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.

-William Blake

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White Sands National Monument in New Mexico 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 National Monument

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!

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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.

White Sands National Monument

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.

White Sands National Monument

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.

White Sands National Monument

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.

White Sands National Monument

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.

White Sands National Monument

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!

White Sands National Monument

The scenic ideals that surround our national parks are carriers of a nostalgia for heavenly bliss and eternal calmness.

-Robert Smithson

White Sands National Monument

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18 Comments

  1. I had no idea this place existed, it is stunning! And interesting that it is cool to the touch: did you know it would be the case? It would have surely taken me by surprise! Great to hear about the junior ranger programme: we saw it in Yosemite and it’s an excellent way to get kids engaged with where they are

  2. Your photos are gorgeous! I visited White Sands in 1994 or 95 — a long time ago! I remember loving the place and finding it so peaceful. Thanks for taking me back.

  3. I’ve been wanting to go here! We have dunes not far from us in SoCal, however the sand is like hot lava. We made a pit stop on the way to AZ and our flip flops were melting! This would be cool to experience.

  4. The photos are STUNNING!!!! You have me really wanting to visit!! I can’t wait to plan my trip now! =)

  5. Amazing photos. This national park is on my bucket list. It looks like so much fun. I didn’t realise you could tube down the slopes

  6. I have just recently learned about this monument. My kids would definitely enjoy running around here. And your pictures look amazing.

  7. This looks like such an amazing place to visit! I love the idea of sliding down these giant dunes in sleds, what a change from the cold and snow!

  8. Oh my, such a gorgeous place to visit. It looks like the sheer brightness of it all would just blind you! I have never been to a Gypsum dune but it sounds so marvelous and I appreciate it when the sand is cool. 😉

  9. This place is new to me. It is really breathtaking. The beauty of acres and acres of white sand must indeed be a sight to behold. Isn’t it really amazing how beautiful nature’s creations are?

  10. Sledding down the dunes? Any kid would love that! And I was shocked to read the sand wasnt burning hot to touch, what a stunning natural day out. I guess you’ll be going back?

  11. I spent a few hours in White Sands back in June, but man, these pictures have me wanting to go back ASAP!

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