The dunefield is a photographer's paradise, offering shifting shadows and textures in the early light. Join a ranger to see the first rays of the morning sun push over the Sacramento Mountains. This early, morning program is focused on amateur or novice photographers. The ranger will share tips on taking great photos in the early morning light while allowing participants to capture amazing photos and create unforgettable memories on their camera.
Offered twice each year at 6:00 a.m. in March and October.
2017 Sunrise Photography Schedule
Saturday, March 18 at 6:00 a.m.
Saturday, October 21 at 6:00 a.m.
The program begins at a cottonwood grove, located 1.5 miles (2.41 km) down a one-lane dirt road that is not accessible to visitors under other circumstances. Two-wheel-drive vehicles will have no problem navigating the road, but large vehicles such as buses, RVs, and trailers are not permitted. Carpooling is encouraged to reduce the number of vehicles. The program area is located approximately 0.5 mile (0.80 km) into the dunes.
Pre-registered participants will meet the ranger at the monument entrance gate 20- minutes before the program begins. If your name is not on the ranger's list, you will not be allowed into the monument until the gates open at the normal opening time.
The gate will be closed and locked five minutes before the program begins. If you arrive once the gate is locked, you will not be able to participate in the program.
You will caravan in your personal vehicle from the gate to the program area.
Special program fees of $8 per person ages 16 and older and $4 per child ages 15 and younger apply. Federal passes such as the America the Beautiful Annual, Senior, and Access passes apply only to the entrance fees and not to the special program fee. Once the program is finished, if you choose to continue into the monument when it opens at 7:00 a.m., monument entrance fees will apply.
Approximately two hours
Cameras and Support Equipment
Participants must supply their own camera and other equipment (tripod, batteries, etc.). No equipment will be provided by the monument. Bulky equipment is not recommended for this program. Rangers will not provide instruction on how to operate camera equipment.
Participants must stay with the group and be physically capable of walking a total of 1.5 miles (1.6 km) in the dunes. Be prepared for the cool morning temperatures. A winter hat, jacket, and gloves that allow you to operate your camera are strongly recommended. Closed-toe shoes are required, and a flashlight is highly recommended.
Due to moderate to difficult conditions (i.e., cold temperatures, rough trail) on this program, it is not recommended to bring young children and infants on the Sunrise Photography program. This trail is not stroller-accessible.
This is a moderate hike approximately 1.5 miles (1.6 km) long, up and over sand dunes. Participants will climb one or two gently sloping dunes during the program. Participants must stay with the group for the duration of the program and be physically capable of walking the entire distance. No one is permitted to leave the program early to return to the parking area by themselves.
The hike into the dunes is rated as moderate and is not wheelchair or stroller accessible. It is not recommended for those with impaired mobility or health concerns.
Service animals are allowed at all monument facilities open to the general public.
Restrooms located outside the visitor center will be available after the program. There are no toilets available at the program area in the dunes.
Seating is not available;however, you may sit on the ground/sand at any time during the program if you wish.
Pets are allowed as long as they are non-disruptive, on a leash no longer than six feet (2 m), and are under physical control at all times. Pets, like humans, should leave only footprints. Pick up after your pet(s) and Leave No Trace. Pets are not allowed in the visitor center.
Programs may be canceled due to weather or missile range activities
Weather at the monument can vary drastically and change quickly. The decision to cancel a program due to weather is rarely made more than 30 minutes before the program start time. Call the monument at 575-479-6124 ext. 236 if you would like to confirm that a program is still scheduled. If the program is canceled, it will not be re-scheduled.
Reservations are required for this program and must be made through Recreation.gov or by calling (1-877-444-6777). You can make reservations up to one month in advance of the program. Tour fees apply and will be charged by recreation.gov. Monument entrance fees also apply and will be charged at the monument if you choose to Drive Dunes Drive after the program.
For reservations, please note that only one vehicle per reservation is permitted to due limited parking and only five people per reservation are permitted. The sunrise photography program is limited to 20 individuals.
Cancelations must be made by calling Recreation.gov at 1-877-444-6777 at least 24 hours in advance of program. Cancelations cannot be processed by monument staff.
PLEASE NOTE: Those who wish to take sunrise photography and do not want to attend the program must pursue an early open permit.
Reservations are limited. Please be considerate of other park visitors. Organized groups of five or more persons may contact the monument to inquire about a large group reservation. Due to staffing levels at the monument, not all groups may be accommodated.
Parking for programs is very limited. Please carpool with friends and family. If you plan to ride with friends and need to drive separate cars, please consider meeting at a location in Alamogordo and then driving to the monument together in one vehicle. Only one vehicle per reservation is allowed