Stops from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes is a really fun place to spend a day or a couple days. While you may be coming from many places, if you are driving from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes, you can make a great road trip out of it. Check out these awesome stops along your route, whether you choose the quickest route or the scenic route.

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We have driven along these roads many times and really enjoy that there are so many things to do. So make a great trip with lots of great stops and places to stretch as you head to Great Sand Dunes from Colorado Springs.

pinnable image of Routes from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes with Fun Stops: 4 image collage of giant sand dune at sunrise, head of a giraffe, up close of a rock fossil of a fish, frozen waterfall in between mountain walls

Quickest Route from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes

Time: 2 hours 35 minutes

The quickest route to get to the sand dunes from Colorado Springs is to take I-25 south until you hit Walensburg, then head west on highway 160. This will take you through La Veta Pass, which isn’t treacherous or anything to drive through.

Eventually you’ll turn on the 150, the road that leads into the park.

If you don’t prefer any stops, this makes a great day trip from Colorado Springs. But if you have time, read on for making the best road trip out of this drive.

Stops from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes- Quick Route

While there aren’t many knock-your-socks-off or super popular stops, there are still a few unique and beautiful places to get out and stretch. These places are great for a stretch to break up the drive.

Stop #1- Colorado Springs

Of course in Colorado Springs there is so much to do and great activities for the family. If you have a day or two, spend some time here because there is a wide variety of entertainment, great family hiking, and so much more.

Stop #2- Fountain

The next place to get out and explore is just south of Colorado Springs in the town of Fountain. Fountain brings a small, cute downtown with shops, bakeries, and views of Pikes Peak.

Stop at the Fountain Creek Regional Park for fresh air and the chance for little legs to run around. Enjoy walking the trail, viewing ponds, a playground, and the Fountain Creek Nature Center.

The Fountain Creek Nature Center is perfect for learning about animals from the forest and marshes with a guided audio tour around the nature area. Walk around the .7 mile trail and then head inside to the exhibits.

Stop #3- Pueblo

Pueblo is a town that gets overlooked. It’s popular for its state park that makes for great boating in the summer.

When you stop here on your way to Great Sand Dunes from Colorado Springs, you can chekc out the state park even without a boat.

Lake Pueblo State Park is great for getting outside, eating lunch at the picnic area, walking the paved trails, or even dipping in the water at Rock Canyon Swim Beach.

You can also make an experience out of visiting the Pueblo Zoo. This zoo is a small one with just over 400 animals (compared to Denver’s 3,000+), but it’s still a fun stop for the kids.

Pueblo Zoo offers up close experiences with their Behind the Scenes packages, as well as a cafe on site. Being a smaller zoo might just make it the perfect stop since it won’t be an all-day-long experience.

For an easy and free way to get out of the car, simply walk along the beautiful Arkansas Riverwalk in town.

man in red coat standing in huge empty room of arched wood ceilings

Stop #4- Bishop Castle in Rye

This stop is about 20-30 minutes off the main route, but worth it if you’re looking for some unique stops.

Bishop Castle was made by Jim Bishop. He had no blueprints, he just got materials and started building.

This unique structure is free to visit, though you’ll want to keep a close eye on the kids if you decide to climb up the castle. Otherwise, just enjoy it from the ground.

Stop #5- Walsenburg

Walsenburg is the next main city you’ll drive through. There’s not necessarily a ton to explore here, but it makes a good destination for grabbing snacks or taking a bathroom break.

If you want to see some sites, you can stop at the Walsenburg Mining Museum or stop at Lathrop State Park which is just beyond Walsenburg after you turn onto highway 160.

Stop #6- Zapata Falls

Zapata Falls is located just off the road that leads to the Sand Dunes, so once you’re made it here, you’ve practically arrived.

Zapata Falls is a fun, easy hike up to a cool waterfall within mountain walls. We have hiked it in the winter when the falls were frozen, and even got to see some ice climbers.

After you hike Zapata Falls, you are pretty much at Great Sand Dunes National Park! Find a great place to stay beforehand so you can get right to playing when you arrive.

🏠 Where to Stay near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Scenic Route from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes

Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

This scenic route takes a little longer, but adds a dash of beauty and fun to the drive. If you have the time, consider this scenic route from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes.

For the scenic route, you’ll head west on highway 24 out of Colorado Springs. You’ll take this a while all the way to the end until you reach the junction with highway 285, and head left (south). After a shorter drive, you’ll reach another turn off. Turn left to stay on highway 285.

Eventually 285 will split again and you’ll head left onto CO-17, still heading south. This will eventually come near the town of Mosca where you’ll take a left on Lane 6 north for 6 miles.

Then turn left when you get to highway 150. This will take you right into the park after a couple miles.

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Stops from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes- Scenic Route

Stop #1- Colorado Springs

Again, you have to take some time to enjoy this great city. From nature to museums and everything in between, Colorado Springs has a lot of offer anytime of year you visit.

small town built out of rock at manitou cliff dwellings

Stop #2- Manitou Springs

There is so much to do in this small, neighboring town. If you have time, you can ride the cog rail up to the top of Pike’s Peak, walk through the quaint downtown area, check out the cliff dwellings, or let the kids play at the Penny Arcade.

