White Sands National Monument
At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert, stark-white sand sparkles under the blue skies. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders- White Sands National Monument. Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and have created the world's largest gypsum dune field. The brilliant white dunes are ever changing: growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. Slowly but relentlessly the sand, driven by strong southwest winds, covers everything in its path. Within the extremely harsh environment of the dune field, even plants and animals adapted to desert conditions struggle to survive.
Be sure to stop by the White Sands Visitor Center, which includes a museum, information desk, orientation video, book store, gift shop and restrooms.
Seasonality / Weather
The Tularosa Basin, a high desert area, averaging 4,000-feet in elevation, is subject to harsh, and sometimes rapidly changing climatic conditions. Spring is a windy season. Summers are hot, averaging 95°F highs with occasional readings over 100°F. Winters are relatively mild, but night-time temperatures often drop below freezing. Snowfall is infrequent, though heavy snows have occurred on occasion. Precipitation averages about 10-inches per year, with most falling during summer thunderstorms, often accompanied by lightning and hail.
The visitor center is located on U.S. Highway 70/82, 15-miles southwest of Alamogordo, and 52-miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Travelers from Carlsbad Caverns to southern Arizona can follow U.S. 82 through the scenic Sacramento Mountains to White Sands National Monument.