Hike the Alkali Flat Loop

New Mexico Alkali Flat Trailhead

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Take in sweeping views of sandy flats interrupted by occasional shrubbery and wildflowers, and framed by the mountains in the background. 

From the US 70 pull into the White Sands Visitor Center. Then continue along Dunes Drive. Eventually, Dunes Drive turns into Loop Drive. At the end of this road, you will find the Alkali Flat trailhead. 

One of the most beautiful and potentially disorienting 5-mile round-trip treks through the desert you will experience, the Alkali Flat Trail leaves you following red trail markers with a black diamond through sandy flats and rolling, blindingly white dunes. You're also surrounded by a missile range, so watch out for unexploded exploded ordinances or other debris that may surface.

The National Park Services states the difficulty of the trail is strenuous. I think it depends on your fitness level and the time of day you begin your adventure. Since you're walking in deep sand, up and down hills, expect your hiking speed to slow down considerably. And since you're completely exposed to the sun you're at a greater risk of dehydration, which is trouble in an area where the shifting winds can knock down your trail markers. As such, I would label the trail moderate to strenuous because of the length in the sand, the sun exposure, and the number of hills you have to climb. Expect the hike to take you about 3 hours, 2 if your intent is to just pound through without regularly stopping to photograph the area.

There isn't any water on the trail.  Bring plenty with you, as well as snacks. It's easy to get disoriented, and heat illness isn't a joke. Trail markers regularly get buried or knocked down.  Always look ahead for the next marker before you move on.

Pack List

  • Camelbak with at least 50oz of water
  • More water
  • Snacks
  • Hat or bandana 
  • Long sleeves for skin protection or sunscreen 
  • DSLR with wide angle and a telephoto zoom lens 
  • Sunglasses are necessary 
  • Sun Protection
  • A trekking pole would be beneficial for the hills, but not needed
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How to Get There

7 months ago

No Trail, No Problem

This was the first "Trail" our family has ever hiked that wasn't an actual trail. Simply follow the trail markers along the beautiful white sand dunes. Very serene if you can make it to the park before crowds show up.

7 months ago

Added by Jared Blitz

A teacher of health and fitness in Higher Ed, an exercise physiologist, a lover of the outdoors, and fulfilled by shooting landscape photography.

Activities:

Photography, Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

4.9 Miles

Elev. Gain:

52 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers

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