Explore White Sands National Monument

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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.

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Known for

Chillin
Photography
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers

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Unique

Ever want to hike through a missile range in the middle of a desert? It's a strange juxtaposition to be hiking through one of the most beautiful sites in the country that needs to be shut down occasionally for missile testing. Spend plenty of time here, and like everywhere else make you see the light coming off the sand for either sunrise or sunset. It turns the place into a movie set.

Expansive Gypsum Dunes for miles and miles

I was on my way back to Utah from Big Bend National Park and was trying to time my arrival for sunset but I took a little bit too long at the Pine Tree Trail in the Organ Mountains and missed the entrance opening for sunset. The next morning I stopped at almost every turnout to experience the sand dunes. I learned the difference between silica dunes versus gypsum and gypsum dissolves much like sugar and salt. Also, the sun's rays get reflected instead of absorbed into the sand so the dunes are not as hot as other silica type dunes. Definitely worth a visit!!

Went in March

We were so happy to get to this park. It's breathtaking! We went in March, so we actually were wearing winter jackets; I cannot imagine how hot it gets in summer. It was fun to walk around. Once we were out of the visitor center (which is an intriguing stop), we saw less than 40 people. We spent about 2 hours here on a road trip.

Beautiful, but crowded

When I was there in February 2017 it was extremely crowded with a Fourth of July at the Lake kind of atmosphere. Wasn't expecting that. But we were able to find some areas that had a little more solitude. Great for photos!

Hikes in National Monuments

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

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4.7/5

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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