Today kicks off National Park Week and we are celebrating by revisiting our trip to White Sands National Park! When we visited in 2019, it had yet to earn the title of National Park and was still a National Monument. Though the name has changed, the beauty hasn't. This was one of Lily's favorite spots of the whole trip. She loved rolling around on the dunes, making shapes out of the pockets of sand somehow sticky enough to stay together. We had planned on spending a full afternoon here and then heading out of the Alamogordo area early the next morning, but she demanded we return for a second visit and so we did the following morning.
The namesake white sand is made of rare gypsum sand and the park is part of the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Nestled in the Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andres mountain ranges, this landscape is really beautiful. Seemingly endless white dunes stretch all the way to the base of the mountains in the distance.
The park doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles (and it doesn't need it). You'll find a visitor's center and store, an eight mile road called Dunes Drive, which is half paved half not, some trails, and a boardwalk. They also offer backcountry camping, but we stayed in a hotel in Alamogordo because we were ready for a shower and some clean laundry.
The first thing we did in the park was walk along the Interdune Boardwalk. This is a half mile boardwalk that goes into the dunes and gives a nice view at the end. It's an ADA accessible trail, too, so that's nice! There are interpretive signs along the way that explain the fragility of the interdunes ecosystem and point out some of the plants and animals that reside in it. This was a really nice introduction to the park.
Though there are established trails in the park, we opted to just romp around on the dunes after the boardwalk. We drove all the way to the end of Dunes Drive, stopping in various spots along the way to frolic. The sand was cool under our feet and in our hands. We climbed to the top of the dunes and sat admiring the mountains in the distance. It wasn't very busy when we were there and it was rather overcast so it was really peaceful.
One interesting thing about the park is that it is adjacent to an active missile range. There are warnings on the website to not mess with any debris you may see in the dunes as it may detonate. Yeah, that's relaxing, huh?
White Sands National Monument got designated as a National Park about eight months after our visit. All of our souvenirs say "National Monument" so I guess they're vintage now, right?