Alkali Flat Trail
Distance from visitor center: 7 miles (11.2 km)
Length of trail: 4.6 miles (7.4 km) round-trip
Description of trail: If you want to see unvegetated dunes stretching for miles into a beautiful vista and have a wilderness-type experience, the Alkali Flat Trail is for you. This trail takes you through the Heart of the Sands, up and over dunes, and ends at the edge of the Alkali Flat. This trail is approved for foot travel only. No bicycles, horses or motorized vehicles are allowed.
The Alkali Flat is the dry lakebed of Lake Otero, a lake that filled the bottom of the Tularosa Basin during the last ice age and covered 1,600 square miles. Please note that you do not have to hike the entire trail to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
The trail is marked by white posts with orange reflective tape at the top, so look carefully for the next trail marker before continuing. If you cannot see the next post because of blowing sand or dust -- do not proceed. Turn back. The strong winds, especially in the spring, can reduce visibility to a few feet, making it easy to get lost. Please be sure to sign in and out at the register at the trailhead, so we know you got back safely.
There is no shade or water along the trail, and summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees F (38 ° C). Heat-related illness is common in warm weather and can be fatal. Hike during cool times. Carry food and at least two quarts of water. Rest, eat and drink when tired. Drinking water is available only at the Visitor Center. The white sand reflects sunlight. Protect all exposed skin from sunburn. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses. We recommend that you do not hike alone.
Pets must remain on a leash at all times.
WARNING: The air space above the park is periodically used by military aircraft and for missile testing. Debris from testing occasionally falls into the park. DO NOT TOUCH ANY METALLIC OBJECTS. These can be dangerous. Report any debris to a park ranger.
Please avoid walking on vegetation. Please do not remove any sand, plants, animals, or other natural and historic objects. They are protected by law.
Did You Know?
The wind moves small sand grains by bouncing them along the surface in a process called "saltation." Saltating sand grains create a beautiful pattern of ripples on the dune surface. Larger sand grains are struck by saltating grains and slowly roll forward, a process known as "surface creep."