Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa is one of the most unique national parks in the system, so it stands to reason that it would also be one of the most unique places to camp. With several camping options, including a campground as well as backcountry camping, perhaps the most unique aspect of camping at Sand Dunes is heading out into the dune field and setting up wherever you like (outside the day use area, which means a hike of at least 1.5 miles). Bad weather can mean blowing sand or thunderstorms, so be sure to check the weather before deciding. There is a limit of six people per party and 20 parties in the dunefield per night. Free permits are issued on a first come first served basis.
BENEATH A UFO WATCHTOWER
WHERE DINOSAURS ONCE ROAMED
Dinosaur National Monument is 210,000 acres along the Colorado and Utah border with each side of the monument offering a different experience. The Colorado side is home to spectacular canyons and rivers, including Harpers Corner Road, a 32-mile scenic drive that includes overlooks of the Yampa and Green Rivers. The short Harpers Corner Trail at the road’s end is a must to get the most dramatic views. Most of the dinosaur fossils are actually on the Utah side. Perhaps the coolest name for a campsite in the entire state, the Gates of Lodore Campground is on the Green River at the head of Lodore Canyon.
IN A DUNE FIELD
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In Center, just outside Alamosa and not far from Sand Dunes National Park, the UFO Watchtower is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Opened by Judy Messoline in 2000, legend has it (well her own website actually) that she heard repeated mentions of the area on TV shows like “Sightings” and “The X-Files” and thought there must be something in it so she created the UFO Watchtower. Located on 600 acres, the isolated nature of the watchtower means that it is equally as good for stargazing as UFO spotting.
Photos: (this page above: NPS / Jacob W. Frank; (below); Mo J. via Yelp