5 Reasons To Add White Sands to Your Roadtrip
Visiting New Mexico, is something I have wanted to do since I was a kid writing reports for homework in grade school. One report I was assigned required me to go to a Travel Agency, select a travel brochure on a US state, and write a report about that state to share with the class.
I chose a thick, glossy, magazine-like brochure with a beautiful desert sunset and white lettering that read, “New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment” on the cover. It took me a while to get there, but I have now been to New Mexico three times. Jon and I hope to return sometime in late fall for what will be our third time together. Each time we have visited a different city or attraction. This Spring, we visited White Sands National Monument. We fell in love with White Sands! We can’t believe we put off visiting White Sands until this year!
We highly recommend visiting White Sands. If you think you’ll only be in New Mexico once, it is a must-see. If you think you’ll be back, we recommend placing it on your itinerary during your first visit to New Mexico. To help you decide, read on for our 5 Reasons to Add White Sands National Monument to Your Roadtrip.
1. Spectacular Sunsets
The first sunset I saw at White Sands was so spectacular that I immediately told Jon I wanted to come back again the next day, and if at all possible the one after that. The sky above was on fire in amber and gold with orange flecks like embers streaking across the sky to the west. Even more impressive, the sunset was very nearly a 360 degree experience. The mountains to the east would light up and were their own sight to see as the sun continued to set in the west. Over to the north, the sky was also putting on a great show, lighting up in bright pastel hues of pinks and blues. When the sun finally set and the sky cooled to the dark blue of twilight, the San Andres mountains in the west were glowing pink as if carefully outlined by a fluorescent pink highlighter marker. As darkness fell and we headed back to our vehicle, what was left were the mysterious purple mountains and the rolling white dunes of cool, powdery sand.
There are many amazing sunsets to see in the United States, but a sunset at White Sands is a must-see. Because no two sunsets are alike, I did make a note of the time and weather conditions during which I was there. It was March 14th. The weather was partly cloudy with 25% humidity and visibility of 10 miles. Sunset on this day was 7:13 according to the iPhone weather app. We were glad to go on two different days. This gave us the opportunity to try to capture the sunset on one day and simply enjoy it on the other day. It was different on day 2, but still breathtaking.
2. Easily Accessible Otherworldly Views
Even if you miss the sunset (don’t miss the sunset), White Sands will greet you with otherworldly views. If you are a Star Wars fan, White Sands may conjure up images of Tatooine for you. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan you will feel like you stepped into another world. One of the best parts is how accessible the views are. Many of the trails are less than a mile long, and you can be on the dunes by simply walking a few feet from your vehicle in many of the picnic areas and pull-outs along the park road. For the sunset above, we didn’t walk too far from where our RV was parked.
We saw our second sunset at White Sands from the Alkali Flat Trail. At 5 miles, this is the longest trail at White Sands. It is a great trail if you are looking for unspoiled dunes free of footprints. We didn’t actually hike the whole 5 miles, the Alkali Flat Trail has plenty of beautiful dune views even if you only walk a mile of it. Compared to trails with large elevation changes, long distances, or trails that require park guides, the trails at White Sand Dunes are very accessible. It is important to read the information you receive at the front gate though. The scenery is all the same, which can be disorienting if you go far without taking recommended precautions. It is also very hot, and there is no shade, so although the white gypsum sand stays cool at all times, plenty of water and sunscreen are a must.
3. White Sands National Monument is Unique
White Sands is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The gypsum sand at White Sands is soft, powdery, and always cool to the touch. The next largest gypsum dune field is in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. Most desert sand is made of quartz. The gypsum dunes are also more firm than other sand dunes and it makes them popular for sledding. Sleds can be rented or purchased at the Visitor’s Center. If you rent them you will get part of the money you paid back upon return, and you are not required to return your sleds the same day so it is possible to sled and enjoy the sunset! Though very difficult to spot, the wildlife at White Sands is also unique. Many of the species found at White Sands are actually lighter colored than their counterparts in the surrounding desert.
4. Roadtrip Friendly
One of the best parts of taking a Roadtrip can be having picnics along the way. We were very impressed with the picnic facilities at White Sands. There was plenty of parking and plenty of shaded picnic tables. Each picnic table had its own shade structure and most even had their own parking spot next to them. Daytime temperatures in March were very comfortable in the shade. We were able to picnic with friends before catching a sunset on the Alkali Flat trail. The ample parking and proximity of the parking to the dunes also made White Sands very roadtrip friendly. In our case our RV easily fit next to our picnic table along with our friends’ Jeep. Our RV also easily fit in the various pull-out parking available along the main road.
5. Dog Friendly
Many of us RV and roadtrip with our furry friends. White Sands allows leashed pets and they can go on the dunes with you. If your dogs are a bit skittish at times like ours, the way the parking is laid out is amazing. One of our dogs doesn’t really enjoy meeting people, but when we were picnicking with friends he was able to watch the action through the open window while still being right next to us. Both dogs enjoyed mini-visits from us as we went in and out of our RV for picnic supplies. Overall, because the dunes are everywhere, the space is very open. This is great for dogs who are more nervous around new people or new dogs. Any hikes that involves us letting others squeeze by, we know are not ideal for one of our dogs. At White Sands our skittish one had plenty of room to himself and was able to explore without really bumping into other humans or dogs.
White Sands is a special place with unbelievable views. We were surprised at how easy it was to enjoy both by RV and with our dogs. We can’t wait to go back and see more sunsets at White Sands. We might have missed the sunset if not for a friend’s tip. There are many places in the world with breathtaking sunsets. Let us know in the comments if you have any beautiful sunsets that you would recommend as must-see sunsets.