February 28, 2017
Honestly, I never knew White Sands National Monument existed. When we find places like this, it still baffles me that I was/am clueless to a lot of what the US has to offer. Don’t discount any state because there is something that will blow you away.
I do a lot of my research for our travel itinerary on Instagram and I also watch where other nomads travel to. This place came up a few times, but it was never on our way or close to where we were going to be. So it ended up on a travel wishlist. When we decided to make a slight detour to our plan, to escape the cold, White Sands National Monument ended up right on our track. We only allotted one day to checking out the dunes, which definitely isn’t enough, but at least we got there, we enjoyed it and so did our dogs!! We loved being able to bring them. We actually search it out. Part of our travels is to be with them and to let them explore as well. I think Summit was a little confused but he still enjoyed digging.
Before you go, the craziest thing about this area is it is an active missile testing area, White Sands Missile Range. What made this area famous was that it was the area for the first atomic bomb test: code name Trinity. On the other side is an active Air Force Base. Check the website or call to make sure that it is open. You can go here: Closures After or before you can go to the White Sands Missile Range Museum. The museum is free too! You can see actual missiles that have been tested and learn more about the area. It was definitely odd driving through what we knew as an active missile testing area and then seeing the beautiful dunes.
Since White Sands National Monument is managed by the US National Parks Service you can enter for free if you have the America the Beautiful Pass (check the website for other discounts). Otherwise it is $30. White Sands National Monument is located in the Chihuahuan Desert and is known for the WHITE gypsum sand dunes. It is unbelievably white.
We had no specific agenda and when we woke up there was wind and clouds in the forecast. So instead of getting set on one of their hikes we just winged it. We headed towards the visitor center which is on Dunes Drive. Dunes Drive is a 16 mile round trip loop that takes you into the dune field. It starts out paved and then becomes hard pack gypsum. So have a little fun, but not too much! The views start out a little rough. At first there are scraggly looking plants on the dunes and you can’t see where it becomes smooth. Don’t worry, as soon as you get past the visitor’s center it quickly becomes what you are there for. White mounds of sand as far as the eye can see.
At our first stop all we could do was stare. I started to feel as though I was walking the most beautiful beach in Australia or Thailand and then you would look around and all you could see are mounds and mounds of sand. No blue water, the only blue was the sky.
Location: Near Las Cruces, NM ♦ Dogs: It’s friendly! ♦ Size: 224.6 sq miles ♦ Founded: 1933 ♦ Elevation: 4,235′ ♦ Uses: Hike, camp (primitive tent), picnic, sand board, drive, bike, horseback ride. ♦ Alcohol: No alcohol is allowed in the park due to irresponsible spring breakers ♦ Fact: Largest gypsum dune field in the world.
There were multiple places to stop, walk, have a picnic or play with the dogs. Most of the trail heads start right off Dunes Drive so you have a place to park and a place to relax when you get back.
I highly suggest wearing sandals or going barefoot, unless you are on a hike of course. It is more compact than other sand dunes we have been to, but you will still sink in. The dogs enjoyed running and we loved the sand on our feet. We miss the beach and so this was a very welcomed substitute.
We were lucky, the forecast said there were going to be 40 mph gusts the entire day, but when we arrived it was only a bit breezy. However, within about an hour it became those 40 mph gusts and sand dunes is the last place you want to be when it’s that windy. It amazes me that it can get that breezy and the dunes to go anywhere or expand. They definitely could do both, I just don’t know the science behind it.
If we were to make it back I would stay closer to the National Monument. I would love to go hiking, sledding and experience a sunset here. There are places to camp with your rig or tents in the surrounding areas if you do not want to back county camp at the monument. If you have a small to medium sized rig you can definitely drive it within the park. At the end of the loop on Dunes Drive there is ample space to turn around. If you have a van it would be perfect to pull up to one of the designated picnic places and make that your designated spot for the day. Las Cruces is a a big enough town to get anything you need.
Lunch for us was El Jacalito. Some seriously delicious Mexican food in Las Cruces. It’s worth a stop. Cheap, great chips and salsa and a bit spicy!
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