Less than an hour's drive southwest of Great Sand Dunes are two sanctuaries for songbirds, water birds, and raptors (they're also home to many other types of birds, along with mule deer, beavers, and coyotes). The smaller of the two is the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, comprising nearly 12,000 acres of natural and man-made wetlands bordering the Rio Grande. You can take a 2-mile hike along the river or a 3½-mile drive along the bluff overlook on the park's eastern
side. The refuge office is staffed by volunteers sporadically from March through November and closed in winter—it's wise to call first.