Exploring the Southwest comes with an abundance of places to explore. New Mexico is no different and one only needs to look at a map, and there south of Albuquerque is the White Sands National Monument. I drove in from the south, via an east to the west corridor through the top side of the Lincon National Forest.
The largest gypsum dune field in the world is located within the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. This region has glistening white dunes within the Chihuahuan Desert in the Tularosa Basin area. The monument’s range in elevation is around 3,890′ to 4116′ feet above sea level. The sand dunes cover around 275 total square miles, within 115 square miles area. Some of the most active dunes move across the northeast at a rate of up to 30 feet per year, and other areas of the dunes move very little over time while the more stable areas of sand move very little.
Table of contents
Here is a video from my trip to White Sands National Monument and it has details from what it looks like and from a real personal experience. Nothing is staged and I do my best to give you the reader a good idea of what to expect. I also record the road out of the park to give some idea of what it looks like from the road.
White Sands National Monument Video
Preparing For The Trip
Frequency Asked questions:
7:00 am to 9:00 pm – No advanced reservations are needed.
9:00 am to 6:00 pm – walk-up table only
$25.00 per vehicle and valid for seven consecutive days and payable at the entrance booth on Dunes Drive. There are special passes for the elderly and veterans so make sure to visit here for additional costs. I personally have a veterans pass that gives me lifetime access to federal parks.
Sleds can be purchased at our onsite gift shop, White Sands Trading Company, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Questions about sleds can be answered at 575-479-1629.
You can visit the main website for the White Sands National Monument for additional information. This link will take you to the correct location. Visit this website for the Park Information Website
My personal experience
Once I arrived I first stopped at the visitors center where a nice woman gave me simple information of times, locations, and maps. The biggest tip was the park gate closes at 9 PM so be out before. It only took a few minutes before I began seeing the white caps of the sand dunes. It’s actually very amazing to find this in a higher elevation desert for reasons that are still unknown to me. I stopped off at the second major trail off to the left-hand side as you drive in.
Make sure to have your supplies ready to go since it is hot, windy, and very dry. Your clothing should cover your bare skin if you are sensitive to sunburns. An easy to access supply of water is also necessary before, during, and after so have plenty. A good hat really helps and the sun reflects back up from the sand so I found this critical. Shoes that can be drained of hot sand were also needed, and I stopped several times to just drain them of sand. I normally wear a loose short sleeve shirt, in these environments but a long sleeve lightweight shirt would have been better.
The trails are well kept, and even with the sand blowing around the trails have markers to keep you on track. I did take some off-trail walks to the top of some of the dune caps for the view. The environment has what I would consider moon-like with little vegetation in the area of the dunes themselves. You need to look for the trail markers to be able to stay on the trail. Venturing off the trail does not seem to be any big deal, and I did do so to get some views of the park overall.
Walking within the part was difficult at times and I had to empty my shoes several times. Sandals might have been better assuming I have sunscreen on my feet. The reflection back up from the sun was intense at times. The overall temperate climate was much milder than I was expecting, but in July/August I’m sure that changes.
The White Sands National Monument is unique and well worth the visit. The area has some extremely fun activities from sand surfing to sledding and hiking amongst the numerous sand dunes. The elevation helps to keep the park cooler than one would expect but make sure to come prepared with chapstick, sunscreen, comfortable clothing, and plenty of water.
If you are interested in other areas to explore within New Mexico see the list of articles and video below.
Some additional articles on places from around the USA and the world.
Some additional videos on traveling New Mexico in the United States.
Here is an additional article about the 16 Top Travel Places in New Mexico to Plan a Backpacking Trip