Before Your Class Visits White Sands
Academic Fee WaiverYour group may qualify for an academic fee waiver. Check for specific application instructions and contact information.
Road ClosuresFrom 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.
- 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.
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Large GroupsIf 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 MonumentVisit 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.
FoodOur 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.
PicnickingThere 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.
Day of Your Field Trip
Bus ParkingThe 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 FacilitiesWhen 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.
- 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 MonumentAll 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.
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.