On my roadtrip from Washington D.C. to my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, my uncle and I made a pit stop at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico!
White Sands National Monument is 52 miles northeast of Las Cruces and a part of the northern Chihuahua Desert. It features giant dunes of pure white sand, with a visitor center run by the National Park Service. At the visitor center, travelers can read about the dunes and the flora and fauna that inhabit the region. You can also buy shirts, guides, other goods like jewelry and mugs — but most importantly, sleds! Sleds are available to rent or buy, but why would you use a sled in the middle of a desert? For sledding down the dunes!
Sledding down the dunes is incredibly exhausting but such a unique experience. You have to thoroughly wax the bottom of the sled, and going down the dunes first couple of times is challenging because you have to get the sand packed down and smooth for an easier ride down. It took us a few times before we had a smooth ride on the dunes. Another challenge while sledding is climbing the dunes. My uncle and I found the tallest dune to slide down (of course) so the downside of that is climbing back up the dunes. I went barefoot and the sand was very hot on my feet at first but I eventually got used to it. (I loved going barefoot because it exfoliated my feet and made them very soft afterwards.)
On top of the sand absorbing heat, it was also reflecting the light back up. My face and arms got so sunburnt in the few hours we were at the dunes. It took about an hour or two of driving in the car with the air conditioning on blast for my body to cool down, and I was very hungry from the exercise.
Now — The sand. Gets. EVERYWHERE. I’m not kidding when I say *everywhere*. It’s pretty horrible. Yes, it exfoliates the skin but it also infiltrated my pants, sports bra and hair. I was forced to sit uncomfortably in the car for hours with sand all over me when we were driving home. Oh well — it’s for the experience, right?
If you don’t want to sled, visitors can simply drive through the dunes and stop for pictures at pullouts. It’s a beautiful drive regardless of whether you get outside or not.
Since White Sands is a national monument run by the National Park Service, there is a small entrance fee. Starting in 2019, a day pass is $20 per vehicle and $10 per person; motorcycles have a $15 day pass fee. An annual pass to the park is $40.
Another thing to note is that the weather at the dunes changes quickly. My mom visited one time and said that it was so windy that the sand scratched up her skin and burned her eyes. The region is also prone to flash flooding and thunderstorms, especially in the summer/fall months. When I visited in August, my uncle and I kept a close eye on the clouds and it began to rain as we were leaving the dunes. It was also so hot and sweaty, and the sand just made everything hotter. We became extremely dehydrated very quickly so if you visit, be sure to bring plenty of water! There’s water fountains to fill up water for free at the visitor center and also water bottles available for purchase. I would advise bringing snacks because you’re sure to be hungry after playing in the dunes.
Despite the fees, heat and sand that mischievously gets everywhere, visiting White Sands National Monument is worth the trip! It was one of my favorite trips in 2018 and I highly recommend a visit!
Thank you for reading! Have you ever visited White Sands National Monument? Do you want to visit? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!