Trip to Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park

Late September and early October is a great time to see aspens in Colorado. Every year in this time, places such as Aspen, CO attract numerous tourists. Last year I went to Maroon Bells and was impressed by the Autumn beauty there. However, this year I decided not to go there but try something different. After searching for destinations, I planned a weekend trip to Alamosa in south Colorado. 


My girlfriend Sarah and I left Broomfield for Alamosa, CO on Saturday morning at 9 am. We spent around 3.5 hours driving along I-25 highway, which is about one hour faster than I estimated. Our first destination is not the nearby national park - Great Sand Dunes National Park. Instead we went to Colorado Gators first. It is located about 17 miles north of Alamosa along Highway 17. As you can see in the video, Colorado Gators features alligators and some other reptiles. It is my first time to see alligators in Colorado. They also allow turtles to walk around freely in the gift shops. This is a fun place to visit, especially for kids. The entrance ticket is $15 per adult.

After Colorado Gators, we went to Great Sand Dunes National Park after 3 pm. This time of the day is usually not ideal for landscape photography, but I found it is a good time to photograph the sand dunes. In the late afternoon, the sunlight angle starts declining. The slopes of the sand dunes which are facing the sun become bright while the other side of the slopes are totally in shadow. This naturally creates contrast and separation for the photographs. The following is a photograph that I took on the first day and I converted it to black and white.

I tried to hike to the High Dune the next morning before sunrise and wanted to take photos of the sand dunes and the mountains behind the sand dunes. I arrived at the parking lot one hour and half before the sunrise and started hiking in the darkness. But unluckily I picked a wrong sand dune to start. After one hour of hiking, I found myself on a trail that is totally different from the path that I wanted to go, and there is no other way to go to the High Dune unless I walk back first. I tried to take photos of the sunrise at where I was but the numerous footprints on the sand created difficulties for me to come up with a composition that I like. I ended up not getting any good sunrise photos that morning but I did sit on the sands and enjoy watching the beautiful sky.

In the afternoon, we went to Zapata Falls which is about 10 miles south of Great Sand Dunes National Park entrance station. The unpaved road between Highway 150 and the trail head is short but extremely bumpy. From the trail head parking lot, you can see the whole dune field. Zapata Falls is only half a mile away from the trail head. At the end of the trail, you will have to wade through the stream to be able to see the waterfall. The waterfall is in a cave, if you want to take photos of the entire waterfall, you will need a wide angle lens.

Maybe one thing that worth being pointed out is that for this trip I didn't take Nikon D750 with me, the camera that I heavily used before. Instead, I only took my new purchase of Fujifilm X-T2 with 10-24 mm and 55-200 lenses. The main reason to purchase it is because it is much lighter, smaller compared to Nikon's full frame system. I think I will write another post to talk about more about these camera systems.

The following is some other photographs I took during this trip, and they are all taken by Fujifilm X-T2. Hope you enjoy.