Such a cool park, and a totally unique experience! The sand dunes are crazy to see, sitting right at the foot of the San Luis mountains, and even crazier in that you can freaking walk u and down them. The truly adventurous should bring a snowboard and slide down the sand dunes.
Be sure and bring shoes in the summer though, as the sand can get super hot, and expect to be finding sand everywhere (and I mean everywhere) on your person and clothing for the next couple of weeks.
The Oasis is your one and only stop for supplies on the way into the Great Sand Dunes National Park. They've got everything from soda to gas, as well as a restaurant if you're looking for a complete meal.
The drive along Highway 160 into the mountains from Durango is one of the most beautiful I've ever gotten to take! The mountains aren't as stunning as the Rockies, but especially when the foliage is changing in the fall I think they're way more picturesque. Be sure and stop at the scenic overlook along the way, right after the Treasure Falls pullout.
Downtown Durango is totally cool. The main street is filled with everything from saloons to coffeeshops to upscale eateries, so there's something for everybody. Be sure and check out the coal-running train as it pulls out on its way to Silverton!
Didn't get a chance to stay at the Wapiti Lodge, but gosh darn it if that sign didn't make me fall in love with the place.
A beautiful stop in the middle of Southeastern Coloroado's mountains. You can also rent a yurt!
Went in to the Servatii on Court Street in between Walnut and Vine for a quick bite before work. Had a pretty solid chocolate muffin and coffee, and their pastries were a work of art!
If you can only see one thing in all of Mesa Verde, then it's got to be the Cliff Palace. The site is incredible to behold--a whole set of preserved buildings nestled right into the cliffs. The view from the observation point is pretty rad, but if you have the time then you should definitely take the tour through the ruins.
You can't miss this huge "toxic site" on the drive along Highway 160 in between Mesa Verde and Mancos/Durango. The signs warning about toxic contamination and blaming the state of Colorado for a massive fuel spill are pretty jarring, especially with all the Jolly Rogers flying around.
Seriously one of the coolest national parks I've ever gotten to see. My biggest disappointment of my entire road trip through the southwest was not giving myself enough time to do an entire tour of Cliff Palace (the archaeological site that you see in all the pictures)--it's about an hour drive from the visitors center to the palace, and the tour itself takes about an hour. If you're tight on time or don't feel physically prepared for the Cliff Palace tour (it's supposedly somewhat strenuous), be sure and drive to the Cliff Palace overlook. It's a gorgeous drive of switchbacks through some beautiful mountain scenery, and you can still get an impressive view of the palace from the overlook.