[UPDATE Dec 20, 2019: White Sands National Monument is now White Sands National Park. Hooray!]
White Sands National Park is located in southern New Mexico. It’s in the northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert, which is the largest desert in North America. White Sands encompasses 275 square miles of desert, making it the largest gypsum dunes in the world. The sand here is so soft and fine and the white gypsum sand just sparkles in the sunshine. If it’s not already on your bucket list, visiting White Sands National Park should be added!
Who Wants to Visit a Huge Pile of Sand?
Guys, if you are skeptical about visiting White Sands or sand dunes in general, I get it. I was skeptical too. When we were visiting John’s family in Wyoming and he mentioned the Killpecker Sand Dunes nearby and asked me if I wanted to go, my first thought was, “no, not really.” I HATE sand. It gets everywhere, it sticks to your legs and feet, it makes everything feel uncomfortable and gets in all of your food. Why would I want to go to a place just to see a lot of sand? But boy was I wrong!
I still hate sand, but so much sand in one place is actually pretty cool to see. The dunes are ever changing with the wind, it’s like a work of art. I’m now on a mission to see as many sand dunes as possible, because they are all so unique. Maybe it will also help me get over my issues with sand…who knows?
Dogs Love Visiting White Sands Too
In our travels, we’ve discovered that many national parks and monuments are not pet friendly. I understand this, considering the fragile ecosystems and wildlife we are dealing with at most national parks. We were so excited to find out that dogs are welcome on the dunes at White Sands.
Our two pups had so much fun running around in the sand during our visit. Dogs are not allowed in the visitor center but they are allowed on the trails and dunes as long as they are leashed. Your dogs may just have more fun visiting White Sands than you. Just remember to leave no trace and pick up after them!
Visiting White Sands: Sledding? But Where’s the Snow?
Sledding wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when I thought of visiting White Sands. It actually didn’t come to my mind at all until I was in the gift shop and saw sleds for sale. What a brilliant idea! You can buy a sled at the gift shop or bring your own sled and let the fun begin.
White Sands recommends calling the gift shop ahead of time to make sure they have sleds in stock. It’s such a popular activity, I believe they sell out frequently. We wished there was an option to rent sleds because we didn’t need to add a sled to our already small home on wheels. If you plan ahead you can bring your own. This fun looking sled even rolls up for easier storage.
We decided to skip the sledding during our trip. If only we had known about the rollup sled sooner! Also, I’m sure John would have ended up breaking a bone or something, but I fully intend to sled the next time I am there. If you plan on sledding during your trip, check out the White Sands website here for some useful tips.
Exploring the Dunes
White Sands is a great place to explore on foot. You can stop your car at any pull off and just hike up a dune if you’d like. There are also five established hiking trails in the park ranging from .5 miles to 5 miles in length. Be aware of the weather before you set off. It gets really hot out there (it is a desert after all) and hiking up a sand dune is no easy task! Make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen handy.
If you prefer, there is also a 16 mile round-trip self-guided drive you can take through the area. Along the way you will find picnic areas and exhibits and remember you can always stop in a pull off for a little exploring if you want.
Be aware, White Sands National Park is close to the active White Sands Missile Range. Sometimes the range performs missile tests, which shut down some of the park roads as well as Highway 70. These road closures may last for up to three hours. Check ahead for upcoming closures.
We had a close encounter with this helicopter while we were wandering around. John thought it was the Men in Black coming to get him. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.)
Sunset at the Dunes
I think I add this to all of my lists, because let’s be honest, you can’t beat a good sunset no matter where you are. If you are planning on spending a day at White Sands or just a few hours, try to catch a sunset while you’re there. The colors of the sand and the sky during a good sunset are unbeatable and slowing down to watch the sun slowly disappear is always a good way to end a day.
Have you visited any sand dunes? Have you been to White Sands National Park in New Mexico? What are your favorite dunes to visit and what do you like to do there? Let us know!