13 In Travel/ United States


White Sands National Monument in New Mexico has to be one of the most beautiful places in the United States. However, many people know nothing about it. If you’re planning a trip to the Western part of the country, these sand dunes are an absolute must-see attraction. After having the opportunity in June to check this item off my bucket list, I’m ready to share everything you need to know about White Sands, New Mexico.

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Where is it?

To be honest, White Sands is kind of…in the middle of nowhere. The closest city is Alamogordo, where places to eat and sleep are somewhat limited. I personally stayed at Magnuson Hotel and Suites, where I was able to secure a great price using Hotwire. The location couldn’t have been more perfect, offering a short 15-minute drive to the entrance of White Sands National Monument.

White Sands

What is it exactly?

White Sands National Monument makes up the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Taking up approximately 275 square miles of desert, this area was originally covered by ocean around 250 million years ago. Over time, the gypsum began to break down into sand. Normally, a river would run through the basin, causing the sand to be carried to the sea. Nonetheless, this is not the case for this area as no river runs through the Tularosa basin. Therefore, the gypsum sediment was trapped, resulting in these breathtaking sand dunes. 

President Hoover declared the site a national monument in 1933. After this, the park that we now know as White Sands opened on April 29, 1934. The park has expanded since its opening to accommodate a growing number of visitors. It now contains a visitor center, museum, as well as areas to camp and picnic. Popular activities include hiking, camping, sledding, and bicycling.

White Sands

What should I bring?

  • Sunglasses. You don’t want sand getting in your eyes, and this is something that could easily happen on a windy day.
  • $5 entrance fee. After paying, this fee is good for 7 days with the original receipt. 
  • A camera. Even though I insist that the beauty of White Sands can’t be captured by a photo, you’ll still want to bring your camera!
  • A snack. If you’re planning on spending quite a bit of time here, I definitely recommend bringing food with you. There are no restaurants or cafés within the park.
  • Sunscreen. You’ll be in direct sunlight for a few hours, so play it safe and wear sunscreen.
  • Water. Temperatures inside the park can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime. Make sure to stay hydrated.

White Sands

Other tips

  • Park hours change through the year. Make sure to check the operating hours here.
  • White Sands is basically a photographer’s paradise. Watch the sunrise or sunset at the park for the best photo ops. 
  • Check the current conditions at the park before making your trip. You can view the park condition by clicking here.
  • Plan enough time to make the full Dunes Drive, which takes about 45 minutes. Factor in enough time to get out of the car and explore!

White Sands

Are you looking for cheap flights to White Sands? Check out deals on Skyscanner.


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White Sands

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  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 12:40 am

    This place looks unbelievable! I will make every effort to visit (even if it is in the middle of nowhere).

  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Yup! Never heard of it! But I’ll definitely be adding it to my USA bucket list for when I return one day! #WanderfulWednesday

  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 2:51 am

    Lovely! Thanks for the tips.

  • Reply
    Van @ Snow in Tromso
    August 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Wow this place looks absolutely breath-taking!! I would love to visit but would probably end up never wanting to leave, haha!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Beautiful photos! I’ve heard of White Sands, but I didn’t know much about it! isn’t it strange how some of the most beautiful places are in the middle of literally no where? haha.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Whoa… Drooling over this place!!! Your photos are amazing! I can’t believe I missed this on my way through New Mexico last fall!!!! Ah, I’m so sad! I did hit the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado though, which was still breathtaking, but this looks so die for! Considered it added to my USA bucket list!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Helloooo, this place looks GORGEOUS! I can’t believe that is in the US! Adding it to my bucket list now 😉 #wanderfulwednesday

  • Reply
    September 13, 2016 at 4:50 am

    I don’t need to tell you your photos are stunning! It’s hard to imagine this area covered by ocean all those years ago. If I ever get to NM I will check this place out 😊

  • Reply
    October 3, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Wow – this place looks beautiful! What airport did you fly into?

    • Reply
      Leah Shoup
      October 3, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      I actually drove! I helped a friend move to California from Georgia and we stopped here on the way. The closest airport would be in El Paso, Texas though 🙂

  • Reply
    October 17, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    You can add me to the list of people who have never heard of White Sands before! This is absolutely stunning. Just to think New Mexico is starting to win me over with its burgeoning arts and culture scene in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Now you tell me about this!

  • Reply
    April 22, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Hello, love this post!!!
    I’m doing a blog post about my southwest bucket list and looking for great photos to use. Would I be able to use one of these photos if I link it back to this post?
    If not it’s okay but I thought I would ask 🙂

    • Reply
      Leah Shoup
      April 22, 2017 at 10:40 pm

      that’s totally fine!! go for it!

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