Visit the White Sands National Monument: how to get there and where to stay

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Pau Monfort
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wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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White Sands National Monument is a monument and national park in the US state of New Mexico. This particular desert extends for about 500 km² and is located 50 km from Las Cruces, in the area of ​​the Tularosa basin at an altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level.

This curious national park is considered one of the most interesting places to visit in the United States and one of the main attractions in the US state of New Mexico. The white sand dunes found in the monument are composed of gypsum crystals, making it the largest gypsum deposit in the world.



The unique beauty of these landscapes has led various directors to choose this incredible place as the location of their films. Some of the most important films shot here: My Name is Nobody, Transformers and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

How it formed

The origin of this desert dates back to about 100 million years ago, when it was slightly covered by the sea. When the waters of the sea receded, there were lakes of salt water that gradually evaporated under the effect of the sun.

In addition to the salt, the gypsum, coming from the surrounding mountains during the few annual rains, has gradually deposited on this old seabed. The water in the lake has no means of escape other than by evaporation, leaving chalk on the surface in a crystalline form, called selenite.

In fact, unlike most desert sands, its white sands are not composed of quartz, but of gypsum and calcium sulfate. This ensures that the temperature of the sand does not become very low during the day, both because the sand reflects the sun's rays instead of absorbing them, and because of the high evaporation rate of surface moisture.



The dunes

The dunes constantly change shape and move slowly under the effect of the wind. Since gypsum is water soluble, the sand that makes up the dunes can dissolve and cement together after rain, forming a more solid sand layer, which increases the wind resistance of the dunes. Some dunes reach 15 meters in height.

The increased resistance does not prevent the dunes from quickly covering the plants in their path. Some plant species, however, can grow fast enough to avoid being buried by the dunes. This constant movement and the little amount of rain that falls each year, however, makes it difficult for plants to grow.

The White Sands contains various forms of dunes. Domed dunes are found along the southwestern edges of the field, transverse dunes are found in the center of the desert, while parabolic dunes can be found along the northern, southern and northeastern edges.

How to visit

From the visitor center, Dunes Drive (approximately 13km) leads to the park entrance where you can park your car. From here 4 marked trails allow visitors to explore the dunes on foot. During the summer, there are also rangers who help with orientation and walking in the dunes.

Even if the sand of this desert heats up less, it is always advisable to pay attention, especially during the summer period. During the summer it can reach high temperatures, so it is advisable to bring water, sun protection and comfortable shoes with you.

Opening time

Visiting times vary according to the season. Normally the opening is always at 07:00 in the morning. The last time to enter the park is one hour before closing.



Data business hours Closing time
from January 1st to February 2nd 07:00 18:00
from the 3 February to the 9 March 07:00 19:00
from 10 March to 13 April 07:00 20:00
14 25 from April to May 07:00 20:30
from 26 May to 14 September 07:00 21:00
from the September 14 to the November 2 07:00 20:00
3 24 from November to December 07:00 18:00
**25th December** Closed Closed
from 26th December to 31st December 07:00 18:00

 


Admission prices

To access the park, an entrance fee must be paid. If you have theAnnual Pass you can enter the park for free, because the White Sands National Monument is included in the famous American National Parks pass.

If you arrive by car and you do not have the Annual Pass you can buy it on the spot at a cost of $ 80 or you can buy only the entrance ticket which costs $ 20 and allows entry to a maximum of 4 people in the car.

If there are more than 4 people on board, the extra people (even if you have the Annual Pass) will pay $ 10 per person. Children under 16 years of age enter for free.


How to reach us 

The White Sands National Monument is located in New Mexico 25 km southwest of Alamogordo, west of Otero County and northeast of Dona Ana County. It is advisable to arrive by car, indeed in practice it is the only way to reach the park, in addition to the various organized private tours.

Where stay

There are no accommodation facilities inside the park. The nearest accommodations are located in Alamogordo, although most motels are suitable for a short stay.

Check availability and motel rates in Alamogordo

 

To find a wider range of accommodation, it is preferable to choose Las Cruces, located 80 km from the park. Here you can find in addition to the classic motels, even hotels of various categories.

Check availability and rates for motels and hotels in Las Cruces

 

While the largest center in the area is Step, a city located at the intersection of three states (Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua) and two nations (the United States and Mexico).

Check availability and rates for accommodation in El Paso

 

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