White Sands National Monument in New Mexico has to be one of the most beautiful places in the United States. However, many people know nothing about it. If you’re planning a trip to the Western part of the country, these sand dunes are an absolute must-see attraction. After having the opportunity in June to check this item off my bucket list, I’m ready to share everything you need to know about White Sands, New Mexico.
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Where is it?
White Sands is kind of…in the middle of nowhere. The closest city is Alamogordo, where places to eat and sleep are somewhat limited. I stayed at the Magnuson Hotel and Suites, where I was able to secure a great price using Hotwire. The location couldn’t have been more perfect, offering a short 15-minute drive to the entrance of White Sands National Monument.
What is it exactly?
White Sands National Monument makes up the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Taking up approximately 275 square miles of desert, this area was initially covered by the ocean around 250 million years ago. Over time, the gypsum began to break down into the sand. Typically, a river would run through the basin, causing the sand to be carried to the sea. Nonetheless, this is not the case for this area as no river runs through the Tularosa Basin. Therefore, the gypsum sediment was trapped, resulting in these breathtaking dunes.
President Hoover declared the site a national monument in 1933. After this, the park that we now know as White Sands opened on April 29, 1934. The park has expanded since its opening to accommodate a growing number of visitors. It now contains a visitor center, museum, as well as areas to camp and picnic. Popular activities include hiking, camping, sledding, and bicycling.
What should I bring?
- Sunglasses. You don’t want sand getting in your eyes, and this is something that could quickly happen on a windy day.
- $5 entrance fee. After paying, this fee is suitable for seven days with the original receipt.
- A camera. Even though I insist that a photo can’t capture the beauty of White Sands, you’ll still want to bring your camera!
- Some easy-to-pack travel snacks. If you’re planning on spending quite a bit of time here, I recommend bringing food with you. There are no restaurants or cafés within the park.
- Sunscreen. You’ll be in direct sunlight for a few hours, so play it safe and wear sunscreen.
- Water. Temperatures inside the park can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime. Make sure to stay hydrated.
- Park hours change through the year. Make sure to check the operating hours here.
- White Sands is a photographer’s paradise. Watch the sunrise or sunset at the park for the best photo ops.
- Check the current conditions at the park before making your trip. You can view the park condition by clicking here.
- Plan enough time to make the full Dunes Drive, which takes about 45 minutes. Factor in enough time to get out of the car and explore!
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Thursday 21st of November 2019
Thank you SO much for this!! Helped me plan my New Mexico road trip that much easier. Keep at it!
Saturday 25th of August 2018
One of my favorite places! Drove with my bf from Dallas to Tucson and we hit it both ways. Such and easy place to go and see some beauty!
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Tuesday 9th of January 2018
[…] had never heard of White Sands before I came across some stunning pictures of these dunes on Instagram. Thus, when I had the […]
Saturday 22nd of April 2017
Hello, love this post!!! I'm doing a blog post about my southwest bucket list and looking for great photos to use. Would I be able to use one of these photos if I link it back to this post? If not it's okay but I thought I would ask :)
Saturday 22nd of April 2017
that's totally fine!! go for it!
Monday 17th of October 2016
You can add me to the list of people who have never heard of White Sands before! This is absolutely stunning. Just to think New Mexico is starting to win me over with its burgeoning arts and culture scene in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Now you tell me about this!