Land of Enchantment indeed! We sure love New Mexico…the hypnotizing sunsets, the skies that seem to reach the ends of the earth, the rich Native American traditions and culture and the spiritual places to visit along the way that make you truly feel alive! I was born in New Mexico and even though I was only there my first year of life, I will always have a connection with it. The boys and I have driven through, camped and stayed throughout New Mexico at least 10 times by now so this trip would be extra fun because I decided to take them to western New Mexico where we hadn’t been together before.
The boys and I decided to head a different way on this trip on our way back home to Texas from my true favorite state Colorado and stop in Alamogordo to see what the fuss was all about at White Sands National Monument. But before we would venture to White Sands the next day, we wanted to check out the town of Alamogordo as we knew that the largest pistachio in the country is there, don’t you know? If you head this way, you must stop at McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch & Country Store as their gift shop is amazing and full of yummy flavored everything pistachio AND you can get a tour of the farm! This was a fun visit and we highly recommend spending the 30 minutes or so looking around and doing a little sampling as you shop! https://www.pistachioland.com/
White Sands is located in the Tularosa Basin of Southern New Mexico. This unique place covers about 275 sq. miles according to the park information we received upon arrival making it the largest gypsum dune field in the world!
If you are coming from Albuquerque, my birth city, plan to travel about 3 hours to get here but if you come that way, you can stop at the cool town about an hour and 45 minutes from the monument with an even cooler name of Truth and Consequences!! Now doesn’t that sound worth a stop just by the name? If you are coming from Las Cruces, then you only have about an hour until you reach WS.
We decided to stay at the Alamogordo/White Sands KOA, which was a great choice as it was a close stay to the town of Alamogordo for resupplies and the monument itself.
The cabin was small as we expected and yet comfortable. You must bring your own linens and the bathrooms are located in the check in building a short walk away but we don’t ever mind this. Our cabin had a double bed for me and a bunk bed for the boys. The air conditioner blew cold which was a nice reprieve from the desert heat.
The KOA had a nice size pool and even provided pool toys and floaties as well so that was a nice touch. They have a fun game room for the kids with a ping pong table, dart boards, puzzle tables and a tv with over 30 movies for you to choose from should you be in the mood for a flick.
What I thought was really great is the KOA owners have sand sleds that they will sign out to you for free if you are a guest there rather than renting one for $10 a piece at the park. They even give you the wax for free to ensure speedy travel down the dunes.
The next morning we got up bright and early to hit the sand dunes as it was expected to be over 100 by noon and so we wanted an early start. The pictures that my friends have shown me and the pictures people share on social media simply don’t do the real place justice at all! It was absolutely unique in landscape and breathtaking to the senses. With dunes stretching as far as you could see, you almost felt like you were on an alien planet with the San Andres mountains off on the horizon! Spaces ships welcome! We loved how the almost blinding white sand contrasted with the sky making it looking even more dramatically deep blue.
We were pleasantly surprised that the sand stays cool underfoot not matter the temperature outside so walking barefoot on our whole hike was completely comfortable. This is because the white sand is not made of quartz like desert sands, but rather here it is made of Gypsum and Calcium Sulfate. There is no outlet of water of any kind in the area so the Gypsum stays in the monument which is great for visitors and their weary feet while they walk as hiking through the dunes is challenging enough without getting burns on the bottoms of your feet. The gusts of wind are what shape and reform the dunes constantly which is really neat because the dune patterns you see when you arrive may be different the next day when you come back!
Well, enough talking and time to enjoy the photos and see if for yourself….just remember, in person is wayyyyyy more epic than any pictures you will see of the location!
As you travel along the 8 mile very picturesque park road, you will see many great places you can stop and sled but if you continue down to where the road ends on Dune Drive and you will find many steep dunes to enjoy on your belly or on your sled. If you have littles, this is great fun for them plus they will be absolutely exhausted from running up and down the steep sand mountains. 🙂
We had a great time at White Sands and knew we would not soon forget all the sand sledding and hiking we did as we realized we quickly realized that we would be finding sand in all nooks and crannies for a very long time to come! Ha!
Some suggestions from our clan to yours if you plan to visit this amazing area:
- Hike early as temps can rise over 100 degrees by 11am and can fatal if you aren’t prepared. There is no shade when you are hiking through the dunes. Hats and sunglasses are highly recommended by my boys! Sunscreen and a park map are also essential!
- Bring water with you even if you are only doing the 3 mile hike as hiking in sand is much more laborious than hiking in the woods…plus the dunes have inclines and declines that can be very unexpectedly taxing to hikers, especially in the summer months. Know your limits on physical abilities and stay true to them…this is not the place to prove anything!
- Bring your own sled and wax if you can or you can rent a used one from the visitors center for $10 and wax for an additional nominal fee. The used ones are pretty used and the nicks and divots in them can slow you down when you sled. You could buy one from the visitors center brand spanking new for $18 if you wanted to do that as well.
- Check the NPS website before you go because the White Sands Missile Range is next door and closes Dunes Drive around the area when they have testing scheduled. Nothing would be more disappointing than driving from Texas or a few hours to go see the dunes and you can’t get into the monument for another day or two due to the missile testing. If you don’t check, this is what you may see when you arrive. Click here to check: https://www.nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/monument-closures.htm
In conclusion, our clan totally recommends that if you are in southern New Mexico, this is a stop you won’t want to miss!
Happy trails and safe travels! Until next time….
— Owl, Hi-Five and Eagle