This New 320-acre Desert Camp Is Near the Tallest Sand Dunes in North America and a Lesser-known National Park — and It Opens in June

Welcome to Dunes Desert Camp. You'll never want to leave.

Three people hiking the sand dunes in Colorado desert

Courtesy of Dunes Experiences & Dunes Desert Camp

The desolate and wide-open landscape of Colorado’s San Luis Valley still feels untouched, even though it’s the site of one of the state’s four national parks. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve sits on the edge of the valley, marked by the rolling sand dunes that seem to sprout out of the desert floor and push up against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These sand dunes, which are the tallest in North America, were created by wind-deposited sand that was pushed by opposing storm winds into towering mounds.

At the edge of this natural phenomenon is one of the area’s few lodging options, and by far the newest. The Dunes Desert Camp is set to open in June and is already making waves for offering something other lodgers aren’t — the chance to rent out 320 privately owned acres near the dunes for any gathering imaginable (think: family reunions and yoga retreats).

The Dunes Desert Camp tent seen during the day

Courtesy of Dunes Experiences & Dunes Desert Camp

The Dunes Desert Camp tent bedroom at night with candles

Courtesy of Dunes Experiences & Dunes Desert Camp

“We are the only great, wild private ranch available to rent near the dunes,” said Chris Mahoney, the camp manager, safari guide, and host, in a phone interview with Travel + Leisure. “The valley just has so much to offer and unlike the rest of Colorado that's quite crowded, you can go out in these areas and not see another person all day long. It’s the Colorado that people dream of.”

The property, which prides itself on privacy, has two luxury safari tents outfitted with four-poster beds and desert-worthy decor, a cooking and fire pit area, and outdoor showers, as well as indoor facilities. Larger groups can bring their own camping tents or park their RVs on the property. The stays are fully customizable, meaning groups can bring in their own food and use the cooking area, or work with the Desert Camp team to coordinate catering.

“Really it’s all fully customized depending on what the client wants,” Mahoney said. “From BYO to a full-board, full-serviced guided affair.”

Bonfire at night with people in the desert of Colorado

Courtesy of Dunes Experiences & Dunes Desert Camp

The team also offers a series of Dunes Experiences so guests can explore the desert on horseback, cruise around on a dune buggy, or fly over the national park in a private airplane or hot air balloon. The camp owners and staff, who once worked as safari and big-mountain guides, lend their expertise and rely on vetted local guides.

And once night falls, the desolate landscape provides pitch-black skies and some of Colorado’s best stargazing. In fact, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was recognized as a dark-sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association, which confirms that the park has “extremely pristine night skies owing to its remote location.”

Those looking to be among the first guests to stay at the Dunes Desert Camp, can now book online for stays starting in June. The standard Desert Camp season will run June through October and group size tops out at 24 people. That said, off-season stays and larger groups can be accommodated upon request.

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