Great Sand Dunes National Park ~ July 2021

Last year when we did our epic road trip, we ended up purchasing a national parks pass. Although many of the parks were free or did not charge a fee last year, we went to a couple like Yellowstone where we needed a pass. This year we wanted to take advantage of that and go down to the Dunes while we still had a valid pass!

It’s a short, four hour drive down to the Dunes. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue for us at all – we could practically do there and back in a day! But, Viv is not a huge fan of her car seat, so we’ve been working with her to get her more used to spending time in her seat. We did several 1-2 hour day trips leading up to this trip, and we also decided to spend a couple of days down in that area. We’ve never been, and there’s so much to do in the SW corner of Colorado!

On the drive down, we stopped at Bishop Castle. I’ve read about this place since we moved here – and it was finally the time to check it out! Basically Mr Bishop decided about sixty years ago that America didn’t have enough castles. He began a one man mission to build a castle on his lands, built primarily from rock taken from the National Forests. As you can imagine, this has caused a bit of a kerfuffle with the BLM. There’s been an ongoing war for decades but they have been unsuccessful in shutting him down.

The castle itself is not built to code, but it’s pretty awesome. Exploring is encouraged, at your own risk. I was impressed by the creativity and whimsy of this castle. Having seen so many castles throughout Europe, I fully enjoyed this man’s take on a castle – and I felt it was supremely American. Instead of a castle built for a monarchy or for/by the church, this is one man, battling the elements and the system, intent on forging his own path. Is there anything more American? 🙂

We spent the next day at the Dunes – because we went so early in the summer, there is still snow melt that forms a little stream/river in front of the dunes. It was already crazy hot at the Dunes, so we basically just hung out at the water all day. The kids had a blast. Viv and I were not as enthusiastic about the heat and the blowing sand. But it wasn’t too bad! There’s not a whole lot else to do at the Dunes, you can rent sand boards to slide down the dunes, but none of our kids were quite big enough for that. Some other time.

Later than afternoon, after we had cleaned up and rested at our hotel, we headed back out for a short hike to Zapata Falls. The creek that flows over the falls is ridiculously chilly, so the little valley where it’s nestled was refreshingly cool. We had a nice hike there and back, and Lover braved the freezing water to actually see the falls (they’re in a cave that you have to wade to).

The next day was my favorite! Right after we moved here, I read about the gator rescue down in Mosca. We found a few discounts/coupons and loaded up the troops to go see a bunch of reptiles! This place, the Colorado Gators Reptile Park, was so very much our speed. The staff is incredibly helpful, friendly and informative. The kids loved feeding the gators, the fish and the tortoises. Javi got to hold a snake, and I got to hold a baby gator! Everyone had a fabulous time! I really enjoyed getting to take pictures of critters that I’ve never photographed before!

On our last evening in Alamosa, we checked out the local fair that opened that evening. We rode rides and got a ton of mosquito bites. It was fun to do something like a fair that we had missed the summer before!

All in all, it was a successful trip and a wonderful four days! It was nice to have an adventure “just” the seven of us. And even though it was pretty tiring to travel with a young baby who didn’t sleep very well (we went at the beginning of June), it is still such a fun memory!

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