Sand In My Chacos: Climbing Sand Dunes At White Sands National Park

It continues to surprise me just how many places in this country can make

you feel like you are on another planet and White Sands National Park is definitely

one of them. Located just outside the city limits of Alamogordo, New Mexico, this

national park is full of miles and miles of towering white dunes that you can even

sled down! Scroll on down to read more about my visit to this gorgeous national park.



I drove as fast as I could from Carlsbad Caverns National Park to White Sands

hoping to make it there by sunset. I managed to make it there with just enough

sun left to watch it set on the striking white dunes and even attempted a sunset photoshoot.

Granted it was insanely windy (as it tends to be in the spring at the dunes) and I spent most of the time trying to keep my wrap

dress from flying open and giving everyone around another show

to watch, but I am still pretty happy with how the pics turned out.   



Once the sun was down below the horizon I left White Sands and drove to

the White Sands Motel in Alamogordo to stay for the night. In all honesty this

place was a bit on the sketchy side. The door locks weren’t ideal and my shower

for the night felt more like I was doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I survived

nonetheless. (Certainly won’t stay there again though.)


The next day I arrived at White Sands fairly early, but ended up having to

wait in the visitor center parking lot for an hour before I was actually

allowed inside the park due to a missile test. 


Fun fact: Not far from White Sands National Park sits the White Sands Missile

Range where they perform missile testing from time to time causing

the main road through the national park to be closed for visitor safety. 



After they opened the park I made my way to the Interdune Boardwalk Trail. 


Trail NameRound Trip Length Estimated Hike TimeElevation Gain
Interdune Boardwalk0.4 miles20 minutesnone


Truth be told, I found this trail to be a little underwhelming, but I could

see how it would be a great trail for someone who is a little older

and might not be able to climb the dunes that well or is looking for

a wheelchair accessible way to see the dunes. 


Peek the long line of cars behind me that also had to wait for the gate to open again. 
The white sand and boardwalk really made me think I was making my way out to the beach! Lol 


After the boardwalk I decided, since there weren’t very many people

around, to leave my truck parked where it was at the trailhead and walked across

the road out into the dunes. 



Chacos in hand I climbed up and over dunes feeling the cool white sand pass

between my toes as my feet dug into the sand with each step. Eventually

I stopped, took a few pictures, and then laid down on the sand soaking

in the mid morning sun. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt more

relaxed and I could have stayed there on that dune for the whole day. 



Unfortunately, lying there all day long was not on the itinerary and I reluctantly

hoisted myself up and began my hike back to my truck. (Be sure to pay attention

to where you are at because without trails it can be easy to get lost in the dunes. Not

that that happened to me….I totally knew exactly where I was the whole

time and never once freaked out because I couldn’t find

the truck….yeah…..sure…. totally didn’t happen… Once I arrived at my truck I tried

to shake off as much sand as I could, although I swear I was finding sand

in the truck and in my hair for days after this visit, and then continued driving down

Dunes Drive. Eventually I came to some pretty tall dunes and decided to

park the truck once again and do some more climbing. The view

was absolutely spectacular. 



And that was my short time spent in White Sands National Park. I will tell you I have two big regrets:

1) I wish I would have rented a sled and gone sledding on the dunes! Next time for sure.

2) I wish I would have allotted more time. This park surprised the crap out of me and I cannot wait to go back. 

So don’t make the same mistakes I did!


White Sands National Park Tips:


Be prepared for road closures. 


As I mentioned above missile testing does happen from time to time so there

is a chance that you will have to wait for that to be completed before

getting to explore the park. I think you can check the NPS website for

updates on the next closure, but just be sure to check it the night before

and morning of as most updates don’t get put in until about

24 hours prior to closing.


Go for sunset


White Sands is gorgeous anytime of day, but my favorite way to view

the dunes while I was there was at sunset. The colors of the sunset

seemed more vibrant against the contrasting white dunes and it was

so neat to see the dunes themselves develop a little color as shadows

danced their way across them. 


Bring a sled or rent one


Next time I go I definitely won’t be forgetting a sled! This is a great activity for

visitors of all ages and a must do if you want the full White Sands

experience. (You can rent sleds at a gift shop for a small fee along with wax to

help your sled go faster and smoother down the dunes.)


Go West


Another amazing thing about White Sands is that the park itself isn’t usually

very crowded and finding your own dune is typically pretty easy. However, the

best place to find even more solitude is at the end of Dunes Drive. Drive

until you find the loop and then walk out onto the dunes heading

west from the picnic areas. 


Bring food, water, and sunscreen


Once you leave the entrance of the park you are on your own as there

are no services (including bathrooms) so be sure you are

prepared before heading out.


Watch for wildlife


When I was at White Sands I walked around barefoot and didn’t have

any issues, but it is important to be aware of where you are stepping while you are there

because there are rattlesnakes and scorpions that may be lurking in the sand. 




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