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Traveler's check | Great Sand Dunes National Park

By ALLEN HOLDER
The Kansas City Star

This story originally appeared in the Sunday, September 30, 2007 edition of The Kansas City Star

Getting there

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is in south-central Colorado, about 700 miles from Kansas City.

From Denver, the park is a 240-mile drive. Follow Interstate 25 south for 160 miles to Walsenburg, west on U.S. 160 about 60 miles, then north on Colorado 150 about 20 miles into the park.

Round-trip, restricted airfare between Kansas City and Denver recently ran from about $100. Closer to the park, airfare to Colorado Springs started about $130; to Pueblo, about $220.

Getting in

A seven-day permit costs $3 for adults, a bargain compared with admission fees for many national parks. Children 15 and younger are admitted free. Annual passes cost $15 and admit all family members traveling in the same vehicle.

If youíre planning to visit several national parks in the next year, an America the Beautiful annual pass costs $80 and permits access to national parks and other federal recreation sites. Call 1-888-ASK-USGS or see store.usgs.gov/pass.

A lifetime senior pass for citizens or permanent residents 62 and older costs $10. Lifetime passes for permanently disabled Americans are free.

Getting around

Colorado 150 leads past the visitor center to the park amphitheater and Pinyon Flats campground. Two-wheel-drive vehicles can continue on a dirt road as far as the Point of No Return. Beyond that, roads are accessible only to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Where to stay

Inside the park, the Pinyon Flats campground offers 88 sites for $14 a night, first-come, first-served. Three group sites also may be reserved. Four-wheel-drive backcountry and backpacking camping are allowed, too. 719-378-6399.

Outside the park, campgrounds are available year-round at Great Sand Dunes Oasis (719-378-2222) and seasonally at San Luis Lakes State Park (719-378-2020).

The closest hotel to the park is the Great Sand Dunes Lodge, 7900 Colorado 150 North in Mosca. Ten rooms from $84 to $95, depending on season. Open March-October. 719-378-2900, gsdlodge.com.

Alamosa, 35 miles away, offers several chain motels, such as the Holiday Inn Express, 3418 Mariposa. 74 rooms from $80 to $100, including breakfast. 719-589-4026, hiexpress.com.

For other lodging options in Alamosa, see alamosa.com.

Where to eat

The closest restaurant to the park is at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis, 5400 Highway 150 North, Mosca. Navajo tacos with green or red chilies and cheese, $7.95; chicken and cheese quesadillas, $7.95; burger and fries, $6.50; pies, $3.95. 719-378-2222.

True Grits, 100 Santa Fe Ave., Alamosa, is a Western-themed steakhouse whose dishes are named for John Wayne movies. Chisum, 14-ounce ribeye, $18.99; Rooster Cogburn, country-fried steak, $9.99; the Shootist, 8-ounce salmon, $13.99. 719-589-9954.

Oscarís, 520 Main St., Alamosa, serves traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Combination plate with beef enchilada, cheese enchilada, one taco and beans, rice, tamale or salad, $8.95; three carne asada tacos with rice and beans, $7.25; chicken, pork or beef fajitas, $8.95. 719-589-9230.

To learn more

Contact Great Sand Dunes National Park at nps.gov/grsa or 719-378-6399.

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