Does sledding down a hill of white sand sound fun? White Sands National Park is an amazing destination for a day trip to New Mexico. The family-friendly national monument is 275 square miles of desert. In 1933, Herbert Hoover preserved White Sands for its scenic, scientific and education interest. Over the years, it has become a bucket list destination.
Park hours vary by season. Winter park hours (Jan. 31, 2021, to Mar. 13, 2021) are Sunday thru Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Spring park hours (Mar. 14, 2021, to Apr. 10, 2021) are Sunday thru Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more seasonal hours visit National Park Service.
How to get to White Sands
There are two ways to arrive at White Sands from El Paso. The physical address is 1995 US Highway 70, Alamogordo, NM 88310.
Park Rangers recommend fueling gas/diesel at Las Cruces or Alamogordo. They are the closest cities to White Sands.
Through Las Cruces: Drive time is one hour and 30 minutes.
Take Interstate 10 West toward Las Cruces. After 39 miles, exit onto I-25 North. Follow Interstate 25 North for about 7 miles and then exit onto US Highway 70 East toward Alamogordo. The visitor center is located about 52 miles east of Las Cruces on the north side (left-hand side) of the road, a mile past the Border Patrol station.
Through Alamogordo: Drive time is one hour and 30 minutes.
Take US Highway 54 East toward Alamogordo. After 82 miles, turn left onto US Highway 70 West toward Las Cruces. The visitor center is located about 15 miles west of Alamogordo on the north side (right-hand side) of the road.
Park admission fee ranges from $15 to $25. Admission is valid for a week. Annual Park pass is $45. The America the Beautiful Annual Park pass, and Interagency Annual pass are $80.
All United States Services Members, United States Armed Forces Veterans and Gold Star Families have free access to the park. Qualified personnel must provide the following:
- Department of Defense Identification Card
- Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
- Veteran ID Card
- Veteran’s designation on a State-issued driver’s license or identification card.
For more fees and discounts, visit National Park Services.
Things to Do
Currently, Dune Drive, hiking trails, picnic area, visitor center and gift shop are open. Due to COVID-19, Back Country camping and Park Ranger Program are closed.
Dune Drive is 8 miles. A scenic round trip with no stops takes 45 minutes. 5 miles of the drive is paved. The remaining route is a hard packed sand road. Visitors may ride recreational vehicles.
Visitors may sled on Dune Drive but must use caution. Sledding paths must avoids roadways, parking areas, hard clumps of sand, and other hazardous obstacles. Waxed plastic sleds are recommended for use and available at the gift shop.
Interested in the dessert ecosystem? White Sands has 5 trails. The Interdune Boardwalk is the shortest and most accessible trail in White Sands. The 0.4 mile round trip allows visitors in wheelchairs and strollers to safely learn about the desert. The following trails increase in distance and difficulty:
- Playa Trail (Green Heart) 0.5 mile
- Dune Life Natural Trail (Blue Club) a mile
- Backcountry Camping Trail (Orange Spade) 2 miles
- Alkali Flat Trail (Red Diamond) 5 miles
Backcountry Camping Trail and Alkali Flat Trail does not provide shade, water or restrooms. Hikers are advised to review trail symbols for their safety.
The blinding white sand is known for causing sunburn. Bring and apply SPF 15.
Infrastructure is limited to preserve the World’s Largest Gypsum Dune field. Visitors are encouraged to bring a water source and extra beverages.
Wi-Fi is unavailable and cell service is poor. There are dead zones throughout the park. Text messaging is the most reliable way to contact family members, friends and colleagues.
White Sands is home to reptiles. Visitors must keep an eye out for lizards and snakes. For a detailed list of reptiles, visit National Park Service.
Not Ready to go Home?
The oldest zoo in the South Western United States, Alameda Park Zoo, is 16 miles away. It is open 7-days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The zoo is located at 1021 N White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310. Children 4-years old and under are free. Children 5 to 12-years old are $2.50. Teenagers and adults (13 to 59-years old) are $4. Seniors and military are $2.50.
Burned some calories taking in the sites? There are plenty of American Chain Restaurants near White Sands, as well as local eats.
Frontier Club offers Grab & Go breakfast and lunch Monday thru Friday. Breakfast is 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The restaurant is in BLDG 1330 of White Sand Missile Range. Its outdoor seating has an amazing view of Organ Mountain.
Want to feel at home? Our Country Kitchen opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 1 p.m. The restaurant specializes in American comfort food married with an affordable menu. Its located at 1201 New York Ave., Alamogordo, NM 88310.
In the mood for Texas barbecue? Can’t Stop Smokin’ BBQ serves lunch and dinner Wednesday thru Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Drive-thru and outdoor seating is available. Customers may order ahead and pick up at 900 East 10th St., Alamogordo, NM 88310.
Overall, visitors spend an average of 2 to 3 hours exploring White Sands. The National Park provides a unique experience, but visitors should plan their trip ahead of time. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and Southwest, and remember your favorite real estate team, PCS El Paso, email@example.com
Travel post written by Patricia Streeter, lifestyle blogger.