On This Page
To check out the rare white gypsum dunes that comprise White Sands. (We didn’t know about the sledding beforehand, it was an added bonus.)
When We Went
September 2017. Days were hot and sunny, nights were mild.
Length of time
We spent one day in White Sands, a pre-planned destination as part of a larger road trip.
In total, we spent ten days venturing over 4,000 miles through the Southwestern United States:
(Texas> New Mexico> Colorado > Utah> Arizona> New Mexico> Texas)
Here’s a visual of where we were:
There is an entrance fee to visit the monument, or you can use your national park annual pass. I highly recommend getting one, a year pass will get you into all national parks, national monuments, federal lands, and is more economical than paying the entrance fee at each individual park.
For more information on national park passes or to purchase one online click here. You can also purchase them in person at the park.
White Sands National Monument closes periodically for missile testing, find information about upcoming closures here.
How We Got Around
We flew into and out of Austin, Texas, the beginning and ending point of the road trip.
We drove everywhere.
Where We Stayed
We found an Airbnb in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 20 minutes East of White Sands. Only needing a place to do some laundry and crash for the night, we chose a budget-friendly “private room” option in couple’s home. It was your average-looking home in a suburban neighborhood, complete with a couple of friendly cats.
What To Pack
White Sands is in the Chihuahuan Desert. Just picture miles and miles of sand with nothing to block out the sun. Be smart.
- Wear cool clothing
- Don’t skip the sunscreen
- Drink lots of water
What We Did
We’d just spent the last two days exploring various parks in Arizona, the last of which being the most bizarre, Petrified Forest, and were headed east back into New Mexico. We were stopping in Alamogordo for the night before checking out the park.
A Night in Alamogordo
Our second pass through a small town in New Mexico was much like the first time around (the first time we went through Roswell). We rolled in on a Thursday evening. Everything was closed. There wasn’t much going on. We asked our Airbnb host for a recommendation on somewhere to eat and he suggested Applebees… a chain was not what we were hoping for. We drove around to hunt for somewhere more appetizing on our own but all we could find that was still open was a McDonald’s. Sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits it is.
But now for the real reason we made Alamogordo a must-stop on our road trip:
White Sands National Monument
An easy 20-minute drive east of Alamogordo on Highway 70 West is White Sands National Monument.
Check out their website here.
The Largest Gypsum Dune Field On Earth
Located in the Tularosa Basin, White Sands is the largest gypsum dune field on earth. Dunes made of this mineral are very rare, the sand is said to be so fine that it dissolves in rain like sugar in ice tea. (I’ve concluded that it must have been a Southerner who first made this analogy.) Once the rain evaporates, the gypsum remains behind as fine crystals.
The sand was pure white.
It’s so white it almost looked like snow. Almost.
There were signs posted, warning visitors of rattlesnakes. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. (Yes, I would have loved to catch a glimpse of one, RIP Steve Irwin.)
We drove around a bit before stopping at the Visitor Center.
That’s when we saw the sleds. Sleds!
Remember the excitement a fresh snow brought as a kid? I remember going to Laura Dodge, the best park in Omaha for sledding, located right down the street from my childhood home (yes, it’s better than Memorial). The climb to the top. Cold air blowing across my face. Barreling down the hill at top speed. Losing control and bailing into a snowbank. Excitedly climbing right back up and repeating the entire process until my toes were frozen.
I had to sled here. There was no way I was going to leave this park without sledding.
They give you the option to “buy” a saucer and wax and then you “sell” it back to them after you are done for about 3/4 the original price (it was pretty cheap, under $10 to use as long as your heart desires). We got one and set out to find the perfect hill.
We took turns going down several times each.
One last glide down the hill each before calling it quits.
White Sands was the last national park of our Southwestern adventure.
Next stop: Kraus Springs, located 45 minutes outside of Austin, Texas, where we were to attend my cousin’s wedding in two-days’ time (also the inspiration that sparked the entire road trip, thanks Lexi!)