• The dunes in soft light

    White Sands

    National Monument New Mexico

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Closures and Missile Tests

    Upcoming Missile Tests: From time to time the missile range that surrounds us performs missile testing that may require the closure of the park or Highway 70. Please follow the link below for up to date information on closures More »

  • Summer Monument Hours

    The monument currently opens at 7 a.m. and closes roughly 1 hour after sunset. More »

  • Road Safety Corridor

    The first four miles of Dunes Drive is a road safety corridor. Slowing or stopping in the corridor is prohibited. Dune Life Nature and Playa trails are also temporarily closed. The staff of White Sands National Monument apologizes for the inconvenience.

Leave No Trace

With increasing visitor use, both day and overnight, it is important to minimize our impacts and Leave No Trace of our visits to wilderness, parks and other special places. Trips that include awareness and the use of minimum impact practices conserve natural conditions of the outdoors which make the adventure enjoyable and allow others the same experience.

Leave No Trace is simple, whether you are hiking or camping in the park's backcountry campground. At its heart it is a set of seven principles which can be applied in any natural setting to minimize human impacts on the environment. Following the Leave No Trace principles and combining them with your personal judgment, awareness, and experience will help protect precious park natural and cultural resources and preserve the park experience for you and for future visitors.

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable Surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Please learn and practice Leave No Trace skills and ethics and pass them on to those you come in contact with. It's easy to enjoy and protect the park simultaneously.

For more information stop by the park's Visitor Center, or visit the Leave No Trace website.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know and obey the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Be physically and mentally ready for your trip.
  • Know the ability of every member of you group.
  • Be informed of current weather conditions and other area information.
  • Know and accept risks associated with backcountry experiences.
  • Take responsibility for yourself and your group.
  • Always leave an itinerary with someone at home.
  • Choose proper equipment and clothing in subdued colors.
  • Plan your meals and repackage food into reusable containers.

Travel and Camp on Renewable Surfaces

While Traveling:

  • Hike on the open sand along the edge of the dunes.

· When traveling cross-country, avoid the fragile interdune areas with their easily damaged cryptobiotic crusts (dark, bumpy surface in these low lying areas).

At Camp:

  • Be careful were you pitch your tent. Camp in the camp area indicated on your permit.
  • Restrict activities to the area where vegetation is absent.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • There are pit toilets near the trailhead to the backcountry sites. Use them.
  • If there are no pit toilets nearby, urinate or defecate at least 100 feet (35 adult paces) from camp, or trails.
  • Urinate on the sand and then cover it with a layer of fresh sand. Do not urinate on or near plants; it may interfere with wildlife’s use of the plant for food or shelter.
  • Deposit human waste in cat holes dug 6-8 inches deep. Carry a small garden trowel or lightweight scoop for digging. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished, or pack out solid waste.
  • Use toilet paper sparingly and pack it out along with sanitary napkins and tampons in an airtight container.
  • When washing your dishes and yourself, use small amounts, if any, of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Strain food scraps from wash water and pack them out.
  • Pack everything you bring into the backcountry back out.
  • Inspect your campsite for trash and evidence or your stay. Pack out all trash: Yours and others'.

Leave What You Find

  • Treat our natural heritage with respect. Leave plants, rocks, and historical artifacts as you find them.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site should not be necessary. Don't build structures or dig trenches.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Speak softly and avoid making loud noises. Allow for others to enjoy the peace and solitude of being in the backcountry.
  • SAFETY NOTE: The monument is surrounded by an active missile range and missile debris falls into the dune field and gets buried before it can be removed. For your safety, do not touch any such items.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires are NOT allowed. Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Always use a lightweight, portable stove for cooking.
  • Enjoy the sounds and wonders of the darkness, or use a candle lantern instead of a fire.

Respect Wildlife

  • Enjoy wildlife at a distance.
  • Never feed wildlife.
  • Protect wildlife, store your food and scented items securely.
  • Minimize noise.
  • Avoid sensitive habitat.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Visit the backcountry in small parties. More people means more impact.
  • Avoid popular areas during times of high use.
  • Avoid conflicts.
  • Minimize noise.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Take breaks and rest well off the trail, avoid the fragile interdune areas with their easily damaged cryptobiotic crusts.
  • Yield to horse traffic.

Leave No Trace is a national program which promotes the protection of our nation's wildlands through education, research, and partnerships. Leave No Trace teaches minimum impact hiking and camping skills and wildland ethics and builds awareness, appreciation, and respect for our public recreation places. The four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all promote the Leave No Trace message. Working with outdoor retailers, educators, and user groups these federal agencies are helping to make Leave No Trace the common language for all outdoor enthusiasts.

Did You Know?

Photo of yucca growing on a dune

Some species of plants can survive burial by a moving dune by a process called "stem elongation." As the sand rises, the plants quickly grow upward to keep their leaves above the rising sand.