Medano Pass

4.8/5 (87 reviews)
Westcliffe, Colorado (Huerfano County)
Last Updated: 05/19/2023

Trail Information


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

4.8/5 (88)
Rated 5/5
Visited: 05/28/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Ran the trail from the Sand Dunes to east in my Power Wagon. The trail was fun and not overly difficult but did get tight in the trees with oncoming traffic. The water crossings ranged from 18"-36" deep. There were two significant mud holes. The first was just west of waypoint 6. The second was just west of waypoint 4. Going from east to west they are easier to traverse. Going from west to east is more challenging because of having to climb the shelf to get out.
Rated 4/5
Visited: 05/27/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Attempted to run the trail east to west. Got to the upper mud hole, just west of waypoint 4. There was a stock Ranger, with a rear locker, attempting to go up (east) through the mud hole, that was stuck. Some folks were trying to winch him through, but they weren’t making any progress. After watching for a while, we decided to turn around and go the long way around to Sand Dunes. Going east to west, I probably could have made it, but there was at least 12 inches of soupy mud. Plus, we weren’t going anywhere until the Ranger was out, and it was starting to get dark. My ride: Badlands SAS Bronco
Rated 4/5
Visited: 05/25/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Very easy but fun trail. Lots of water crossings, slight off camber sections, flexy bits and some sand. Could probably be done in a stock 4x4 but just as fun in a built rig or nice trail for a shakedown run to test stuff.
Rated 4/5
Visited: 05/22/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Very fun trial, not too difficult. I ran the route backwards, starting in the park but I would probably do I the other way next time. Would be a great fall drive for aspens! Made it through all the water crossing unscathed, though they did get pretty deep. Any higher and I’m not sure I could have made it with my Ranger
Official Crew
Visited: 05/19/2023

Trail is now fully open according to the NPS.

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