Day Trip to White Sands National Park

Day Trip to White Sands National Park

Posted on September 18, 2023

Located in southern New Mexico, about 250 miles south of Rio Rancho, NM, lies the newly named U.S. National Park: The White Sands Monument. This 145,000-acre National Park is known for its beautiful, and somewhat eerie, landscape including breathtaking sand dunes. Campers, explorers and photographers seek out this one-of-a-kind national treasure to add to their bucket list of places to see and experience.

If you are planning to take a trip to White Sand National Park, keep reading for everything you’ll need to know.

About White Sands:

White Sands National Park is a preserved 275-square-miles full of hiking opportunities, learning experiences and fun outdoor activities for everyone in the family. Originally designated as a national monument in 1933, White Sands was re-designated as a National Park in 2019. The land is considered protected in order to preserve all of the plants and animals that have adapted to the extreme living conditions.

What to Know:

There are a number of things to take note of before visiting White Sands National Park. For starters, the weather at White Sands is unpredictable and extreme. While it is typically sunny and hot during the day, it can drop below freezing at night. Dust storms are also a frequent occurrence. For anyone looking to camp overnight, it is important to note that reservations for campsites are required. Backcountry is also the only camping option as there is no room for cars or RVs. Pets are permitted as long as they are kept on a leash and are not allowed in the visitor center or gift shop. Service animals are permitted.

White Sands National Park is home to several different animals that have adapted to the living conditions. These species include toads, road runners and 600 species of invertebrates. Lastly, make sure to check the hours online for any closures. Due to its location between several military bases, the monument is sometimes closed for safety due to missile testing.

What to Bring with You and What to Wear:

While temperatures at the White Sands National Park can hit intense highs and lows, the sun is typically shining the majority of the year. Sunscreen is an absolute must to wear and bring with you as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes from not only the sun but the reflection on the sand. If you plan to do some hiking, we recommend packing your hiking boots for better traction in the sand. For overnight campers, it is essential you pack clothing for brutally cold weather as temperature can drop below freezing at night. Lastly, it is vital to bring food and water. Do not underestimate how much water you will need and food supply near the grounds is short.

Cost and Fees:

Park entrance fees are as follows:

  • $25 per vehicle
  • $15 for one person (only charged if vehicle contains only one person)
  • $20 per motorcycle
  • $45 for annual pass

White Sands also requires a camping fee for those guests who want an overnight experience. There is a $3 camping fee per person (16 years old and up) and $1.50 per child (15 years old and younger). White Sands National Park also offers a number of different passes as well. Check them out here. Entrance is valid for seven consecutive days after purchase and payment is accepted from cash, card or check.

Insider Tips:

If you want to visit like an expert, make sure to follow some of these insider tips:

  • If you’ve climbed sand dunes before this experience may be different as they are fairly wet beneath the surface giving you better traction and the chance to hike barefoot without burning your feet.
  • There are covered picnic tables if you’d like to bring a picnic meal.
  • The park offers “fee free days.” If you’re looking to take a trip to White Sands on a budget make sure to check the list of fee free days here
  • Be wary of monsoon season. Monsoons typically hit from mid-July through August.


White Sands National Park opens and closes at slightly different times throughout the year. The monument is also subject to closures for safety due to controlled missile tests from the nearby military bases. For a full list of hours and closures click here.

Things to Do:

The activities available at White Sands National Park seem endless. There is truly an endeavor for everyone. The park offers everything from camping and bicycling to horseback riding and picnicking. There are also many ranger programs which allow for guided hikes with park rangers to learn more about the land and history. White Sands also has designated areas for sledding in the dunes and multiple hiking trails for all levels of experience. For a full list of activities available click here.

Have fun, be safe and don’t forget your sunscreen!


Looking for a new home or custom home site near Albuquerque? Nestled among the foothills of Rio Rancho, Mariposa is a master-planned community situated just 30 minutes north of Albuquerque. Mariposa is designed for living naturally and offers a fully-equipped fitness center, resort-style indoor and outdoor pools, parks, sports courts, miles of trails and abundant open space and endless views at the Mariposa Preserve and surrounding mountains. Learn more at

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