Located in South-Central New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is a unique spectacle in the desert of the American Southwest. The great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. While the 143,733-acre park is large in size, protecting many varieties of plants and animals, it only covers a portion of the dunefield.
Over the course of millennia, the gypsum sand crystals have been carried by water and wind to the Tularosa Basin, forming the dune field to the east of Lake Lucero.
A stop at the park visitor center provides more information on how the dunes were created, and from here visitors can set off on the eight-mile Dunes Drive to view the dunes and Chihuahuan Desert as well as accessing a variety of trails. These include short hikes onto and between the dunes as well as a 4.6-mile trail across the dunes to the dry, mineral-encrusted bed of Lake Otero.
White Sands National Monument is occasionally closed for periods of time due to missile tests on the adjacent White Sands Missile Range. Visitors are encouraged to call the visitor center at (575) 479-6124 ext. 236 to verify that a closure is not in effect.
The weather in the Tularosa Basin is usually quite nice with clear, sunny skies for approximately 330 days out of the year. Summers are hot with daytime temperatures averaging 97ºF (36ºC) in the summer and 60ºF (16ºC) in the winter. Most rainfall occurs during “monsoon season” from early-July through mid-October.
Explore White Sands National Monument as well as any of the 400+ National Park Service units with the free National Parks app by Chimani, available in the Apple App Store, Google Play, or at www.chimani.com