Feel free to set off in any direction to explore the dune field, since there are no official trails to follow. Many visitors take off for what’s called High Dune, which appears to be the tallest dune from the visitors’ center, although it’s actually neither the highest in elevation nor the tallest from base to summit. At 650 feet, it’s certainly no slouch, and it offers spectacular views to those hardy enough to zigzag along the ridgelines to reach the top. (The visitors’ center can loan you a dunes-accessible wheelchair for free if anyone in your party is handicapped.) It takes the average adult about an hour to reach the top of the first ridge, but you can have plenty of sandy fun without going all the way.
Probably the favorite pastime here is sledding, skiing or sand-boarding on the dunes — especially good after a rain or snowfall. Use smooth, hard, flat-bottomed sleds or skis, which you can buy in the neighboring towns. You won’t have much luck with cardboard, so don’t bother to bring any.
If you visit in summer, limit your dunes exploration to morning or evening to avoid hot sand. Bring water and snacks along, and be sure to wear shoes. On sunny days, the sand’s surface temperature can reach as high as 140 degrees; hot enough to blister bare feet. Don’t forget sunscreen, because at higher elevations (the visitors center is at 8,200 feet), skin burns more easily than it does at sea level.
Before you climb back into your car, you’ll want to make good use of the foot wash outside the restroom in the parking area.