White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is a gigantic sandbox full of large undulating gypsum dunes that cover 275 square miles of the Tularosa Basin in southeastern New Mexico. In fact, it's the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Gypsum dunes don't readily retain heat and you can scramble around on them barefooted, even at the height of summer. The park is also home to some unique flora and fauna that are well adapted for life amongst the dunes.

The park was designated a National Monument on January 18, 1933 by President Herbert Hoover, but has had trouble achieving World Heritage Site or National Park status, mostly for political reasons. White Sands is surrounded by military installations (White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base). This close relationship has been pretty contentious at times, what with misguided missiles and low flying jets and road closures and such. That said, White Sands finally achieved National Park status on Dec 20, 2019. Hooray!

The visitor center, ranger residences, some maintenance buildings, and the bathrooms were constructed in pueblo style in the late 1930s. I went to White Sands in April of 2019, and I can tell you from personal experience the bathrooms were definitely showing their age. However I understand they are due for a makeover later in 2019. Of course there are also a couple of nice gift shops run by the White Sands Trading Company.

Park sign
(Now White Sands National Park)

Visitor Center

Visitor Center

Gift shop

Gift shop


Interdunal Area

This is the area between and around the edges of dunes where there are enough nutrients in the soil to support plant life. There are a couple of easy trails in this area that are worth taking. The Playa Trail is an easy 0.5 mile out and back walk along exhibits and intermittent water holes (playas). The Interdune Boardwalk is an elevated boardwalk 0.2 miles in length that leads you through the interdune area to a scenic view of the dunefield and the Sacramento mountains. The 0.4 mile round trip is an easy 20 minute walk. There are exhibits along the way.

Interpretive sign

Desert playa

My little Scamp

Playa and interdunal vegetation

Soaptree yucca interpretive sign

Soaptree Yucca

Soaptree Yucca

Could be Rosemary Mint?

White dunes and white clouds

Interdune boardwalk

Into the Dunes

The park road (Dunes Drive) ends at the Heart of the Sands day use and picnic area. The most popular activity here is dune sledding, with picnicing a close second.

Big dune

These are the coolest picnic shelters ever

Life on the dunes

A girl and her dune sled

Really white sand

Could be the San Andres Mountains?

Heart of the Sands picnic area

Background content obtained from Wikipedia.
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