There is no better way to experience 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 its stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The trails vary in terms of difficulty and scenery. Plan ahead to ensure you have a great and safe hike.
If you are new to the park, consult with rangers at the visitor center before heading out on your hike. Rangers will provide advice about trails as well as recommendations for different fitness and experience levels. It is recommended that you do not start a hike if the temperature is at or above 85°F (30°C).
Each of our trails is marked with a specific colored post (i.e., green, blue, orange, or red) and a symbol (i.e., hearts, clubs, spades, or diamonds). Please familiarize yourself with these colors and symbols to help orient yourself to the trail before you start your hike. This information will be critical if you become lost. The Interdune Boardwalk is the only trail with no colored posts or symbol.
Exploring the outdoors comes with risks. The National Park Service works to reduce those risks, but your safety 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). 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.
The Interdune Boardwalk is fully accessible for people using wheelchairs and strollers. Take an easy 0.4 mile (650m) round trip stroll through the dunes and learn about the science, geology, plants, and animals that make White Sands an unequaled natural wonder. The boardwalk is a great place to take a break under the shade canopy, listen for bird calls, observe lizards, and enjoy wildflowers. The average completion time is 20 minutes.
The Playa Trail is an easy, 0.5 mile (800m) round-trip, level trail with outdoor exhibits along the way to help you learn and explore this trail and the characteristics that make it special. Follow the green trail markers with a heart symbol that leads to a small playa. On this self-guided trail, you will discover the importance of a playa undergoing constant change. Learn how this change creates habitats for plants and animals. It may be brown, white, filled with water, or have growing crystals. See what the playa looks like today! At the end of the trail, you have the opportunity to travel back in time and see what this area looked like 10,000 years ago and learn about the giants that once roamed this land. Please stay on the trail. Footprints destroy the biological soil crust that is vital to White Sands. The average completion time is 30 minutes.
The Dune Life Nature Trailis a moderate, one-mile (1.6 km) self-guided loop hike. Though not difficult, this hike does require hikers to climb two steep dunes with loose sand. Follow the blue trail markers with a club symbol. Meet Katy the Kit Fox and learn about her friends on this family-oriented trail. Look for tracks of the animals that call these dunes their home. Kit foxes, badgers, birds, rodents, and reptiles all live in this area. The average completion time is one hour.
The Backcountry Camping Trail is a moderate, 2-mile (3.5 km) round trip hike. Though backpackers hike the trail most frequently, it is also open to visitors who want a shorter hike through the heart of the dunes. Follow the orange trail markers with a spade symbol into an area of beautifully varied dunes and vegetation. The trail requires hikers to climb over several steep dunes and loose sand. There is no shade, no water, and no toilet facility along this trail. The average completion time is 1.5 hours.
Last updated: June 13, 2022