Explore White Sands National Monument

White Sands Visitor's Center

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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Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

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.

A Favorite

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!”


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