Hike the Alkali Flat Trail at White Sands National Monument

Rate this Adventure New Mexico Alkali Flat Trailhead

Added by Danielle Alling

Explore the change in rolling sand dunes as they transition into a salt-bed playa on this five mile loop hike.

This trail takes you from the rolling dune fields of White Sands National Monument to the interdunal zone on the edge of an ancient lake bed. It begins at the parking lot at the end of the Loop Drive, and after a short walk into the dunes heads west towards the San Andreas Mountains. The trail continues northwards, following orange signposts for about three miles until reaching the edge of the playa known as the Alkali Flat.

Throughout the hike the dunes become noticeably pocketed with more compacted areas and cryptobiotic soils, supporting more and more plant life. These pockets are protected from the wind, giving plants a greater chance of establishing themselves into the fragile soil.

Don't be fooled by the trail's name as there is a fair amount of climbing up and down the sandy gypsum dunes. Footprints of those traveling ahead of you can quickly disappear in the wind so always be sure to identify the next signpost before continuing forwards. The trail takes between two and three hours to complete. 

Pack List

There is no shade and during very warm weather this can become a challenging hike!

  • Plenty of water 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Sunglasses
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More




Skill Level:



Spring, Autumn, Winter

Trail Type:



5 Miles


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

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