White Sands National Monument Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in White Sands National Monument

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Visitor Center

    by richiecdisc Updated May 21, 2009

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    lovely cacti outside the visitor center
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    While the visitor center is not amongst the best of the National Park system, it does give you some insight into desert life and some of the creatures that call it home. The real stars of the visitor center are the rangers maning it. They were amongst the nicest and most knowledgeable of any of the many parks we visited in the summer of 2008. We would have never learned about backcountry camping if one of the rangers hadn't suggested it when we expressed our discontent with the opening hours. The visitor center also provides much needed respite from the relentless sun and heat outside. It's a good place to cool down and take a break. There are lots of covered areas to provide ample shade. It's built in a Spanish Colonial style and the courtyard area is charming. You can even catch a siesta on one of the long wooden benches. When we were there, there was an amazing blooming cactus back there too.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    now, this is a place to take photos!

    by richiecdisc Written May 21, 2009

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    the lonely Yucca
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    White Sands National Monument is a photographer's paradise. Though it looks like a lot of the same-all white sand, there are lots of beautiful plants that provide great contrast to the stark dunes. The sand is quite reflective so it pays to have a polarizer with you if you are taking pictures during the middle of the day. But the best plan is to be shooting early in the morning or evening when the light is low and warm hues envelope the dunes, making them so much more friendly.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Alkali Flat Trail

    by richiecdisc Written May 21, 2009

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    a cool little lizard with great camouflage
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    Hiking in the park is a bit limited. As you can imagine, trail maintenance would be murder. Most would better be termed nature walks and are over boardwalks, some wheelchair accessible. One full fledged trail is the Alkali Flat Trail. It's an in and out hike of about four and a half miles. Obviously, a formal trail wouldn't work on this terrain so they use while plastic polls buried into the sand. You have to keep a keen eye out for them and if you don't see one, head back until you do. There is no shade whatsoever and no water. Bring at least a couple liters per person, wear sun block, a hat and sunglasses. We did it in spring and it was already pretty hot. Try to do it early morning if possible. The finale is a dried out lake from the ice age and admittedly a bit disappointing. The destination in this case is not the highlight, it's the scenery on the way. Don't expect the spectacular. It's a subtle beauty and a sense of utter isolation will envelope you.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Dunes Drive

    by richiecdisc Written May 21, 2009

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    lots of great plants just off the side of the road
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    The Dunes Drive is what most people who visit the park will do and it is a great one. You feel like you're driving across the moon's surface. It is sixteen miles round trip but allow plenty of time for the various pullouts explaining a bit about what you're seeing and hopefully you're feeling up to getting out and climbing one of the dunes. It'll take you a little more than a half hour but you could certainly spend longer, especially if you like taking photos and do it early morning or later in the day when not only is the light better but the heat factor is better too. Remember to bring water and something to eat. There are no facilities after the visitor center.

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  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo

    Hiking to the dry Lake Lucero - source of sands

    by jumpingnorman Written Apr 24, 2009

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    White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
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    On a monthly basis, reservations can be made for a guided tour for the source of the gypsum white sands, Lake Lucero. Just call (50) 679-2599 or 479-6124. You will be asked to drive your own vehicle through 17 miles of paved road into the park, and then you will hike ¾ mile to the lake. Just remember that you will need adequate water, sunscreen and sunglasses and suitable clothes for the weather.

    The primitive backpacker’s campsite is available on a first-come, first-served basis – and backpackers must register at the Visitor’s Center.

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  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    Visitor's Center

    by Jim_Eliason Updated May 27, 2006

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    White Sands Visitors Center

    The visitors center is right off of Hwy 70 as you enter the park. It has some displays on the dunes along with a gift/snack shop. Remember to buy water and sunscreen here if you don't already have them

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  • heitzenrater's Profile Photo

    Giant sand box

    by heitzenrater Written Feb 14, 2005

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    just add water
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    At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies a mountain ringed valley called the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico.
    Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and have created the world's largest gypsum dune field. The brilliant white dunes are ever changing: growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. Slowly but relentlessly the sand, driven by strong southwest winds, covers everything in its path. Within the extremely harsh environment of the dune field, even plants and animals adapted to desert conditions struggle to survive. Only a few species of plants grow rapidly enough to survive burial by moving dunes, but several types of small animals have evolved a white coloration that camouflages them in the gypsum sand.

