“Your introduction to the fascinating landscape of White Sands National Monument.
— Brian Smith
Visitor passes are $5 for adults and are valid for six days. Except for December 25, White Sands is open year round. Park hours vary throughout the year, generally from 8 am to 6 pm. Dunes Drive is occasionally closed due to missile testing at the adjacent range, blocking access to the trail. Weather closures occur on occasion as well. Hours and closure information can be found here.
When you enter the White Sands National Monument, this is your first opportunity to run on the sand. Although there isn't a true "trail" for much of this loop, the sand portions of this route is well-marked with orange posts buried in the sand. This loop is located along the fringe of the dune field and, therefore, is more densely vegetated than many other portions of the dunes.
The trail crosses the flat vegetated desert plain for the first 300 yards or so before beginning to ascend into the dunes. Along the way, trailside exhibits offer lots of information about the wildlife that you might see in the White Sands. Each display board in broken into two sections of information--one for adults and one for kids.
That said, this is not a play area - the trail is intended for nature study. Kids (and adults!) are welcome play out in the "Heart of the Sands," beside the picnic areas, away from plants and the road.
White Sands National Monument experiences especially harsh environmental conditions, even for the desert. That hasnâ€™t stopped many species of animal from adapting, surviving, and even flourishing here. If you look hard enough, you may see tracks in the sand to remind yourself of their presence. And while it may be difficult to believe, there are more than 800 types of animals that call white sands their home.
Plants play a crucial function in the ecosystems of White Sands National Monument, stabilizing the windward sides of the dunes and providing both shelter and food for fauna.