I first heard the name Alamogordo, NM when working at IMAX – and I loved the name. There’s a museum and planetarium complex and the smallest IMAX theatre located at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. But that’s NOT what we came here for.
The lure was the White Sands National Monument – 275 square miles of great wave like dunes of sparkling, glistening, white gypsum sand.
Gypsum is rarely found as sand because it is water soluble. Rain and snow in the mountains dissolve gypsum from the rocks and carry it into the Tularosa Basin. In wet periods water evaporating on the basin floor causes gypsum to be deposited in crystalline form as selenite. Freezing and thawing and wetting and drying eventually break down the crystals as sand-size particles light enough to be moved by the wind.
Entrance fees are $3 per person 16 and older and the pass is valid for 7 days and pets are permitted!
The Dunes Drive leads from the visitor centre eight miles into the heart of the dunes. Wayside exhibits interpret the geology and natural history of the white sands. There are five marked hiking trails of various distances so you can park and explore the wonder of the dunes on foot. There are three picnic areas complete with canopied tables and grills, 10 primitive back country campsites and wherever there is little to no vegetation you can sled down the dunes! You can buy plastic disc sleds for $15 and then sell them back for a portion of the purchase price.
There are some amazing special events scheduled such as Full Moon Hikes, Sunrise Photography, Full Moon Bike Rides and Sunset Strolls. We went back for the 5:00 pm sunset stroll that evening which was a one-hour, ranger guided walk through the dunes.