Southeastern New Mexico Feature
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Exploring White Sands National Monument
Best Time to Go
You'll find delightful temperatures between October and April. Daytime temps in the summer hover at close to 100 degrees, though you'll find most of the activities offered in June, July, and August.
On Your Own. It's most fun to discover the dunes on foot. There are several areas to park and just head out into the sand, or you can take a walk on the 1-mi Big Dune Trail, which will give you a good overview of dunes. More avid hikers will love the 4¾-mi Alkali Flat Trail, and the 600-yard Boardwalk is wheelchair-accessible. Kids and the young at heart will thrill at sledding down the taller dunes. Bring your own plastic sled or purchase one at the gift shop. Don't sled over vegetation or into parking lots or roadways!
With a Ranger. Rangers lead hour-long tours daily starting at the visitor center one hour before sunset. Dusk is a busy time in the desert, with plants opening blooms and creatures scurrying about. These are fun walks to join to learn more about the flora and fauna and to take photographs.
Under the Moonlight. Once a month from May to September, you can explore the dunes under the full-moon light on a 1-1.5 mi ranger-led hike. In April and October full-moon bike rides are offered. The monument is closed to cars for the bike rides, and as many as 200 riders can join. Reservations are essential for all moonlight events.
Under the Stars. Two special events organized by outside groups are held at the monument in September: A star party, where you can bring your own scope or gaze through high-powered telescopes brought by other participants (both pros and hobby astronomers). Unless you're a backpacker willing to pack your gear into the backcountry, this is the only time during the year that camping is allowed in the park. The second event is a balloon fiesta, where about 50 balloons show up to float placidly over the gorgeous dunes. Call for specific dates for both events (575/479-6124).
Park Facilities. There are no restaurants, overnight accommodations or camping available in the park (camping is allowed during the star party in September). The closest restaurants and accommodations are in Alamogordo, 14 miles to the east. Las Cruces is 52 miles to the west. A very basic selection of packaged sandwiches, snacks, and drinks are available at the main visitor center. It's best to pack a picnic lunch and lots of water before arriving at the monument so you can enjoy as much time as possible amidst the dunes. The Heart of the Sands Nature Center near the end of the dune drive has a picnic area with shaded tables and grills.
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