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White Sands National Park Overview

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is a one of the most unique parks in the country. Located in southern New Mexico, the park is surrounded by mountain ranges and then out of what feels like nowhere a large swath of white sand made of gypsum and several dunes emerge. White Sands National Park has several different recreation and educational options for people of all age levels.

There is a long list of possibilities to make your trip amazing and I strongly encourage you to check out the White Sands website for more ideas. I wanted to share a little bit about my experiences in hopes that it might inspire you to make a trip of your own.

Sunset at White Sands National Park

One thing that I would highly suggest is enjoying a sunset at White Sands. This was one of the most enjoyable, and spiritually exciting moments of my trip. I wrote a blog about my amazing experience and you can read that here.

The park also offers a guided sunset stroll with a ranger throughout the year on Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays. The stroll lasts for 45 minutes to an hour and allows you to see the sunset and ask questions about the area.

The sun setting turning the white sand a pinkish hue over White Sands National Park.
Sunset at White Sands National Park

Even if you can’t make it in time for the stroll, just finding a secluded spot in the sand and sitting down to enjoy the view is perfectly fine. When I pulled up to the sand I noticed a series of shoes sitting on the ground. I kicked mine off and enjoyed the sand on my bare feet as I walked onto the sand and found the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the magical evening.

Hikes at White Sands National Park

On my short trip to White Sands National Park I was able to do a couple of hikes. One was iconic, challenging and really gave a feeling for what the park has to offer. The other was accessible, educational, and perfect for families or those who might not be as physically able.

Alkali Flats

The Alkali Flats trail is probably the one hike that you are thinking of when it comes to White Sands. The long loop trail is navigated by trail markers and takes you up and down the dunes into the middle of the park.

This is a fascinating hike in that it becomes completely surrounded by white sand and mountain tops. If you have ever wanted to feel like you are the only person on Earth, this might be the hike for you! I wrote a more extensive review of the Alkali Flats hike that you can see here.

White sand dunes, rolling like waves on the ocean with a line of mountain peaks in the background at White Sands National Park.
Some White Sand Dunes at White Sands National Park.

Boardwalk of the Dunes

While the Alkali Flats hike is physically demanding and requires walking up and down the sand under some challenging conditions, the Boardwalk of the Dunes hike has a nice metal boardwalk that sits above the sand and should be accessible to most adventurers.

I really enjoyed this hike because not only is it slightly easier than walking through sand, but it gives some amazing educational opportunities. There are information graphics along the boardwalk explaining the plants and animals that make this area home. I wrote a more thorough review of the Boardwalk of the Dunes hike that you can read here.

The Interdune Boardwalk at White Sands National Park
The Interdune Boardwalk at White Sands National Park

There are a few more hiking opportunities at the park such as Playa Trail and the Dune Life Nature Trail.

Other things to do at White Sands National Park

One of the most popular thing to do on the White Sand, especially for the younger ones, is to take a sled ride down the dunes. Sleds are available to purchase at the gift shop. I saw so money families enjoying this on my visit. The family would run up a dune then the kids, and sometimes the adults, would jump on the sled and whiz down the side of a dune. It looked like a great time and definitely is on my list for the next visit.

Backcountry camping is another really popular activity at the park. Well, it was so popular that it is currently closed while the park rehabs some of the camping locations. If you are interested in camping at the dunes, make sure to check their website.

Weddings, photography, scattering of ashes are all common activities at the park that require a permit. For more information make sure to check the permit page of the park here.

Staying at White Sands National Park

I stayed at the Classic Desert Aire Hotel in Alamogordo on my trip. I also was lucky enough to catch this amazing sunrise as I was walking back to my room from the included breakfast. It was a fine 3 star motel and only a 15 minute drive to White Sands. There are several hotels and motels in the town of Alamogordo to choose from as well.

I found the Desert Aire and all of the places to stay on the national park search on I am an affiliate for and receive a small commission if you use the above link to book at no extra charge to you!

Sunrise over the Classic Desert Aire Hotel
Sunrise over the Classic Desert Aire Hotel

If you decide to stay in Alamogordo a great place to eat is the Hi-D-Ho Drive In. A throwback to the great American Drive In’s of a past era. I wrote a full review of my meal at Hi-D-Ho that you can read here.

The Tiger Burger from Hi-D-Ho Drive In.
The Tiger Burger from Hi-D-Ho Drive In.

Finding White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is located just west of Alamogordo (15 Miles) and Holloman Air Force Base and little further north (50 Miles) of Las Cruces, New Mexico. This is in the south-central part of New Mexico. If you are flying into the park, El Paso is the closest airport and it is about an hour and a half drive from the airport.

There is a $25 entry fee per vehicle to the enter the park or you can use an annual National Parks Pass.

Wrapping up White Sands National Park

I absolutely loved my time at White Sands National Park. It started for me at Sunset. I got in late, just in time to head over and take in the beauty of the sun setting over that sand and the mountains. The next day I woke up early and made it out to the dunes to do some hiking and see more of the park. I was blown away at how it all made me feel. To be standing in the middle of that sand and not being able to see anything or anyone in any direction is pretty amazing.

I also think the park is great for families as I saw a bunch sledding and running around and playing in the dunes. It looked like they were all having a blast too! Make sure that you are prepared for the hot sun, which reflects off the sand, and pack plenty of water and sun protection. The park gets really hot and it is mostly dry and you can dehydrate really fast.

Overall, it was such an amazing experience and I loved my time there albeit short. I definitely want to head back sometime soon! If you are looking for other places to explore in New Mexico, check out my New Mexico Hikes page. You can also email me if you have suggestions on hikes at Or keep the conversation going by following along at the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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