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Photo-shopped or Actual?

National Park Service
Monday, April 5, 2010

While the image might look like a photo-shopped creation blending a majestic bull elk with sand dunes and snow-capped peaks, this setting actually can be found in the National Park System, and not in Alaska.

The photo was taken in Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. According to park officials, quite a few elk live year-round "in the grasslands west of the main dunefield." They head to spring-fed creeks, such as Big Spring Creek, to slake their thirst.

We lived in Trinidad, CO for 3 years and The Great Sand Dunes (I recognized it immediately!) was a favorite spot of ours. The kids always enjoyed Medano Creek and the surges in water! We hiked to the top numerous times enjoying not only the views but our accomplishment. I have never seen an elk in the park, deer have always been the norm. Maybe one of these times we'll get lucky and catch a sight like this!

Stunning photo, seeing the sand dunes lodged between the mountains and grassland it looks completely doctored but after reading Connie's comments I'm happily stunned. Great Blog.

Yes, those are the Great Sand Dunes (like Connie Hopkins, I recognized them), and elk do wander down into the surrounding San Luis Valley.

I'm heading to GSDNP this summer and hope to explore the grasslands/wetlands. I guess there are some limited backpacking opportunities there. Any suggestions from anyone about how to access these areas, and what might be the best plan? (I'll check with a ranger when I get there, but was wondering if anyone had some advance information.)


I'd have to say there are ample backpacking opportunities there, Justin. You can check out this page for what the park says upfront,, but if you're good at cross-country navigation I'd think the options are fairly endless.


Thanks! I think there are some issues of access regarding areas managed by the Nature Conservancy, but it's great to know that there are ample opportunites. Thanks again.

Absolutely stunning photo! The juxtaposition of the elk, sand dunes, and snowcapped mountains is breathtaking. I definitely need to plan a hiking trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park. I've been to RMNP and love it there.

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