Thousands of years of wind off the San Luis Valley have swept piles of sand as high as 750 feet against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado, making this the best place to get in a summertime run. “It’s akin to snowboarding in the backcountry,” says photographer Glenn Oakley, who shot boarder Jesse Dempsey carving a dune (pictured, above). “Since you have to hike up the dunes, how many runs you do depends on your fitness. You could ski it, but boarding is less abrasive.” The newest national park (designated in 2004), Great Sand Dunes, has surprisingly mild summers, with daytime temps touching the mid-80s. But every night, when it drops to the 40s, it’s as if the dunes get a fresh blanket of snow. “It gets swept clean every day,” says Oakley. “There are always fresh tracks early in the morning.” [$3; nps.gov/grsa]
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