One of our favorites among these lesser known and under appreciated trails is Medano Pass, a low mountain pass which crosses the Sangre de Cristo mountain range southwest of Pueblo in southern Colorado. The trail is notable primarily as the backcountry entrance into Great Sand Dunes National Park. This is a breathtaking and unique national park and wilderness preserve which is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. The tallest of these dunes rise to heights of more than 750 feet above the valley floor.
Medano Pass Trail
The best way to drive Medano Pass is from East to West. Medano Pass is a moderate trail, with a 6+ (out of 10) rating. For those seeking more challenge, Medano is an excellent and scenic way to get to the trailhead of its more well-known neighbor, Blanca Trail (a 9 rated trail). With a summit of about 9,950 feet above sea level, Medano Pass is one of the lower passes in the state. Because of the lower altitude, it’s almost aways open by the beginning of June and sometimes by early May.
Most of the eastern half of the trail is easy, with a couple of moderately steep climbs and rocky spots. These can easily be crossed with careful driving and spotting for larger trucks. Once you cross the pass summit, the trail becomes considerably more scenic as you descend into the San Luis Valley.
Waterproofing your vehicle article.
Once inside Great Sand Dunes National Park, the trail parallels the southern edge of the dunes. This stretch of trail contains more than two miles of soft sand. Reducing vehicle tire pressure to 18 psi generally provides enough flotation to traverse the sand. Once you hit pavement, the National Park Service provides compressed air for refilling your tires.
On the western half of Medano Pass, there are 18 numbered campsites available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. These campsites are all located outside of the park boundaries. Inside the National Park, there is a large campground with hookups and improved camping facilities located near the end of the pavement. While much more crowded and less private than the primitive camping spots along the trail, these in-park spots can be reserved ahead of time through the National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/grsa/medano-pass-road.htm
The trail starts approximately 26.5 miles south of the town of Westcliffe on Highway 69, [GPS Coordinates (WGS84) 37 50.19, 105 18.46). The trailhead is marked as CR 559. The trail follows the edge of private property before entering national forest land at mile 6.9