Sand and Sun at White Sands National Park

Play in the giant sandbox of white gypsum in New Mexico


White Sands National Monument in New Mexico
White Sands National MonumentShutterstock

There are few things as striking as the glistening white sands in southern New Mexico, so stop here to experience this vast field of dunes yourself.

White Sand Dunes National Park is the world’s largest gypsum dune field, which spans 275 square miles. Start your adventure at the monument’s historic visitor center. Housed in the 1930s-era Pueblo Revival building are interactive exhibits, information on daily activities and a great film A Land in Motion to orient you. You’ll find the White Sands Trading Co. in there as well, which sells snacks, sandwiches and drinks, and rents sand saucers for the day.

From the visitor center, take Dunes Drive, an 8-mile one-way ride sprinkled with roadside exhibits, picnic areas, restrooms and trails. The first four miles of the road are paved and the last four are hard-packed.

Trails vary from short loops with interpretive signs, to long stretches of dunes where you follow red stakes in the sand. Go for as long as you wish and then double back to the car. Be sure to bring sun block (the sun reflects up from the sand) and plenty of water.

Catch the sunset tour with a ranger to learn about the wildlife and fauna of the park. The easy one-mile walk travels over the dunes and ends in a picture-perfect spot for the sunset. Check for tour times online or at the visitor center.

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