New Mexico Travel Tips: White Sands National Monument Park
I arrived at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico expecting to go hiking. I was not expecting to go sledding. Yet, when we stopped at the White Sands Visitor’s Center, a friendly park ranger recommended that we go sledding on the sand dunes.
Sledding on Sand Instead of Snow? Why, Yes.
At the gift shop, we purchased a plastic saucer and a block of wax and headed out to the dunes. We’d planned to drive to the heart of the park but decided to stop just a few miles in.
We parked, slipped off our shoes in the car, and stuck our toes out in the cold sand, wet from a recent rain. The sand is cold no matter how hot the air temperature is and the rain packs the sand, making it ideal for sledding. We waxed the bottom of the saucer, plowed a path down the dune and took turns sledding. And we took in the beauty of the rolling white sands dunes against the sky painted pink by the setting sun.
Tips for Sledding at White Sands National Monument Park
Call Before You Make the Drive
The park is open year-round but it does close occasionally when road conditions are bad or when tests are conducted at the adjacent missile range. Make sure to call first as information on the website is not always accurate and it’s a 45-minute drive between the park and the next town, Las Cruces, with not much between.
Be Prepared for Border Control
Expect to pass through Border Control just before you reach the park even though Mexico is more than an hour away.
Entrance to the park is $3 per person, cash only. Children under 15 are free. There is also a fee for the saucer but you can sell or donate it back, or just bring your own.
Visit the Visitor’s Center
The visitor’s center includes a museum, a movie, and a gift shop where you can purchase your saucer, snacks, and gifts to take home. This is also where you should take the kids for a potty break before you drive out to the dunes.
Give Yourself A Lot of Time
The Dunes drive is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. The drive takes 20 minutes each way. You’ll want lots of time in between to play and explore.
To learn more about White Sands National Monument, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm.
Have you been to White Sands, New Mexico? What was your experience?
She is the Senior Editor at Maryland Life magazine, a mom of two children with multiple food allergies, and a runner with a passion for yoga and coffee.
Photos above by Shannon Morgan; Photo at left by Andrew Murdock of Natural Artistry.