Field Trip Logistics

Three yellow school buses in parking area near a sand dune
Having a well planned visit to the monument helps keep everyone stress free the day of your field trip.

NPS Photo

Whether you plan to arrange a ranger program or want to create a self-guided experience, you will find many of the following tips helpful in experiencing White Sands as the ultimate outdoor classroom.

Before Your Class Visits White Sands

Academic Fee Waiver

Your group may qualify for an academic fee waiver. Check for specific application instructions and contact information.

Road Closures

From time to time Dunes Drive and Highway 70 will be closed for periods of up to three hours during missile tests. Please check the monument closures page for information about upcoming missile test. Please check back several days before your visit to ensure the monument will be open when you arrive.

Directions and Maps

Driving time to the monument varies widely. Please make sure you plan for added travel time when you visit due to possible road closures and Border Patrol check stations depending on your direction of travel to the monument.

Seasons and Weather

Weather in the Tularosa Basin can change very quickly. Teachers and students need to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions.
  • Wind. During our windy season, February through May, dust storms can move in fast and reduce visibility. We will not conduct a ranger led program in the dunes and you should not hike out during a windstorm.
  • Heat. Our summer months, May through August, daytime temperatures can exceed 100° F (38° C). June is usually the hottest month of the year. It is recommended that you do not start a hike if the temperature is above 85° F (30° C).
  • Storms. July through September is our monsoon season. Storms can quickly build. Lightning often occurs in the desert during thunderstorms, even if there is no rain. We will not conduct a ranger led program in the dunes if the lightning is striking within 10 miles of the monument. You should not hike out during a thunderstorm.
  • Cold. November through February, early morning and nighttime temperatures are frequently below freezing. Daytime temperatures can range from 30° F to 60°F (-1° C to 15° C). Dress in layers that can be easily removed or added as needed.

Month
Avg.
High
°F
Avg.
Low
°F
Avg. Precip. Inches
Month
Avg.
High
°F
Avg.
Low
°F
Avg. Precip. Inches
JAN 57 23 0.60 JUL 97 63 1.41
FEB 64 26 0.39 AUG 94 61 2.07
MAR 71 31 0.27 SEP 88 54 1.44
APR 79 40 0.29 OCT 78 41 1.09
MAY 88 49 0.49 NOV 64 28 0.68
JUN 96 58 0.89 DEC 57 22 0.79

Large Groups

If planning to go in to the visitor center or gift shop please make sure your group is courteous to other visitors. Only six kids at one time are allowed in the gift shop or visitor center. Please allow extra time for souvenir shopping with this in mind.

Areas to Visit in the Monument

Visit our things to do page for more detailed information and ideas about activities and educational opportunities within the monument.

The Dune Life Nature and Playa trails can accommodate education groups. These trails has educational signs along the way that can easily be incorporated into a teacher-directed educational activity. The Playa Trail is best for groups of 20 people or less. The Dune Life Nature Trail can accommodate larger groups.

The Interdune Boardwalk can accommodate small groups (i.e., less than 20 people), and it includes benches and a shade structure. There are also educational signs along the boardwalk that describe the plants, animals, research, and geology of the monument.

Food

Our gift shop has a limited selection of convenient food options including sandwiches, burritos, snacks and beverages. The nearby towns of Alamogordo and Las Cruces have a large variety of restaurants as well.

Picnicking

There are three picnic areas in the monument that can accommodate groups. These areas have vault toilets, trash cans, recycling containers, grills, and covered picnic tables. There is no running water anywhere in the dunefield.

In the Roadrunner Picnic Area there are two picnic pavilions that will accommodate groups of up to 20 individuals. These tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis. These areas cannot be reserved.

For larger groups, the Group Use Area offers a private location with several picnic tables and one large picnic pavilion. The group use area also has two grills, a vault toilet, and plenty of room for bus parking. Reservations are required to use this area.

Tips for a great picnic:
  • Use colored plates, napkins, cups, and silverware. White, plastic dinnerware is not easily-visible on the white sand. Remember to Leave No Trace.
  • When you are done with your picnic, use our recycling bins by the vault toilets to recycle plastic and aluminum.
  • Consider using reusable tableware to reduce the amount trash left behind in the monument.
  • Trash dumpsters are provided in the picnic areas for your use. If the small trash cans are please throw trash in the large dumpsters.
  • Bag your trash. Wind will pick up your trash like paper plates and napkins carry them into the dunes. Please bring extra trash bags to dispose of your trash properly.
Tips for a sustainable visit to White Sands provides you with ideas how to make your field trip more environmentally sustainable.

Day of Your Field Trip

Bus Parking

The visitor center parking lot can fit up to six school buses at a time. Parking areas in the dunefield can fit a number of buses and larger groups in most parking areas.

Restroom Facilities

When in doubt, ask someone in uniform for the closest restroom facilities. Here are a few for your reference:

Visitor Center: There is a restroom facility located outside of the visitor center. These are the only facilities with running water.

Dune area: There are twelve vault toilets located along Dunes Drive, at trailheads, and in picnic areas. These are restroom facilities with no running water.

Safety Cosiderations

Exploring the outdoors involves risk. The National Park Service works to reduce that risk but your safety also depends on your own good judgment, adequate preparation, and constant awareness. Keep in mind that minor and moderate health or medical issues can be easily exacerbated by hiking up and down steep dunes. The elevation at White Sands is 4,235 feet (1,291 m). This may have an effect on those traveling from lower elevations or sea level. Know your limits, pace yourself, and pay attention to how you are feeling. Your safety is your responsibility. Your tomorrow depends on the decisions that you make today.
  • Water is NOT available in the dunefield. Be sure all students and teachers/chaperones have their own water! There is a free refill station near the visitor center. Water is required for the hike as well as for lunch time.
  • Limited shade is available in the dunefield. Wear hats, sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, sunglasses, and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Long sleeves and long pants are recommended to help protect skin from the sun.
  • Students should wear appropriate footwear. Sneakers or hiking boots are recommended.
  • Natural conditions at White Sands can be hazardous. Sand sledding is a fun but potentially hazardous sport. Never sled near or into the road, and look out for plants.
  • Tunnels dug in the sand collapse easily, causing rapid suffocation.
  • Keep track of your students. Roads can be busy at times and it is easy to get lost.

Animals of Concern in the Monument

All animals in the monument are wild and their behaviors are unpredictable. Treat all animals with caution.

Rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widows, and harvester ants are only a few of the venomous animals found in New Mexico. To avoid a bite, students should be mindful of where they walk, put their hands, or sit. Never try to pick up, touch, or tease snakes and scorpions or handle spiders. If bitten, seek immediate medical attention. Bring a photo along for identification if possible.

Monument Regulations

The mission of the National Park System and White Sands National Monument is “to conserve the scenery, the natural and historic objects, and the wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

DO NOT COLLECT any sand, rock, or any other natural or archeological objects. All things in the monument are protected. Collecting anything, including sand, is prohibited by law and can result in a fine.

Leave No TRACE! Leave no Trace means leave the land like you found it. It is important to take care of the area you visit so others can enjoy the dunes, too.

Unknown Objects

We are surrounded by an active missile range. From time to time, debris from missile tests falls into the monument and is buried by sand. If you or your students see any strange objects, do not touch them. Make a note of their location and tell a ranger what you found and where you found it. The ranger will dispatch appropriate personnel to remove the object in question.

Last updated: April 30, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 1086
Holloman AFB, NM 88330

Phone:

(575) 479-6124

Contact Us

Tools