Explore White Sands National Monument
New Mexico › White Sands Visitor's Center
Added by Chris Mongeau
Surreal gypsum white sand desert surrounded by mountainsAmazing sunsetsSledding 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.
- Entrance fee, $3/person
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
Chillin, Hiking, Photography
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Great to explore during the day, but stick around at night!
May through October the park offers Full Moon Night programs with live music and speakers and it is a great way to enjoy the beautiful park, but also learn a little about New Mexico. Bring layers as nights can be chilly!
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!
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/
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.
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.
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!
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!
More Adventures Nearby
Hike the Alkali Flat Trail at White Sands National Monument
New Mexico / Alkali Flat Trailhead
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.
Camp at Bluff Springs
New Mexico / Bluff Springs, Lincoln National Forest
A mile up in elevation and only a few miles into Lincoln National Forest from Alamogordo, take off on the scenic Sunspot Highway that leads to the solar observation center before a short detour off a.