White Sands National Park
Discover one of the world’s great natural wonders, the glistening white sands of New Mexico. The seemingly endless sea of white sand engulfs nearly 275 sq. mi. of desert, with nearly 230 sq. mi. for recreating, makes up the world’s largest gypsum dune field. White Sands was established as a national monument in 1933 and re-designated as a national park in 2019. The park is open daily year-round except for December 25. Hours of operation vary throughout the year and unexpected closures may happen on occasion, so visitors are encouraged to check the park website before heading out.
• The 16-mile round-trip down Dunes Drive takes about 45 minutes, but visitors are welcome to stop along the way for a picnic, to take some photos, go on a hike or slide down the dunes.
• The park offers several ranger-led programs that allow visitors of all ages to experience the park in a more immersive way. Sunset strolls, full moon nights, full moon hikes, Lake Lucero Tours, Mothapalooza and a variety of community events take place throughout the year.
• Make sure to stop by the visitor center, a great example of “Pueblo-Revival” architecture constructed in 1938. Learn more about the park’s programs, browse the bookstore and gift shop or learn about the animals and plants that have adapted to survive in the harsh environment and the amazing geological processes that create the dues through the interactive educational exhibit.
Full Moon Hike at White Sands National Park
Hike the dunes in the full moon light with one of the most popular programs at White Sands National Park. Offered once a month, the 90-minute program is a ranger-lead hike that begins at Dune Life Nature Trail. In addition to park entrance fees, the program is $8 per person ages 16 and older and $4 per child ages 15 and younger. Tickets go on sale online at 8 a.m. MST two months prior to the scheduled hike. Tickets sell out fast, so plan ahead and view the schedule for dates.
Hiking, Biking, Driving
White Sands National Park offers a wide variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, including hiking, biking, and driving. The park features several well-marked trails that wind through the striking white sand dunes, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging hikes for more experienced adventurers.
The Interdune Boardwalk - a paved 0.4-mile walk that’s ideal for families with young children and is also wheelchair accessible
The Playa Trail - an easy trail that measures half a mile that reflects the evolving ecosystem of this area
The Dune Life Nature Trail - a mile-long moderate trail that gives a close-up of plant and animal life
The Backcountry Camping Trail - a two-mile, moderate trail ideal for backpacking
The Alkali Flat Trail - a rigorous, five-mile hike around the perimeter of the remnants of Lake Otero
Bikers can explore the dunes on designated routes, while drivers can take the eight-mile Dunes Drive scenic route to experience the stunning views from the comfort of your own vehicle.
Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience by Sledding down the giant Sand Dunes at White Sands National Park. Visitors can bring their sleds or rent them from the park's gift shop. The best time to sled is in the early morning or late afternoon when the sand is cool, and the sun is not too hot. Sledding down the smooth, gleaming white slopes is a thrilling and unforgettable experience that is sure to be a highlight of any trip to White Sands National Park.
Horses & Other Pack Animals
Horseback riding is a popular way to explore the stunning landscapes of White Sands National Park. Horseback riding trails wind through the dunes, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and desert flora and fauna. Visitors can bring their own horses by applying for a free permit and providing insurance information prior to entering the park. Horseback riding is a unique and peaceful way to experience the park's natural beauty and is a great option for families or groups looking for a memorable outdoor adventure.
Directions to White Sands National Park
From Las Cruces, NM: Drive time: 50 minutes
Take Highway US-70 east over the Organ Mountains towards Alamogordo. The park and visitor center are located about 52 miles (84 km) east of Las Cruces on the north side (left-hand side) of the highway, approximately one mile past the Border Patrol checkpoint station. If you are not an American citizen, you will need to have your passport with you to get past the checkpoint.
From El Paso, TX: Through Las Cruces: Drive time: 2 hours
Take I-10 West towards Las Cruces. After 39 miles, take exit on to I-25 North. Follow I-25 North for about 7 miles and then exit onto US-70 East towards Alamogordo. Take Highway US-70 east over the Organ Mountains towards Alamogordo. The park and visitor center are located about 52 miles (84 km) east of Las Cruces on the north side (left-hand side) of the highway, approximately one mile past the Border Patrol checkpoint station. If you are not an American citizen, you will need to have your passport with you to get past the checkpoint.
Hours of Operation
Monument operating hours vary by season and the park is occasionally closed for periods of up to three hours due to missile tests on the adjacent White Sands Missile Range. Visitors are encouraged to call the visitor center at (575) 479-6124 ext. 236 or 206 to verify that a closure is not in effect.
The monument is open daily year round except for December 25, Christmas Day.
From time to time the park is closed due to weather or road conditions. In that event, visit the Park’s Facebook or Twitter page for the most current information. You can also visit the New Mexico Department of Transportation Road Conditions website to find out if roads in the area are closed.
Although fees vary, the two most common passes are the $25 vehicle pass, which grants access to passengers in a single, private non-commercial vehicle, or the $15 per person pass, which grants access to a visitor who walks or bikes into the park (both passes are good for 7 days with receipt). Checks, cash, and credit cards, including MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express, Diner’s Club and JCB are accepted. Children 15 and under are free.
Entrance fees are collected at the entrance station on the Dunes Drive.
The Park offers a wide range of tours and activities. Visit www.nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/ranger-programs.htm for updated information.