It’s crazy to think that it has been almost a month since we visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico… and we still can’t believe that a place like this exists… in the middle of the desert! We awoke before the sun that morning, grabbed a cup of joe to go and began our 10 hour journey from Arizona to New Mexico. Along the way, Drew met a burly Saguaro Cacti and I ran through my first ever cotton field!
After admiring the beautiful sites and sitting still for way longer than either one of us could have otherwise done, we finally arrived! And just in time for the sunset too:
We highly recommend checking the Missile Closures schedule prior to planning your trip. It’s crazy to think, but the missile range that surrounds the dunes performs missile testing up to twice a week, requiring closure of the park and sometimes even Highway 70. We had originally planned on camping the night we arrived, but because of the missile testing that was scheduled for the morning, we had to arrange other plans. Luckily, the Oliver Lee campground (map) was just a short distance away.
It was the warmest and most comfortable camping experience of the trip. We awoke to a clear blue sky, and because the White Sands wasn’t reopening until noon, we went on a long hike and enjoyed lunch before heading back to scale the dunes.
As soon as we arrived we stopped in the visitor’s center to reserve our camping spot. With a total of 10 spots in the entire park, we would be the only ones camping amongst the dunes that night.
We parked our car on the snowy, sand-covered parking lot, piled on all of our camping gear and began our trek.
Because we didn’t have any space for our backpacking packs in the car, we were left with at least 5 bags each to strap on our backs, hang around our necks, arms, ears and anything that had a vacancy:
The trek to our campsite consisted of following steaks in the sand that acted as trail markers. We could only see our next direction when we got to the top of the next dune. It’s important to note that you can download the White Sands App on your phone. It costs $3 but it will be worth every penny when you find yourself lost in a sea of white mounds, miles away from anything that isn’t… white.
In search of untouched, pristine sand, I soon found out that Drew had chosen the farthest camping spot available… as we went up and over each new dune, which seemed to be made with the finest, softest, squishiest of sand, my stamina began to fade. The bags were getting heavier, the dunes larger, the sun hotter, me tired- er, and yes I’ll admit it, whinier too. Here’s the face of a not so happy camper:
Shortly after becoming aware of my pleas for help, Drew came to the rescue. With 80% of the weight on his shoulders, we both managed to make it to our campsite with a smile.
As soon as we arrived, we set up camp, as they require you to do so before the sun goes down. You can see our little orange tent in the rolling sea of white below:
As soon as our tent was set up, we ran to the top of the closest dune to enjoy what the evening’s stunning sunset had in store for us.
With the softly rippled, white-as-snow sand blanketed in front of us, I understood and appreciated why Drew chose the furthest spot possible.
As the sun went to bed, it took our warm weather with it. Before we knew, it was 30 degrees and the sand beneath us felt like it had turned to ice. We were the only ones in the entire park, surrounded by nothing but giant white mounds, thousands of glittering stars and complete silence, possibly the closest we’ll ever get to sleeping on the moon.
We decided we would wake up with the sun that next morning and so got up at 6am to be greeted by this beauty of a site:
And if you think we were kidding about how cold it was, check out the frost that formed on our tent!
It was at least 45 minutes before the sun actually rose, so we paced back and forth for warmth, enjoying the sky’s incredible transformation above the calm, white seas.
With all this pacing we found ourselves getting hungry, here’s Drew making our morning oatmeal and tea, the perfect thing to help thaw us out:
It was magic.
And no trip to White Sands is complete without some sand sledding! You can buy a snow saucer at the park’s gift shop for $15 each, and if you return it you get $5 back, so they’re basically only $10. We happened to have Drew’s snowboard in the the car so we decided to go that route. This was actually my first time sledding, ever! It was awesome:
To really get a feel for the awesomeness that is White Sands, be sure to watch our video below!
Overall we had an incredible time. Definitely a place we would return to and recommend to anyone looking to have an unforgettable experience.
- Check the Missile Closures schedule prior to visiting.
- Download the White Sands App on your phone.
- Bring a tripod and your nice camera, this place is amazingggg!
- Bring something to sled on, you don’t want to miss out on the fun!
- Sunscreen/ sunglasses, with all that white it gets pretty bright out there.
- If you’re camping, check the weather, it’s generally pretty chilly there at night.
- Camp spot #5 is the farthest one away, where you will find the picture perfect, untouched sand. It’s about a 1.5 mile hike, but I’ll admit it, it really is worth it.
- Bring an under the tent tarp, also referred to as a footprint, to help keep your tent from getting wet inside.
- Hand and foot warmers, these things have saved our fingers and toes more than once!
- Toilet paper, there are no restrooms by the campsites, you just have to designate a spot at least 20 feet from the site marker.