To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.
White Sands National Monument is one of the most beautiful places that we have ever visited. Imagine 275 square miles of pure white dunes set against a bright blue desert sky, surrounded by jagged mountains.
White Sands is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Gypsum is not a typical sand made of quartz, but is instead a soft mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate. It’s not only soft, but also cool to the touch, which is remarkable on a hot August day. We walked in our bare feet!
Hours vary by season, so check the US Park Service website before you go. The monument is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, where the US Air Force conducts missile tests 1-2 times per week, at which time the road into the park is closed for a few hours.
Entrance fees are currently $5 per adult (16 years of age and older). Children ages 15 and under are free.
We were fortunate to catch a partly cloudy day with small wandering storms in the distance, as you can see in the photo above.
The visitor center was built in 1936 and includes a small museum, restrooms, snacks and a gift shop. Sledding down the dunes is great fun and the gift shop rents plastic sleds for the day.
Be aware: temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s no water after you leave the park office, so you need to bring your own! The Park Service recommends at least one gallon of water per person per day.
There is a boardwalk that runs through the dunes. It has lots of signs along the way, explaining how the plants and animals of the dunes manage to survive in a nearly waterless environment.
Tip: the wind moves dunes and erases your tracks. Make sure you always know where you are. Many people have gotten lost in the dunes, as they all look the same once you get far enough out.
At the visitor center information desk, you can pick up a Junior Ranger Adventure Pack. It’s perfect for kids to learn about the animals of the dunes while exploring them.
From the visitor center, there’s an 8 mile drive into the dunes, with various parking spots where you can stop to take pictures. At the end of the drive, there is a loop area with parking and a restroom, and some picnic tables. You can walk all around there and sled down the dunes.
Our day at White Sands National Monument was simply amazing!
The scenic ideals that surround our national parks are carriers of a nostalgia for heavenly bliss and eternal calmness.