Nestled in the Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andres Mountain ranges of southern New Mexico is a one of a kind outdoor experience. Within White Sands National Park, you will find countless opportunities for discovery, fun, and the creation of lifelong memories. So venture out into the dunes and explore this special place. Whether you delight in the challenge of a strenuous hike to spectacular vistas, a family outing in an irresistible playground, or an inspirational moment in an untamable land, an unimaginable adventure awaits you! Begin your journey at the visitor center. Your visit can be more enjoyable when you better understand the rich ecosystem around you.
White Sands National Park offers the opportunity to backcountry camp amongst the glistening gypsum dunes of New Mexico. There are ten primitive backcountry camping sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Obtain your permit at the entrance booth. Then backpack to your assigned site and become a guest of the nocturnal animals that make their home in this unique ecosystem. Deserts have their own unique hazards. The key to having a fun and an exciting experience camping at the park is preparation and common sense.
Cycling through the park offers unobstructed views of an ever-changing dunefield and allows your senses to truly experience the sights and sounds of this unique landscape. Visitors planning to explore by bicycle should be aware that bicycles are only allowed on Dunes Drive and not allowed on hiking trails or off-trail in backcountry areas. While bicycles are allowed on the road, it is not without its hazards. The scenic road lacks much of a shoulder and only the first five miles are paved. Obey traffic regulations and wear bright colors, protective clothing, and a helmet.
Driving Dunes Drive
Dunes Drive, an eight-mile (13 km) scenic drive, leads from the visitor center into the heart of the gypsum dunefield. The 16-mile (26 km) round-trip drive takes approximately 45 minutes. However, you may want to allow additional time for taking walks in the white sand, photography, or learning about the natural and cultural history. The first four miles of Dunes Drive are paved and the last four miles are a hard-packed, gypsum road. The road is suitable for cars, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, and buses. Along the road, you will find wayside exhibits, hiking trails, picnic areas, vault toilets, and parking areas.
A vast sea of snow-white gypsum dunes is beckoning you to go for a hike. There is no better way of experiencing the unique landscape of White Sands National Park than by venturing out onto any of our five established trails. Explore the dunes and enjoy the silence and solitude of the dunefield with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Plan ahead to ensure you have a great and safe hike. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.
Horses must be brought-in on a trailer, and you must have a horse permit signed by a ranger. Please read the following regulations before you arrive in the park.
A Junior Ranger activity book is waiting for you at the visitor center! Riley the roadrunner will guide you through fun-filled, age-appropriate activities for you and your family as you explore the world's largest gypsum dunefield. Once you have finished your activities, please return your book to a park ranger at the visitor center to be sworn in as an Official White Sands Junior Dunes Ranger!
Anyone can take good pictures at White Sands National Park, regardless if you are shooting with your phone or a top-of-the-line DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. In our vast dunefield of varying shapes and angles, timeless vistas, and piercing contrasts, visitors are literally surrounded by compelling subjects to photograph. Great pictures, however, require techniques and way of looking at things that pros have learned. When choosing where to focus, pay attention to composition and lighting.
Park rangers lead a variety of seasonally available programs and activities designed to help you experience the park in countless ways. Join a ranger and explore the mysteries of a geologic wonder sculpted by wind and water that preserves the ancient past and shelters an incredible diversity of plants and animals.
The powdery, white gypsum dunes not only look like snow, they behave like it as well. Sledding down the slip face of dunes is a popular, exhilarating activity at White Sands National Park. Sledding is allowed in the loop portion of Dunes Drive, away from the road and where there is little or no vegetation. Most sledder's use waxed, plastic snow-saucers, which can be purchased at the park gift shop. Become familiar with proper sledding techniques and safety precautions.
Begin your visit at White Sands National Park in the historic visitor center. The visitor center is an excellent example of Spanish Pueblo-style adobe architecture, also known as "Pueblo-Revival," constructed on-site from 1936 to 1938 using readily-available, local materials. The visitor center is where you can obtain information on our daily programs; browse the park store and gift shop; wander through the native plant garden; explore the interactive museum; and be mesmerized by the incredible sights presented in our award-winning orientation film: A Land in Motion.
Last updated: April 16, 2021