• Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers

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
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Have been to White Sands several times and have hiked several of the trails. Very beautiful place.

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

One of my favorite desert parks. I brought a friend from Germany once, and upon stepping out of the truck (tinted windows) he was amazed and the first thing out of his mouth was “It really is like snow!”

3 months ago
3 months ago

There are designated paths around the park, with markers sticking out of the sand to keep you on the right track. It is so nice to keep those in your mind and also roam around a bit to get away from the direct lines taken by so many. Absolutely stunning to photograph at sunset and sunrise. Really stunning spot.

3 months ago
3 months ago

I lived very close so I’ve been there a while, my advice, it gets very bright, so if you want to take photos go there WITHOUT sunglasses because if you go with them you won’t be able to take them off!

4 months ago
4 months ago

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!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

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!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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/

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

The view is magnificent

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

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!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

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!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Chris Mongeau Explorer

I am a 26 year old lifestyle and travel photographer from Providence, Rhode Island. I spend my time planning trips, scouring maps, and drinking lots of coffee. I love sharing travel tips and hearing stories from other folks, feel free to get in touch with any questions!

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