Stop #3- Cascade

Cascade has one big, awesome jolly attraction: The North Pole. The North Pole is a family-friendly amusement park that also hosts Santa’s Workshop. It’s open from mid-May up to Christmas Eve.

Cascade is also the start to Pikes Peak Highway. While you can board the cog rail from Manitou Springs, you’ll have to get to Cascade if you’d like to drive yourself.

Drive 19 miles up the mountain to the top of Pike’s Peak. This peak is one of Colorado’s 14,000 + foot peaks and one of the few you can drive up.

There’s a fee to drive up, and you’ll need a reservation.

Stop #4- Woodland Park

If you need somewhere to just stop and rest a minute as you drive from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes, Woodland Park is a great area.

This beautiful town isn’t necessarily filled with touristy attractions, but it is incredibly beautiful. It’s a quiet, scenic place to take a rest, grab a bite to eat, or just wander around Memorial Park.

You’ll feel the desire to stop here and enjoy this place, even if just for a breath of fresh air.

Stop #5- Divide

Divide has one main attraction worth a visit. The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is a fun stop for kids to see these strong creatures up close in a controlled environment. The center is a sanctuary for wolves and foxes who are unable to survive in the wild on their own.

They are then taken care of and used for educational purposes to the public. Grab a reservation before you plan to visit.

a fossilized fish in a rock

Photo Credit: NPS

Stop #6- Florissant

Florissant is home to one of many national monuments in Colorado, the Florissant Fossil Beds. While it doesn’t have the vastness of Colorado National Monument, it does have unique sights the kids will love.

Visit The Big Stump, a large, petrified tree stump that is the park’s main attraction.

You can also find fossilized fish, butterflies, and plants.

Stop #7- Buena Vista

You’ll come to Buena Vista shortly after you get on 285, right about where 285 takes a sharp turn south. You’ll want to head north instead, but just for a short distance.

Buena Vista is known for its beautiful scenery, adventure, and most of all the hot springs.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs is often called one of the best hot springs in the state (with rivals like Glenwood Hot Springs, that’s quite an honor.) You’ll have the option of creekside hot springs, pools, and a bath house.

Cottonwood Hot Springs are another great place to take a dip in the warm, nourishing waters. The hot springs are a little smaller, and therefore also a little cheaper to visit. They are just as enjoyable.

For a longer stop with more adventure, the whole family (ages 2+) can take a gentle rafting trip that departs from Buena Vista on the Arkansas River.

Book your Family Rafting Trip down the Arkansas

Stop #8- Browns Canyon in Nathrop

Brown’s Canyon National Monument will get you your second national monument option on this scenic Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes drive.

Brown’s Canyon is popular for taking people down the river via the same Arkansas River as noted above. Really, it’s a gorgeous place that screams Colorado beauty.

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is made of 22,000 acres of woodland and grasslands. The 3,000 foot elevation change makes it ideal for different features like granite, aspens, and pines.

Stop #9- UFO Watchtower

For another unique stop on the way from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes, you can stop at the UFO Watchtower. This is not too far from the Great Sand Dunes, so it’s a great last stop without having far to go.

The watchtower here is a great place to watch for UFO sightings. There have allegedly been many sightings over the years.

Even if you don’t stop at night or don’t believe in the UFO sightings, it’s still a neat attraction to check out.

Stop #10- Colorado Gators and Reptiles

The Colorado Gators and Reptile Park is a great place to see some unique animals along the way. Here you can see rescued turtles, alligators, crocodiles, and more.

Kids can even visit albino alligators, without having to visit the Everglades!

Zapata falls in winter frozen waterfall

Stop #11- Zapata Falls

The final stop before reaching Great Sand Dunes is Zapata Falls. This is located right along the road into the park, so it makes for an easy and convenient stop.

Zapata Falls is a short hike up to an incredible waterfall that falls between two mountain walls. Check out our frozen waterfall adventure in the winter to Zapata.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Once you’ve made it to Great Sand Dunes, you can relax and play after a long, exciting road trip from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes.

Rent a sled in a neighboring city and enjoy climbing around the dunes. If it’s early summer, you can enjoy Medano Creek at the bottom. That will be a much-needed cool down from being on the sand.

👉🏼 Guide to Enjoying Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes

Hopefully you’ve found some great stop and things to do on the drive from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes. There is so much to explore along the route, whether you choose the quick or scenic route.

Pick and choose which adventures and stops you’d like to make, and then enjoy every moment of your trip!

How Far is Great Sand Dunes National Park from Colorado Springs?

The distance from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes National Park is about 2-1/2 hours at 166 miles. Colorado Springs is huge, so this measurement is from the downtown area and the time/distance can vary depending on where in Colorado Springs you are driving from.

At only 2-1/2 hours away, leaving early can mean making a great day trip from Colorado Springs if you are limited on time.

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pinnable image of Routes from Colorado Springs to Great Sand Dunes with Fun Stops: 4 image collage of giant sand dune at sunrise, head of a giraffe, up close of a rock fossil of a fish, frozen waterfall in between mountain walls

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