great sand dunes national park ufos
via Flickr/Peter D. Tillman

America’s National Parks are without a doubt the country’s most awe-inspiring and famous landscapes, but these parks aren’t without their secrets and mysteries. Take Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s home to America’s tallest sand dunes, smack dab in the middle of the San Luis Valley, surrounded by the ancient Sangre de Christo Mountains. It’s also a hotbed of UFO sightings, unexplained phenomena, and bizarre happenings. So, if you’re looking to spend your day sledding down sand dunes and splashing in the river, and your night trying to uncover the greatest mysteries of the universe, this is the place for you.

great sand dunes national park ufos
via Flickr/NPS Natural Resources
great sand dunes national park ufos
via Flickr/Zach Dischner

Unexplained events

So, just what should you be looking for when UFO-spotting at the dunes? Flying saucers are occasionally reported, but it’s the sightings of bizarre lights, often more than 9 or 10 in the sky at a time, that are most intriguing. And, of course, there are the disturbing cattle mutilations that occur more often than they should in the valley. The extremely dark sky, with no cities around to pollute the view, certainly helps. On a good night, you can see endless stars and perhaps even the Milky Way. There’s no way to guarantee a UFO sighting, but if you’re hopeful that you might spy something, the appropriately-named Star Dune, the tallest in the park, is the best place to spot strange things.

UFO Watchtower

Or, you can go right to the experts at the UFO Watchtower. It was founded by Judy Messelin, who claims to have seen more than a few unidentified flying objects of her own. She’s the alien chronicler for the San Luis Valley, in a way. She even claims that there are reports of mysterious objects in the sky here dating back to the 1600s. And Native Americans definitely felt that there was something special about the land in the valley as well. She built the UFO Watchtower as a place where those who believe in life beyond our planet can gather, discuss sightings in a place where they’ll be taken seriously, and have a good time– there’s a healthy sense of kitsch and quirk. Messelin has some ideas on why this area seems to attract so much strange activity.

great sand dunes national park ufos
via Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

Messelin has some ideas on why this area seems to attract so much strange activity. Allegedly, psychics report the presence of two vortexes on her property, which serve as gateways to parallel universes. She’s got a vortex garden onsite, with rocks arranged in specific patterns, and people often leave tokens and mementos in the garden. You’ll have to visit and decide if you believe that for yourself. If you do visit, you can even camp out at the Watchtower for a few extra bucks, and spend the whole night looking for unexplained phenomena right in the heart of the hotspot.

great sand dunes national park ufos
via Flickr/Larry Lamsa

Skeptics would say that a lot of these weird happenings can be attributed to classified military tests… but even if that’s the case, isn’t spotting a top-secret military test kinda neat, too?

Header image via flickr/NPS/Patrick Myers

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