White Sands National Park, New Mexico: The Beach Without Water

white sands np - new mexico sand dunes

If you love the beach but hate all that pesky water, then White Sands National Park in New Mexico is for you!

White Sands NP is located in southern New Mexico. All the sand is white gypsum sand, which is rarely found on the earth’s surface because it dissolves in water. But it rarely rains here; hence, the dunes stay intact.

At the welcome center, they’ll make it very clear that there is no water available anywhere on the premises. You have to carry in your own water. And don’t you dare forget, because it’s super hot here.

White Sands National Park: Here’s What You’ll See

The welcome center is the last sight of color for quite a while. Look at this cool little orange structure.

white sands welcome center

The visitor center at White Sands National Park in New Mexico.

The conditions are rough. With no water and almost no shade, even Bear Grylls wouldn’t last more than a couple days here.

There are a few scattered plants and some shrubbery in the area.

white sands shrubbery

And I managed to find a few amazing flowers.

white sands flowers

You can even see a few lonely trees, who somehow survive by having roots that burrow way down to soil that contains some moisture. This is what a forest looks like in White Sands:

white sands new mexico forest

So, nature is pretty much non-existent, though you can keep an eye out for a couple of select creatures, like the bleached earless lizard, which has evolved to become white (with a green tail.) I spotted one hidden among some dead branches. Can you spot the tail in this photo?

bleached earless lizard - new mexico white sands

You should wear swim trunks when you visit the park, because, just like the beach, you’ll be shaking sand out of your clothes for days. Or maybe it’s just because I did cartwheels and played in the sand.

white sands national park play

One of the suggested activities here for kids is sledding down the sand dunes as if they’re made of snow. We tried that and it didn’t work so well. But we didn’t have a proper sled. You can bring your own or get one from the visitor center.

White Sands National Park is a strange place. Which makes it fun, in my book.

Quirky Attraction: International Museum of Surgical Science (Chicago)

White Sands: Transition From National Monument to National Park

On December 20, 2019, White Sands became the 62nd national park in America. It had previously been a National Monument since its original designation in 1933.

new mexico national park

In a public statement, White Sands Superintendent Marie Sauter said, “Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public.”

White Sands is the second national park in the state of New Mexico, following Carlsbad Caverns. The two parks are about a 3-hour drive apart.

What are some other things to do at White Sands National Park? You can try hiking (don’t hike if your visit comes during hot summer weather), you can take your vehicle down Dunes Drive, go on a horse ride, bicycle through the park, or even go backcountry camping out in the middle of the dunes. Cool!

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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  1. Have you ever looked at it from up near Cloudcroft? As you climb to almost 10,000 feet above sea level, there are great lookouts to stop at along the way allowing you to take a look at the glittering white from thousands of feet above! White Sands is amazing up close and just as stunning from a distance for sure! It is also interesting to read about the animals adaptations as well as what makes White Sands what it is..I am glad someone else has found this place 🙂 Great post.

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