15 miles southwest of Alamogordo, Hwy. 70, New Mexico
Ever changing and always beautiful, these vast, brilliantly white dunes trace their existence to the layers of gypsum in the surrounding mountains. Seasonal rains and snow dissolve the gypsum and carry it to Lake Lucero, southwest of the dunes.
When the lake bed is dry, the wind grinds the gypsum crystals into tiny grains and deposits them in these undulating waves of sand. The dunes shift slowly to the northeast, and new dunes are formed behind them.
From the entrance a gypsum roadway leads for some eight miles into the sands. Numbered signs along the way are keyed to a pamphlet, available at the visitors center, which describes the area’s remarkable geology, flora, and fauna.
Hiking and sand surfing are popular in the dunes. Hiking options range from a 1-mile self-guiding nature trail to a 4.6-mile (round-trip) backcountry trail. Picnic sites are provided, but water is available only at the visitors center, 8 miles away. The park advises visitors to call ahead, as testing at the nearby White Sands Missile Range occasionally closes area roads.
Open year-round except Christmas. Admission charged.