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8 exotic destinations that are part of the U.S.

By: Josh Lew on July 23, 2014, 2:59 p.m.
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Photo: Ron Cogswell/Flickr

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

One of the most unique landscapes in the United States is found right in the heart of the Lower 48. Look at a photo of the sands of Great Sand Dunes National Park and you might think of the Sahara or the Gobi.  But these unique landforms, the tallest dunes in the U.S., sit in southern Colorado near the New Mexico border. 

The dunes were formed over thousands of years by deposits from the Rio Grande and its tributaries. The 30-square mile dune-land is open to park visitors, who can explore on their own or take a ranger-guided hike. There are even areas where sand-boarding and sand-sledding are possible. The high winds in this part of Colorado continually shift the sands, wiping away any traces of past visitors. The tallest dunes are over 700 feet in height, from base to top. Those who are able to hike to the top will be rewarded with panoramic views of the entire dune-field.