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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
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