Explore White Sands National Monument

New Mexico White Sands Visitor's Center

Added by Chris Mongeau

  • Surreal gypsum white sand desert surrounded by mountains
  • Amazing sunsets
  • Sledding down the dunes

The White Sands National Monument is one of the most surreal locations in the southwest. Located just north of Las Cruces, NM, White Sands is about a 45 minute drive from the city of Las Cruces. To access the park from any location, you'll take Route 70, and from Las Cruces it's one straight shot to the entrance.

The gypsum, white sand of the Tularosa Basin is unlike anything else in the world, and at 275 square miles, it's the worlds largest gypsum dune field. Once you enter the park on Dunes Drive, you can park at a few different turnouts and hike the Dune Life Nature and Playa trails, or just wander into the desert for some isolation. Within the dunes, there is a diverse and unique ecosystem of flora which are awesome to photograph. The best time I've found to visit is golden hour, a couple of hours before sunset. Because of the bright sun and white sand, it can be difficult to get a good exposure during daytime light, and the sunsets here are breathtaking to photograph. During the summer, (May 24-September 5) visitors can stay in the park until 9:00PM, so a good time to visit is the end of August or early September if you want sunset into dusk photos. During the winter (January 1-February 20) visitors must exit before 6:00PM. Check the NPS website for complete hours and updates before you visit.

Bonus: You can sled down the dunes with saucers or any time of smooth-surfaced board, the gift shop rents out saucers and wax for under $10 and if you get a good running start, sledding down these dunes is a blast.

Pack List

  • Sunblock
  • Hat
  • Camera
  • Entrance fee, $3/person
Read More

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

Share

Activities:

Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Rating:

Features:

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

about 2 months ago

Beautiful Unique Southwest

It's pretty unbelievable what the Southwest has to offer, and the White Sands National Monument fits right in there with the best of the best the region has to offer. Who would have thought sand sledding would have been so much fun!

about 2 months ago

4 months ago

Sledding is Super Fun!

Sledding on the white sand dunes was one of my kids' favorite activities of all times! We had a blast exploring the park and spent a good while running up the hills so we could slide back down. http://currentlywandering.com/2014/05/20/white-sands-national-monument-new-mexico/

4 months ago

5 months ago

One Of The Most Beautiful Unique Places In The USA

I've been able to go to White Sands several times and each time I catch my breath when I see the endless white sand dunes! I could photograph them for a lifetime! Sledding down the dunes is one of the most fun things too! If you ever get the chance this is a definite bucket list place.

5 months ago

7 months ago

Worth It

The view is magnificent

7 months ago

9 months ago

Awesome Stop

This is a great stop, if you decided to stop and sled the dunes make sure you wear sunglasses (or goggles) to save the pain of getting tons of sand in your eyes!

9 months ago

11 months ago

Photographer's Dream

I'm an avid hiker and amateur landscape photographer. I usually find myself in the mountains but this place blew me away, and was a great change of pace. The exotic white dunes are an exciting novelty. The area is sandwiched between two mountain ranges and the area has amazing sunsets. I found areas close to the road packed with people but easily found seclusion by hiking less than a mile back into the dunes.

11 months ago

about 1 year ago

Spectacular Place

Hiking out using the backpackers trail is an incredible way to view the dunes. The further out you go the better opportunities you'll have for photos! If you are going at a time of the year where you cannot catch the entire sunset I would suggest to camp on the dunes! You can get a permit at the ranger station and just head out with a tent to sleep under the stars!

about 1 year ago

about 1 year ago

Makes you feel like you are far away

White Sands is one of those surreal spots that catches you by surprise. It's an awesome place to run around and shoot some photography. One thing to keep in mind - it gets melty hot in the middle of the day. Bring sunscreen!

about 1 year ago

Added by Chris Mongeau

I am a 24 year old lifestyle and travel photographer from Providence, Rhode Island. I spend my time adventuring throughout the world or planning my next trip over coffee in my little city.

More Adventures Nearby

Hike to San Antonio Hot Springs

New Mexico / San Antonio Hot Springs Trailhead

There is an adventure posted by Gemina Garland-Lewis where she describes how to snowshoe to the hot springs from the top down.

Kevin Abernethy
6 Saves

Ride to the Top of Sandia Peak

New Mexico / Sandia Peak Tramway

Start at the Sandia Mountain base terminal where you can purchase your tickets to ride the tram (Tip: If you make reservations at the peaks restaurant, High Finance, you can get a discount on your ti.

Nick Garcia
11 Saves

Climb Las Conchas

New Mexico / Las Conchas Trailhead

75 minutes north of Albuquerque, Las Conchas is a trailhead that sits right off the highway with two accessible, although small, parking lots.

Tristan Willey
2 Saves