Stretching for 275 glistening square miles across the diverse landscape of New Mexico, White Sands National Park is a natural wonder, unlike any other in the United States. Its pristine sands seem to undulate in waves and patterns that change almost imperceptibly, but continuously.
The dunes formed between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago as New Mexico’s Lake Otero dried up and left the shimmering gypsum that formed into miles of natural sand dunes. In 1933, President Herbert Hoover’s administration christened the site as a “National Monument” to protect it from mining efforts and ensure its preservation. In December of 2019, White Sands became the nation’s 62nd national park.
Inside the park, visitors can come face to face with the area’s many species of wildlife and breathtaking wildflowers. The Interdune Boardwalk is just under half a mile of leisurely hiking through the landscape. Suitable for hikers of all ages, the boardwalk accommodates wheelchairs and strollers and offers a shady place to stop and take in the scenery.
Dune Life Nature Trail is a one-mile loop that takes hikers up to dunes and into the natural habitat of White Sands animal population. Animal tracks dot the trailside, and trail markers offer information about the animals that call the dunes home.
For those who prefer to take in the beauty of White Sands by vehicle, Dunes Drive is an eight-mile drive that takes visitors from the visitor center and into the gypsum dune field. With plenty of observation points and photography stops along the way, it’s an excellent way for non-hikers to experience the beauty and diversity of the park.
White Sands National Park is open to the general public year-round, but visitors are encouraged to check the website for closures before planning their trip. Children age 15 or under can tour the park at no charge, and since White Sands is now an official National Park in the United States, “America the Beautiful” pass holders can use their passes to enter the park.