Introducing author Sara Phillips, who wrote this post detailing her experience visiting White Sands National Park with her family.
I’d planned out just about every detail of our road trip, which included some down time for random stops and relaxation at our destination, Las Cruces, New Mexico. My family and I arrived in Las Cruces around lunch. After checking into our hotel, we drove about an hour to visit White Sands National Park. I only wish we’d had more time there!
Travel Tip: Colorado isn’t too far away from New Mexico. Be sure to check out my ultimate Telluride travel guide with places to stay, where to eat, and what to do.
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Your Guide to White Sands National Park
The glistening white sand of New Mexico is one of the world’s great natural wonders located in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, and a place everyone should visit at least once. Wave-like dunes of gypsum & calcium-sulfate sand overwhelm 275 square miles of desert which makes it the world’s largest gypsum dune field. White Sands National Park preserves a large part of this dune field, as well as the plants and animals that live there.
White Sands National Monument?
Fun Fact: White Sands was established as a national monument in 1933 and re-designated as a national park in 2019, so you’ll often see it referred to as either.
Address and Operating Hours of White Sands National Park
Located at 19955 Highway 70, Alamogordo, NM 88310
Check the current conditions online for any changes and also be aware that due to the proximity of military bases, the park can close due to missile testing.
White Sands National Park is open daily year-round except for Christmas Day. Gates open at 7 a.m. daily.
- $25 per vehicle (valid for entry for seven consecutive days from the date of purchase)
- $15 per person (only charged if there is only one adult (16 years or older) in the vehicle)
- $20 per motorcycle
- $45 for the White Sands Annual Pass
- $80 for the American the Beautiful Annual Park Pass (your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country)
- FREE with the 4th Grader Pass
UPDATE 2021 – Special programs are currently not an option during the pandemic – Program fees are charged for interpretive programs including the Lake Lucero Tours, Full Moon Hikes, and Sunrise programs.
Payment methods include: checks, cash, and credit cards, including MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express, Diner’s Club, and JCB.
White Sands Regulations
- Dogs must remain on a leash at all times.
- Speed limits are strictly enforced.
- Do not collect sand or any other object(s).
- Do not drive off road.
- Operating drones and metal detectors is prohibited.
- Fireworks are not allowed.
- No alcohol possession or consumption on the premises from February 1st through May 31st.
Before You Go To White Sands National Park
Be aware that there is no WiFi at White Sands National Park. Cell service is extremely limited around the park entrance and inside the dunes area, data availability is minimal. Discuss in advance how to reach members of your travel party who might get separated.
Animals in White Sands, New Mexico
I thought we’d see more animals than we did, but some of the animals you might see include:
- Lizards (like the Bleached Earless Lizard)
- Birds (like Barn Swallows, Burrowing Owls, Cactus Wren and so many more!)
- Apache Pocket Mice
- Kangaroo Rats (SO CUTE!!)
Things to Do at White Sands National Park
- “Be a Junior Ranger” – The Junior Dunes Ranger Program is a FREE program for kids of ALL ages who visit the park. Grab a booklet at the visitor center and learn more about White Sands National Monument and the National Park Service while still having fun. There are four different age/developmental activity-levels: preschool (ages five and under), ages 6 – 8, ages 9 – 13, and age 14+. Riley, the Junior Ranger mascot, leads you through activities including word puzzles, desert safety activities, visitor center scavenger hunts, a wildlife checklist, nature manners, and more.
- Backcountry Camping – UPDATE 2021: This is currently not an option during the pandemic. For a nominal fee you can camp in the gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument. There are a handful of primitive camping sites available only by reservation. Stop at the visitor center to get your permit before the cut-off time. You’ll backpack to the assigned site and sleep among the nocturnal animals that live in this unique ecosystem. This is the only camping allowed, as there are no campsites that for cars or RVs.
- Sledding – This activity is quite common at the park. We took cardboard boxes to use as sleds so we could recycle them once we’d finished. I don’t recommend this option. Bring your own sled or purchase one at the gift shop. Pick a dune with a gently sloping face and a level run-off at the end so that you can safely stop. Be aware of where the dune slope meets the desert floor! Dune sand is soft but the area at the base of the dune can be very hard which can result in unintentional injuries.
Unlike other desert sands, the sand at White Sands National Monument is cool to the touch due to the high rate of evaporation of surface moisture. Additionally, the sand reflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them.
It’s absolutely amazing and you don’t want to miss the chance to visit!
Sara Phillips writes about her family of four and shares simple recipes, easy-to-make crafts and travel on her blog, SensiblySara.com. Most days you’ll find her volunteering at a local elementary school, feverishly working on her blog or driving through Chick-Fil-A for a tea. In her (very little) spare time, she enjoys photography and Camp Gladiator. Sara lives in San Antonio, TX with her three cats.
*Small edits and updates made after submitted by author.
Sarah Walsh says
What a cool looking place to visit.