White Sands National Park Guide

White Sands National Park is one of the newest national parks in the United States and is the world’s largest gypsum dune field in the world. 

In this article, we’ll share the top 5 fun things to do in the White Sands National Park, best hotels near, best time to visit, entry fees, etc. to know before your visit. Let’s get started!



Park White Sands National Park
Founded 1933
Things To DoHiking, Driving in Dunes, Discover
Hotels Near Wind Cave National Park Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamogordo, White Sands Motel, and Many More.
Price$15 to $80
Validity7 Days
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is White Sands National Park?

White Sands National Park is located in New Mexico amid of Tularosa Basin in the Chihuahuan Desert and feels like you’re on a different planet.

The nearest airport is from White Sands National Park in El Paso, TX, which is about 85 miles away. Also, the closest town to White Sands National Park is Alamogordo (16 miles). 


With white sands of gypsum covering 25 square miles of desert, this place is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.  

The sand is as white, fine, and soft as you find on a Caribbean Island, surrounded by rugged mountain ranges, cloud-studded skies, and isolated desert terrain.

White Sands National Park is a great spot for hiking, sledding, and enjoying the great views of the largest gypsum sand dunes collection. 

First Time Visit Experience Video!

History of White Sands National Park

Approximately, 12,000 years ago, the land of the Tularosa Basin contained savannahs, lakes, rivers, and ice age mammals.

As the climate began to change, rain and snowmelt dissolved gypsum from the adjacent mountains and carried it to the basin.

Further warming caused the lakes to evaporate and form selenite crystals which were transported by heavy winds eastwards. A quite similar process still produces the gypsum sand today. 

The basin has also seen a large number of human inhabitants and thousands of animal species.

It was initially designated as a monument in 1933 and re-designated as a national park by Congress on December 20, 2019.

It is one of the highly visited national parks in New Mexico with 600,000 visitors each year. 

Things to do

Regardless of its remote location, White Sands offers plenty of opportunities for a wonderfully unique experience.

Here are the 5 of the best: 

Drive the Dunes

It has an 8-mile scenic drive that takes you from the visitor center to the middle of the gypsum dunes.

The first 5-miles of dune drives are paved and the rest of the road is hard-packed sand, making it only suitable for cars and RVs.

A scenic drive on Dune Drive is a one-of-a-kind experience and if you can get out of the car you can walk or play in the sand or take some amazing photographs. 

Visit the Native Plant Garden

It has a native plant garden to introduce visitors to the native plants of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Located just outside the White Sands Visitor Center, “Native Plant Garden” is full of wildflowers, cacti, desert succulents, and native plants of the northern Chihuahuan Desert.

Various kinds of plants bloom at different times but the garden is particularly full of colors between mid-march and November. 

Go Sandboarding/ Sledding

The texture of the gypsum sand is something you’ll never get to experience anywhere else. The fine, soft sand is just mesmerizing and fun to play with when it sifts through your fingers and is fun to dig in.

Sandboarding, sledding, and skiing are allowed in the dune field. Longer slopes close to the top are perfect for teens and adults, while kids can take the smaller slopes You can easily rend sandboards and other gear from the visitor center. 

Hike with a Ranger

One of the most ideal times to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of white gypsum dunes is when the sun sets over the Land of Fascination.

You can take the guided tours such as the ranger-led sunset stroll, which is one of the most loved ranger-led hikes in the park.

Other guided activities include full moon hike, sunrise photography walk, and Lake Lucero Tour. 

Hike the Dune Life Nature Trail

Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the beauty of this park. The Dune Life Nature trail is the meeting point of the gypsum dunes and the desert scrub and is a perfect place to spend time with family. 

Here you’ll find more plants as well as traces of animals like coyotes, birds, reptiles, and rodents.

The trail is marked with blue markers which must be followed as well as 14 educational signs for little kids inviting them to play games to learn about life in the desert. 

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Best Time to Visit  White Sands National Park

Weather conditions can be really extreme in here. Winters can be frosty cold while and Summer can be extra hot.

To fully experience the beauty of the park, April, May, September, and October are the best months to visit the park.

To find out if there are any park closures, visit nps.gov for the most up-to-date information. 

Map of White Sands National Park

It is huge with 275 miles of gypsum dunefield which means you can easily get lost in the dunes.

Make sure to have all the important resources with you such as the park’s map, GPS coordinates, and Park’s brochure with you to help you find the landmarks and get the directions right.


It offers has primitive camping grounds but there are no camping sites for RVs and vehicles.

There are campgrounds run by both public and public companies within an easy drive of the park.

Download the Park’s camping brochure or visit www.Recreation.gov for more information and reservations. 


In White Sands, the weather is almost clear and dry throughout the year. Summer is hot and winter is short and extremely cold.

The temperature typically ranges from 31°F to 95°F and seldom goes below 21°F or above 102°F.

The rainy season starts in early July and lasts till late September. During the late afternoon and evening, thunderstorms are quite common.

Springs bring sunny days and strong windstorms. Make sure to check out the current weather forecast before visiting the park. 

Best Hotels Near White Sands National Park

It doesn’t offer any accommodation but nearby towns of Alamogordo and Las Cruces have a large number of hotels to stay at: 

Hampton Inn Alamogordo 

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamogordo  

White Sands Motel

The Classic Desert Aire Hotel

Days Inn by Wyndham Alamogordo 

Fees and Passes

The entry fee for this national park is $25 per vehicle, $15 per person, and $20 per motorcycle, valid for seven days from the day of purchase.

If you have plans to visit other national parks as well, consider purchasing the Annual National Park Pass for $45 or the “America the Beautiful” pass for $80 for the entire year. More information on the park’s entrance fee can be found here

Checklist for White Sand National Park

Here’s a list of essential items you need to pack with you to make your visit more comfortable and enjoyable:

  • Day Bag pack
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Hiking shoes
  • A hat and Sunglasses 
  • Energy Bars/ trail mix
  • Water and food 
  • Binoculars 
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight & Extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Park’s Map

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Days Should I Spend in White Sands National Park?

You only need a couple of hours to explore the park, even if you have a plan to do all the trails. 

Are pets allowed in White Sands National Park?

Yes, visitors are allowed to bring pets in the park as long as they are kept on a leash, however, pets are forbidden in the visitor center or gift shop. 

How is cell phone coverage in the White Sands National Park?

White Sands National Park has little to no cellular service which means you can’t use GPS in the park. Have an alternative form of navigation or compass with you. 

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