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 Name||Round Trip Length||Estimated Hike Time||Elevation Gain|
|Interdune Boardwalk||0.4 miles||20 minutes||none|
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.
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…..lol) 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.)
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.