the park in August with warm temperatures and dry conditions. Prairie Sunflower wildflowers peak the last two weeks of August. On moonless nights the Milky Way is visible high in the sky.

September: Some of the best weather at the Dunes comes in September. Aspens start changing at high elevations in the surrounding mountains, and color work its way down the mountains groves to lower elevations. By late September and early October, aspens are at peak.

October: Temperatures start to drop in October and snow starts to dust the mountains later in the month. Afternoons are often pleasant in the park.

November & December: Winter starts to hit in November and temperatures drop. Snow falls more frequently and stays around longer. High altitude hikes now have snow on them.

Do I need a permit to get married at Great Sand Dunes National Park?

YES. Special Use Permits must be acquired for weddings, elopements, and other sessions in the park requiring photography. The fee is $200 (check only) and all paperwork must be submitted by mail so make sure you give yourself time to get through the process. Because your photographer will have to provide proof of insurance, make sure you work on this together, or have your photographer submit the application.

Weddings can take place outside the wilderness boundary of the dunefield. Portrait sessions can take place anywhere that doesn’t interfere with the public enjoyment of the park.

For questions about your wedding plans, you can email Dale Carver at dale_culver@nps.gov or reach the office by phone 719-378-6321.

You can find applications and more information on permits here.

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I travel all over the state of Colorado and across the US to capture connected wedding stories for
devoted and courageous couples. I’d love to help you plan and photograph your Great Sand Dunes National Park Wedding or Elopement!

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