The Great Sand Dunes Park and Preserve encompasses 150,000 acres (about 234 square mi) of land and mountains surrounding the dunes. Looking at the dunes from the west, your eye sweeps over the grassland and sand sheet, a vast expanse of smaller dunes and flatter sections of sand and knee-high brush. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains rear up in the east behind the dunes, forming a dramatic backdrop and creating a stunning juxtaposition of color and form. Depending on the time of year, you'll hear a quiet gurgle or a real rush from Medano Creek, which flows along the eastern edge of the dunes (medano is Spanish for "sand dune," and it's pronounced meh-dah-noh). Hiking trails thread these mountains—the "preserve" area—where you can walk quietly through aspens and evergreens.
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