When we originally planned our route through New Mexico, we were going to be driving north to Albuquerque. Once we decided not to go that way, the route shifted to pass through Alamogordo. We had done that portion back in 2008 but were in such a rush that we were forced to drive right past White Sands National Monument and we didn’t want to have that misfortune again. Our Harvest Host at Tularosa Vineyards was kind enough to let us stay a second night so that we could wake early and get to the dunes as soon as the park opened. This way, we were able to beat the heat and crowds as we arrived when it opened.
Outside of the visitor center, above our heads in the rafters, was a small nest filled with freshly hatched fuzzy Barn Swallows. They looked down at us and chirped away while we gawked up at them and said things like “Aw so cute”. Once the doors to the center opened, we said goodbye to the birds, went inside to get our usual before we check out any park: a postcard, junior ranger workbooks, water, and a stamp in our national parks passport book. This park had the additional uniqueness of allowing you to sled on the dunes. So, we also bought a sled. At the visitor’s center they were $10 but you could return it and be refunded $3. Seven dollars for hours of fun was completely worth it!
It was a bit overcast which turned out to be a blessing. Even with the cloud coverage, by the end of our few hours there, it started to get hot. I can’t imagine what it would be like if it were 95, sun blaring overhead and ricocheting off the gleaming white sand.
Eventually the black top road into the park ends and becomes packed, white sand. The road blends with its surroundings, meeting the base of the giant hills of ground gypsum. The largest gypsum dunes in the world!
The road into the park goes all the way through and loops around. One way in, one way out. You are free to pull over at numerous spots to explore. There are even hikes over and through the dunes that are marked by tall red posts that aim to keep you on your path. We traversed a few dunes, but I imagine an actual hike being very challenging.
We stepped barefoot out of the truck and the ground was so cold! The sand was soft and cooling, something I’ve never felt in sand on a beach. And it seemed to be a finer texture. We grabbed our sleds and darted up a dune, all with our dog in tow! It was fantastic being able to have her tag along. She rarely gets to go to the parks with us because normally animals aren’t allowed. She had the biggest smile on her face the whole time as she ran along with us and laid in the cool sand, watching us play.
This was the girls’ first encounter with sand dunes. They loved them! Sledding in sand is definitely different than in snow. It’s not as slick but once a path was made, it was easier to slide down. The lighter one is, the faster they go. The kids flew down the hills. We also made sand angels, ran around, stared off into the expansive distance and marveled in the greatness of this place. Digging in the sand, was of course a necessity. The top layer, although soft, formed a crust like layer that held up just enough to where it didn’t automatically cave in. When it did, the sand flowed down in streams, like water. We all had lots of fun digging, rolling around, sliding and enjoying the views all with sand between our toes.