Between Almagorda and Las Cruses, New Mexico on US-70, White Sands National Monument rises up from the desert, an amazing white mass of gypsun sand glaring so brightly that you need sunglasses on a sunny day.

White Sands National Monument

According to the National Park Service website, “Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders—the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.”

Another tidbit of information from the NPS website is that just a few inches of the dunes consist of loose sand. “Rainwater falling on the dunes dissolves some of the gypsum and cements the sand grains together, creating a crude form of plaster of Paris. This makes the white sand dunes easy to walk on.”

And walking/hiking across the dunes or sliding down in your own waxed plastic snow saucers or one that you buy at the Visitor Center at the park’s entrance provides fun for kids of all ages, although I’d be afraid that I’d break a bone or two or be bruised from end-to-end. Children up to 10 years old should be accompanied on the slide down by an adult. Sliders are also cautioned to select dunes that do not have any vegetation, rocks, or other obstacles.

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Parent and child prepare to slide down the dunes in their waxed plastic snow saucer.

An easy hike is the Dune Life Nature Trail which provides info about the plants and animals common in the dunes. The Interdune Boardwalk provides views for people in wheelchairs or other limited mobility.

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Vegetation as well as wildlife abounds in the park.

Photography opportunities are best two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. Selecting places where few people have tread will provide photogs with the most pleasing images.

Ranger-led events include sunset strolls, full moon bike rides, and a trip to Lake Lucero as well as presentations about subjects such as salt mining and the animals of White Sands.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting White Sands 6-10 times in the last 25 years, particularly as I traveled from Texas to the Phoenix metro area. I chose to take the roads less traveled, often through the mountain town of Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest east of Almagorda and then down US-70 to Las Cruses, New Mexico to again travel on I-10, the fast highway.
Because I currently have a house/pet-sitting client in Las Cruses, I have many more opportunities to visit not only White Sands but numerous other parks in the area.