White Sands National Park should be on your travel bucket list. It’s unique compared to other national parks in that it has miles and miles of white sand and beautiful views of surrounding mountains. This national park is the perfect vacation destination for those seeking adventure and who love having fun outdoors. The park has a large variety of activities you can do and there are a number of hotels in the surrounding cities that make visiting a breeze. We’re excited to go more in-depth on visiting the White Sands National Park and everything you need to know! Let’s dive in!
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About White Sands National Park
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White Sands National Park is one of the great natural wonders of the world. It’s located in southern New Mexico. The park sits in the Tularosa Basin between the San Andres and Sacramento mountain ranges. This national park is perfect for those seeking outdoor fun and adventure.
At this national park, you’ll be surrounded by white glistening sand, sand dunes, and fields of gypsum crystals. The sand dunes can be as tall as 60 feet and the sand it is estimated there is about 4.1 billion tons of sand. It is the most visited national park in New Mexico, they see about 600,000 visitors every year.
The closest major airports to the national park are in Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas. From there you will need to get a rental car and drive to the national park. From Albuquerque to the park it’s about a 3 hour and 20-minute drive. From El Paso, it’s about a 1.5 hours drive.
Currently, there is no public transportation that goes to the park. Instead, you’ll need to take your own vehicle into the park.
When driving to the park you will need to fill up your gas tank at the nearest gas stations. One is located in Alamogordo which sits about 15 miles east of the White Sands National Park. Or you can stop by the gas station in Las Cruces which is 52 miles from the park. Make sure you are prepared when you get to the park and fill up on gas at one of these two gas stations before you drive in.
The park’s visitor center is located right off of Highway US-70 between the cities of Las Cruces and Alamogordo. The entrance to enter the park is between the mile markers 199 and 200 on Highway US-70. If you need more in-depth directions to get there, click here!
Things To Do
There are a number of fun activities that you can do when visiting this national park. In fact, there’s so much to do here that everyone will likely find something they’re looking forward to doing when visiting! In the park you can:
Go on a Scenic Drive Through the Dunes
The dunes have an 8-mile scenic drive called Dunes Drive. This drive will lead you from the visitor center all the way into the heart of the gypsum dune field. It’s 16 miles round trip and takes 45 minutes to complete. Along the road, you’ll see hiking trails, picnic areas, vault toilets, and parking areas. You are welcome to pull over to take photos, picnic, or walk around in the sand.
Have a Picnic
What’s better than a picnic with a beautiful view? At the White Sands National Park there are canopied picnic tables and grills that are available throughout the park, near the visitor center, in the heart of the dunes, and everywhere in between. You can also just bring a blanket or tailgate if you prefer to picnic wherever you want.
Go Backcountry Camping
If you are interested in staying in the park overnight you may want to go backcountry camping. The park has 10 primitive backcountry camping sites that are available first-come-first-served. You’ll need to get a permit at the entrance booth and will be assigned a camping site.
The national park has 5 established hiking trails. You’ll get the opportunity to explore the park and enjoy the gorgeous views of the park and surrounding mountains on foot.
Sledding on the Dunes
The sand dunes are perfect for sledding. The fine powdering sand not only looks like snow, but it acts like it too. Sledding on the dunes is one of the most popular activities at this national park, and for good reason, it’s a ton of fun! You can bring your own sled or you can pick one up at the park gift shop.
Ranger-Guided Nature Walks
Park rangers give guided tours and lead a variety of programs and activities that are available on a seasonal basis. The park offers this service for those who are interested in learning the history of the park and how this natural wonder came to be.
The park also allows cyclists, but they are only allowed to drive on Dunes Drive. You cannot go biking off-trail or on hiking trails. Bikes are only allowed on the road, if you do decide to bike through the park, make sure you are aware there is no bike lane so you’ll be on the road and to take proper safety precautions.
You are welcome to bring your own horse into the park to go on a ride. The horse must be brought in on a trailer and you have to have a horse permit signed by a ranger. There are more regulations you must follow before arriving at the park, so we recommend looking into it further if you want to do this! Click here for more info.
Where to Stay/Accommodations
The closest town is Alamagorado which is 13 miles from the park.
The next closest town that’s a bit bigger is Las Cruces and it’s located about 50 miles from the park.
There are also a number of campgrounds and RV parks within 4 miles of the White Sands National Park if you aren’t planning to stay in a hotel.
Best Time to Visit
The park is open year-round, however, if you’re looking for the best time of year to visit, you’ll probably want to go in winter or early spring. That way you’ll be able to enjoy the park more throughout the day and it won’t be too hot mid-late day to do any activities in the park.
In the winter months, the days stay much cooler and longer. However, if you do decide to go in the hotter months, plan to get up early to visit the park before it gets too hot outside to enjoy the park!
The White Sands National Park is unique and has something for every outdoor enthusiast. Located in southern New Mexico, this park is definitely one you should add to your bucket list. It is pretty easy to get to via car and there are a large number of activities you can enjoy in the park!
We hope your travel guide helped you plan your visit to this beautiful national park and you are already planning your visit! Happy travels!