Guide to visiting White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park is one of the most visited stops in southern New Mexico. It’s bright white, shimmering sand dunes beg to be visited, explored, and admired. It’s a sight to behold! We visited White Sands National Monument in March and had to plan our trip carefully as spring winds were raging and made visiting the dunes a not so fun experience at certain times of the day. If you’re coming to White Sands National Park we suggest going in the morning and planning on spending a half of the day there. While it’s a gorgeous park and super fun, there isn’t a lot to do overall. If your are visiting as a family with children, you could easily spend the whole day here. It would be such a great time with younger kids!
We were able to learn a bit about the flora and fauna of the sand dunes on a guided sunset hike. Ranger guided hikes are always fun for us. We feel it’s one of the best ways to learn about the park, area, or habitat. The unique white color of the dunes is attributed to the gypsum of the area which is ground down into fine sand through wind and erosion. The smaller dunes move up to 20 ft. a year, and the slower moving ones can gather sand, making them up to 50 ft. tall! Much of the vegetation you see sticking out of the dunes are actually 30 – 50 ft. tall, growing a long and strong stalk to support them as a sand dune takes over. When a sand dune moves overtime, the long stalks can no longer support the tops of the plants, and they often fall over and die.
While the white sand dunes in White Sands National Park may seem inhabitable, if you look closely there is evidence of wild life all over. Various animal tracks cover the sand dunes on a calm day. We loved attempting to identify the various tracks and the animals they belonged to as we went on our sunset tour. One of the most prevalent and obviously seen animals was the Darkling Beetle, which is similar to a stink bug. They are jet black and extremely noticeable on the pure white sand. If you get too close you may notice they lift their butt high into the air alerting you that they are aware of your presence and to take a step back! If agitated enough, they can secrete a nasty smelling liquid to repel predators.
Hiking up a dune is exhausting, so long hikes are out of the question unless you are well prepared (tons and tons of water) and in great shape. Sledding down the dunes can be great time, but is better for lighter people (like children). You can purchase sleds in the gift shop for $25, and they buy it back from you for $10 if you have your receipt, making the total cost for a sled $15. We tried going down a few times and would say it’s more like a slow crawl down the dune rather than sledding. We noticed other adults our size were having equal trouble going down the dune, but kids slid right down!
The dunes themselves are just wonderful to look at. I sat in the dune for a while taking in the sunshine, the wonder that is the dunes, and enjoyed feeling like a kid again in this magical place. Let’s be honest, the dunes are also killer for photos! Have you been to White Sands National Park?
Liz & Dennis
We’re two travel-loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America as full-time RV’ers. This blog is where we share our lessons learned, tips and tricks, and favorite places to eat, see, and RV across North America! We hope it helps you find your wanderlust, plan and prepare for RV life, and get out on the road!
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