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.
|Park||White Sands National Park|
|Things To Do||Hiking, 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|
|Camping Location||Multiple Locations|
If this is your first time visiting this place, and you’re wondering what you can do there to make it a fun visit, we have got you covered.
In this article, we’ll share the top 5 fun things to do in the White Sands National Park as well as all the important things you need to know before your visit. Let’s get started!
Introduction to White Sands National Park
With white sands of gypsum covering 25 square miles of desert, this place is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.
The Park is located in New Mexico amid of Tularosa Basin in the Chihuahuan Desert and feels like you’re on a different planet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
- 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.