I love White Sands. Full disclosure, I went to college very close to White Sands National Monument and it was a regular recreation activity for us when we had cars. It is so hot and sunny, absolutely breathtaking in it’s natural beauty and there is so much fun to be had on all that sand, plus admission is per carload! My sister and I decided to drive down to Alamogordo and spend the night because our kids had been really great all week while we packed up a house. Located right outside Alamogordo, and an easy drive from Las Cruces, it can be an out of the way place if you aren’t already headed in that direction.
We arrived at the monument and checked in at the Visitor’s center. We decided that we should do our badge booklets before hitting the dunes and that we would not do any trails with the kids because it was already getting later in the morning. If you are spending any quantity of time in the area the dawn and dusk trail walks are amazing. The visitor center is small but clean and well air conditioned. There is a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and where they sell saucers for sledding which they will buy them back from you at the end of the day if you don’t want to haul them back to Pennsylvania. FYI, I don’t recommend hauling them back to Pennsylvania with you, in fact I feel like I might have brought on our ridiculously mild winter by hauling ours back. There is also a souvenir penny machine which always makes my kids happy and is truly one of the best uses of 51 cents. Even though we didn’t do any trail walks we were able to see some amazing creatures just in the visitor center:
It was definitely hatching season for the Mud Swallows, there were nests in every nook and cranny. This particular one had babies that would sometimes pop up! In the right hand picture it’s hard to see, but that is a female Pallid bat with nursing pups. We completed the Ranger program which involved mostly wildlife and information about Gypsum dunes and how they differ from other dunes, as well as some interesting parts about erosion. Once we were sworn in we headed to the dunes which are a drive from the visitor center.
As you get further into the park there will be less vegetation, and the dunes will start to get taller. Sand will sweep across the road much like snow, it’s really uncanny how similar the experience is. Be sure to bring a hat, plenty of water and sunscreen. It’s hard to get a sense of how large the dunes are in the immense openness of New Mexico but here is a picture from on top of the dune and you can see our Car down below. It’s great fun to sled down and a stout hike back up to do it again. The best way is to make a track and continue to go in that track. There is also wax ro4 sale but I have always found the wax messy and it actually seems to make you go more slowly because the sand sticks. Also take some time to bury yourselves if it gets to hot, it’s cold and damp under that top layer, which makes it perfect! When I lived in Las Cruces, I would take out of state visitors to White Sands and then I would drive them up to Cloudcroft. Cloudcroft is a small mountain town about 30 minutes away. You turn out of the desert midway between Tularosa and Alamogordo and head into the mountains. You end up in a high pine forest with an enormous temperature swing due to the 4000 feet of additional altitude. You can go from triple digits in the flats to a cool 70-80 degrees in the mountain. That short jaunt definitely showcases some of the most majestic qualities of New Mexico. Plus there is a great bread bakery with homemade jam up there, and if you are around for lunch an excellent chicken fried steak to be had!