a person with a red backpack and holding a cell phone stands on the edge of a white dune field with mountains seen in the distance.
Being prepared and planning ahead are the keys to a incredible experience at White Sands National Park.

NPS Photo

Welcome to White Sands National Park, a place of wonder, inspiration, and beauty. With its glittering white backdrop against a vast glowing sky, White Sands offers unforgettable views and fun activities for all, but it is important to safely enjoy the park. Your tomorrow depends on the decisions that you make today. Each year, park rangers respond to dozens of search and rescue incidents in the park. These frequently involve heat exhaustion, dehydration, and injuries. To get the most out of your experience, please read and follow the safety guidelines below.

Emergency, Dial 911

a blue rain jacket, purple backpage, map with White Sands on it, compass, water bottle, water bladder, flashlight, sunscreen bottle, trail mix bag, sunglasses, hiking shoes, and a first aid kit lie on a white sand background.
Always come prepared to visit White Sands National Park.

NPS Photo

Safety Essentials

  • Tell someone your plans. Let them know where you're going, and when you plan to return.
  • Be aware of the weather. Sudden wind storms are frequent from February - May. Fast building thunderstorms are common in the basin July - September.
  • Be prepared for varying temperatures throughtout the day. Summer daytime temperatures can often reach over 100ºF (38ºC) in the summer and as cold as 10ºF (-12ºC) in the winter.
  • Bring plenty of food and water. One gallon (4 liters) of water per person per day is recommended. Water is only available at the visitor center. Have salty snacks available. Make sure to balance water intake with eating to stay properly hydrated.
  • Remain in one place if you become separated from your group.
  • Drive safely, obey traffic signs, and wear your seatbelt at all times.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Be extremely careful digging holes in the sand. Sand is unstable and can easily collapse causing injury or suffocation.
  • Do not touch unknown items out in the dunefield. Unexploded ordinance can sometimes be found in the park.
  • When in doubt, ask a ranger first

What Should I Bring?

  • Water: at least 1 gallon (4 liters) per person per day.
  • Salty Snacks. Balance drinking water and eating snacks to stay properly hydrated.
  • Map. Do not rely on your phone⁠— cell service is spotty in the park.
  • Fully Charged Cell Phone. In case of an emergency it is important to have a charged phone to try and make an emergency services call to 911.
  • Sun Protection. A hat, suncreen, and long sleeves are all recommended to protect yourself from sunburn in the dunes. Sun protection is still needed in the dunes during the winter season.
  • Adequate clothing (rain jacket and warm layers). Weather can be unpredictable and change quickly.
  • Closed toed shoes are suggested. Venomous creatures can be found throughout the dunefield.
  • First aid kit for outdoor excursions
  • Flashlight

Know Before You Go

  • People have died in White Sands National Park from heat related illnesses, hypothermia, dehydration, and getting lost. Please check the activity checklist below to help you have a safe visit to White Sands National Park.
  • Heat exhaustion is a very serious threat when recreating in White Sands National Park. Signs of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, pale appearance, stomach cramps, and cool clammy skin. If you or a member of your party begins suffering from these syptoms...
    • Find a shaded area
    • Drink water slowly
    • Loosen tight clothing
    • Apply cool wet cloths or ice packs to the skin.
    • If heat exhaustion symptoms persist, seek medical help by calling 911
  • Please take signs of heat exhaustion seriously when in the park. If untreated, heat exhaustion often progresses into heat stroke. The body is unable to cool itself if this point is reached. It is imperative to lower their body temperature using any means necessary and obtain immediate medical assistance.
  • Winter months can be just as dangerous to people visiting White Sands National Park. Although winter highs are in the high 50's (10's Celsius), the temperature drastically falls into the low 20's (below zero Celsius) after the sun goes down. If people are not prepared for these cold temperatures, hypothermia can occur quickly.
  • White Sands is located at 4,235 feet (1,291 m) above sea level. For those traveling from lower altitudes, make sure you allow your body to acclimate to these altitudes. Take frequent breaks and drink water. Headache and loss of appetite are common sympotoms of altitude sickness. People not acclimated to the altitude must take even more precaution to aviod heat exhaustion.

Safety Checklist

  • Park with all four wheels on asphalt or compact sand parking areas. Do not drive offroad or park off the side of the road. Protect sensitive dune vegetation.
  • Use established pull outs and parking areas.
  • Pass pedestrians and bicyclists with at least three feet of separation.
  • Watch out for wildlife.
  • Drive safely and wear your seatbelt at all times.
  • Do not drive while impaired. Note that recreational use of marijuana is prohibited on federal land regardless of state laws. 

  • Carry water; at least 1 gallon (4 L) per person. Water is only available at the visitor center.
  • Bring salty snacks. Maintain a balance in drinking water and eating snacks to stay properly hydrated.
  • Hiking shoes are suggested for hiking in the dune field. Venomous snakes, scorpions, pointy plants, and unexploded ordinance can be hidden by the sand.
  • Stay on established trails. Dune hikes are marked by trail posts. Due to high winds, trail posts can fall over. If you are unsure where to go next on a hike, please turn around. It is easy to become disoriented in the sand dunes.
  • Be aware of the daily weather. Prepare for varying temperatures and predicted weather events.
  • Do not rely on your phone for maps or flashlights. Limited cell service, GPS, and flashlight use drain batteries quickly.
  • Know the difficulty level of the trail before you go. Plan to the physical abilities and limitations of everyone in your group.
  • Keep Wildlife Wild: Do not feed or disturb wildlife, including birds. If your presence changes the behavior of wild animals, you are too close.
  • Do not pick up or get close to unknown debris or trash when out in the dunefields. Unexploded ordinance occurs within the park.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • It is not advised to hike in the park when temperatures are above 85ºF (29ºC).

  • Choose a dune with a gently sloping face and a level run-off at the end so that you can come to a halt safely
  • Never sled into a parking area or roadway.
  • Check sledding path for vegetation, hard sand, or any other obstructions before sledding the first time.
  • Sit or lay on the sledding saucer with your feet pointing down the hill.
  • Climbing the dunes to sled had be strenuous. It is not advised to do strenuos activities in the park when the temperature is above 85ºF (29ºC).

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Obey traffic signals and speed limits.
  • Be prepared to stop. Sudden stops are dangerous on the packed gypsum sand road.
  • Carry water; at least 1 gallon (4 L) per person. Water is only available at the visitor center.
  • Bring salty snacks. Balance drinking water and eating snakcs to stay properly hydrated.
  • Stay to the right. Give a clear warning before passing on the left.
  • Move to the side when stopped.
  • Leave no trace. Carry out what you carry in.
  • Strenuous activities are not advised when temperatures are above 85ºF (29ºC).

  • Do not leave pets unattended in your vehicle.
  • Bring as much water for you pets as you do yourself. 1 gallon (4 L) of water is suggested. Water is only available at the visitor center.
  • Avoid wildlife encounters
  • Bites: Please don't allow yourself to be surprised by your own dog's behavior toward others, and please don't assume predictable behavior of dogs that are new to you.
  • Leash (6 feet or less) at all times secured to a person.
  • Pick up poop and dispose of appropriately.
To print this information, see our Downloadable Brochure.

Last updated: December 6, 2023

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PO Box 1086
Holloman AFB, NM 88330


575 479-6124

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