By Cheri Sicard
One of the United States’ newest national parks, New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, is like nothing you’ve ever seen before! But in the video below, you can check it out as the team from Through My Lens takes you along on a day’s activities of hiking and sledding in the park.
Sledding in New Mexico? In summer? Yes, you read that right! The white sand physically resembles snow.
(Cheri’s side tip: Bring along your swimsuits and some Santa hats and take next year’s family Christmas card photos.)
At more than 145,000 acres, the park contains the world’s largest gypsum sand dune.
The vicarious journey starts about 1 1/2 hours away in Las Cruces. After a stop in the visitor’s center to pick up a sled, it’s time to explore.
A plastic sled costs about $20 to buy. If you have no need to keep a sled, they will buy it back from you for $4.00. You could also bring your own.
There’s only one main road in and out of White Sands National Park and it’s 16 miles round trip. You’ll find four major hikes off this road, and the team did all of them in one day.
Be sure to watch the video to experience this park vicariously. Here’s what’s covered:
- Playa Trail: About a half-mile, this is a flat intro trail with lots of interpretive plaques.
- Dune Life Nature Trail: Across the street from the Playa Trail you’ll find the mile-long (round trip) Dune Life Nature Trail. After a flat start, you’ll climb a relatively steep 20-foot hill that takes you up to the dunes. It looks so much like beach sand you might be expecting to see the ocean on the other side of the hill, but you are in fact landlocked in the New Mexico desert. Interpretive signs add to the experience. The trail is not too intense and is suitable for the entire family.
- Inter-Dune Boardwalk Trail: After a scenic drive through the dunes, the team arrived at the Inter-Dune Boardwalk Trail. Less than a 1/2-mile round trip, the elevated boardwalk trail takes you through the dunes and even has some shaded parts for those who might need a break. Again, interpretive plaques tell you about the area. This scenic trail is also wheelchair accessible. After leaving this trail, the paved road turns to sand. However, navigating it is no problem, even with a low-clearance 2-WD car.
- Sledding: Once you get to the park’s back area there will be people everywhere. Find a good hill, wax up your sled, and get ready to have some fun.
- Alkali Flats Trail: After driving around the back loop, the pair made it to the Alkali Flats Trail—more strenuous, but by far the best hike in the park. This 5-mile loop trail is NOT flat, so expect to be hiking up and down dunes the entire way. You will be hiking through what was once a massive lake. I was surprised to see a “Pets on leash allowed” sign here. This hike will give you an unparalleled view away from most (or all) people. In other words, a photographer’s dream! Extra tip: There’s a BIG sledding hill near this trail’s parking lot.
Be sure to watch the video as they include some essential tips you will want to know before visiting.