Medano Pass

4.9/5 (78 reviews)
Westcliffe, Colorado (Huerfano County)
Last Updated: 06/26/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

Medano Pass offers travelers breathtaking scenery, plenty of free dispersed camping, hikes, sand, and water crossings. Truly a gem in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, Medano Pass is your gateway to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Great Sand Dunes offer a vista that can be found nowhere else in the state of Colorado. The Great Sand Dunes are the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising to a maximum height of 750 feet (229 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Medano Pass is a great option for an alternate route into or out of The Great Sand Dunes National Park. The trail can be run in either direction. This is a good trail for any beginner or veteran and should be passable by just about any stock, high clearance 4wd vehicle. The scenery is beautiful, and there is a good mix of rock, sand, and water crossings. On the road's east side, you'll find the trail is mostly dirt, trees, and rocks. On the west side, it gradually becomes sandier with frequent water crossings. Be aware - the water crossings can be 2-3 feet deep during the spring snowmelt season and remain relatively deep throughout the year. Always use caution when fording water. Great Sand Dunes National Park charges a standard parks entrance fee for any non-commercial vehicle inside the National Park. Entering the Great Sand Dunes via Medano Pass does not have a ranger pavilion at the park entrance. Drivers are asked to visit the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center to pay the entrance fee. Entrance fees directly provide for maintenance and improvements to the park and preserve.

Trail Reviews

4.9/5 (78 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/27/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Ran east to west on 22psi. This trail has a little bit of everything good. Fun climbs up from the forest boundary to the pass. A little bit of attention needed in spots on the descent but nothing nasty. Water crossings weren’t problematic. Toughest part was navigating past oncoming traffic above the preserve boundary. Ended up catching a break and camped at #2 before taking the kids to the dunes the next morning. Will run it the other way next time.
Trail Review: Medano Pass - Tanner Mitchell
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/24/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Great trail! Little bit of everything. NPS Air Station was a little tricky but once I got it working it was the fastest fill up I’ve ever had.
Status: Open
Visited: 08/23/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Medano Pass (East to West) last Tuesday/Wednesday (8/23-24/2022) Just got back from an outstanding 8 day trip to Colorado. Coming up from the south east, I did Cordova pass then Medano. I camped at site 5.8 just below the top. I was told the pass had two days of rain and it made the creek crossings pretty spicy. The first water crossing (down from the top) was two feet deep and the long sunken mud wall section was just as deep. Both i just chugged along and for as bad as they looked I never felt like i was getting bogged down in the mud. The rest of the crossings the water was clear flowing fast water but you could see the bottom to pick your line to cross. Coming down the pass into Sand Dunes NP was outstanding! I was solo, so with no spotter i just had to go slow down some washed out lines and just walk some of the rock steps at the top of the pass.
Trail Review: Medano Pass - Ken Abney
Trail Review: Medano Pass - Ken Abney
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Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/20/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Had a great time on this trail. This was a spontaneous side trip and we started the route about 3:00p. Went west to east. Very rainy day. Sand was wet and the one long mud crossing was deep. Wheels slipped first in the middle of the mud crossing but made it through no problem. 9 water crossings total the deepest was a bit over 2 feet when we went through. There is one slightly tight spot with rocks (no problem for 4Runner) and few spots that might pinstripe larger vehicles. Did the entire route in 4-Hi until rocky spots near the top when I went to 4-Lo. There are over 40 marked campsites along the way up and more once you cross the pass and are in the national forest on your way down. Though marked, they feel very dispersed. Very glad we choose to run this route. Photo is on the first water crossing encountered along the way. Look forward to doing this route again sometime and camping along the way.
Trail Review: Medano Pass - Ted Thompson
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 08/01/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

The recent rains must have really chewed up the road. This pass was super tight for my Power Wagon. Also had the suspension fully articulated at the end of the route. Ran the route west to east. Couple of mudholes only 1 was serious.

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