White Sands National Monument

Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Park preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.

The plan had been to arrive at the visitor center early enough to secure a first-come first-serve backpacking campsite. That is the only way to stay in the park overnight. But a combination of Covid exclusions and resource restoration meant the camping was closed indefinitely. Early enough that I arrived 15 minutes before the park opened and that meant no one was ahead of me on the road.

Wind had been prevalent throughout the trip and I did not want to be on the Alkali Flat trail on a hot and windy day. The loop was excellent and was actually the highlight hike of the trip. Especially so once I abandoned the trail and went cross-country. 5 miles and never saw anyone on the dunes. Had been windy enough that except for near the trailhead, there were few footprints. Been here 3 times and enjoyed each visit. If you get a chance to watch the Nova special on “Footprints in the White Sands”, do so. I had no clue about this aspect of the park.

"A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself. -- Laura Gilpin --"