    White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this gypsum dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment.

    DUNES DRIVE
    January 1 - May 27 7a.m to Sunset
    May 28 - September 5 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    September 6 - December 31 (Closed December 25) 7 a.m. to Sunset

    COST
    $3 - 7 Days

    IF YOU LIKE MY POST PLEASE GIVE POSITVE FEEDBACK, THANKS

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  • annk's Profile Photo

    Dunes Drive

    by annk Updated Feb 6, 2005

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    dune drive, white sands

    Take the 16 mile round trip dunes drive. The further you go the less vegetation you will see, plus more sand covers the road like snow that hasn't been plowed yet. The white gypsum dunes and sand are so white that the appearance is very similar to snow.

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  • annk's Profile Photo

    Nature Center

    by annk Updated Nov 23, 2004

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    Nature Center

    A small Nature Center with displays of wildlife and plants is near the end of the dunes drive.

    At White Sands there are:
    - 44 species of mammals (gray fox, badgers and coyotes are most commom)
    - 26 species of reptiles
    - 6 species of amphibians
    - 100 species of insects

    A few species are light in color to blend into their white background.

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  • shdw100's Profile Photo

    White sand, of course

    by shdw100 Written Jul 27, 2004

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    Well, as the main attraction to this park is the white sands, it only makes sense to play in it! They are huge dunes, almost like being in a mini-sahara desert, but much cooler temperature wise. It's fun to go sliding down the dunes. There is a $3 fee for a 7 day pass, or $20 for an annual pass.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    A Short, Wheelchair Accessible Boardwalk

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2003

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    The Interdune Boardwalk is a wheelchair-accessible ¼-mile nature trail. This is a good introductory trail, or an excellent trail for people with small children, or who have problems walking short distances. Although we only saw two or three birds, and a couple of insects, lizards are common on the desert. One lizard, the “bleached earless lizard” has evolved to be white, therefore blending in with the sand. This would be a very hard lizard to spot, unless you were lucky enough to catch his movement.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    A Short Easy Hike

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2003

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    Soap Yucca and Dunes

    The Big Dune Trail is a one-mile self-guided nature trail, which allows you to get out of your car and take a walk in the largest gypsum dune desert in the world. The heart of the dunes is mostly sand, but one can also view sparsely spaced plants. Soap Yucca can elongate its stem to keep its leaves above the shifting sand. When the dunes eventually move away from these dune top Yuccas, they will collapse and die.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Sites by Car

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2003

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    Capturing a Dune

    After visiting the Visitor Center, hop into your car and drive the 16 mile round trip scenic Dunes Drive. You will find wayside exhibits at pullouts along this drive that will give you information about the natural history of the area. A number of parking areas along the drive will allow you to stop and walk onto the white sands. Allow at least a half an hour driving time plus additional time for walking, photography, stopping at the pullouts, or picnicking. Be aware that it is illegal to remove or disturbance of any archeological or natural objects, including sand, plants, and animals. Observe the posted speed limit and stay on the road and only park in official parking areas

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  • DrewV's Profile Photo

    Frolick! Frolick, says I!

    by DrewV Written Jun 9, 2003

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    Imagine yourself a-frolickin'!

    You're going to frolick. That's what you're here for. Rolling down a dune, throwing frisbee or football, making sand angels... the options are as limitless as the expanse.

    Two words of warning: don't frolick too far away from the road -- it's easy to get lost and never be found.

    Also, don't step on the dark areas between dunes. That is called cryptobiotic crust, and it is a very fragile form of plant life that nourishes the entire ecosystem. Simply stepping on it will do untold damage to the plants and animals in the monument.

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  • DrewV's Profile Photo

    Sunset Stroll

    by DrewV Written Jun 9, 2003

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    Part of the hike: a downhill slide

    To take full advantage of viewing the dunes at the best time possible, take the Sunset Stroll, a ranger-led walk through the dunes. The ranger will explain the geology, botany, zoology, history, and future of the dunes, while allowing you to see the plants and animals that call the dunes home.

    The crowds for the hike can be pretty large for weekends, as families from El Paso, Las Cruces, and Alamogordo come by. On a weekday, however, it's fantastic.

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