Yesterday was day 1 of our big summer road trip: Epic Road Trip- Our Late Start to Summer We traveled from the DFW area to the White Sand Dunes National Monument in one day. It is in Alamogordo, New Mexico (about 15 minutes from the town area/hotel to the monument). It took us about 9 hours total drive time from DFW to Alamogordo, New Mexico.
By monument, I mean 275 square miles of fine sand that is comprised of gympsum crystals. It is fine like sugar, very light, and looks like snow. As we drove into the monument property the twins kept saying they wanted to get out and go skiing (as in snow skiing). They did not believe it was sand until they got out and felt it for themselves. No kidding! It is beautiful place that is a Once in a lifetime experience. We went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park last summer in Colorado Our Trip to Colorado: Part 3 The Great Sand Dunes
I enjoyed both of these sand dunes, but my favorite is the monument over the National Park. There is so much more land and it is more spread out for visitors to have their own space and dune while visiting the monument. To start, there is an 8 mile drive within the sand dunes monument that is breathtaking. The sledding is also much better at the monument than the national park. Sledding, yes I meant actual sledding! We brought along plastic sleds I had purchased on Amazon and they worked beautifully! The kids had a blast and I enjoyed the exotic beauty and mystery of this place. Here is some information from the National Parks service about the White Sands National Monument: https://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm
Here are my tips for making your trip to the White Sand Dunes National Monument absolutely fabulous!
1. Go in the morning or at sunset to avoid scorching heat- plan for the heat regardless.
It is hot. It is New Mexico in the desert. When we were there it was in the high 90’s but a nice breeze made it comfortable. Wear sunscreen, as the sand is reflective and you can easily get burned. Bring plenty of water. You will go through more water than you think you will, because it is a dry heat. My kids drank a LOT of water, which showed that even they were affected by this dry heat. Those camel backpacks are perfect for this kind of place, as you can hike the dunes and have your water on your back keeping you hands free. They have a free ranger guided sunset walk/tour that begins at 7pm each night (there is a permanent sign showing where to meet as you drive through the park).
2. Bring a picnic lunch or food to grill (along with supplies to use one of their stationary grills- charcoal, lighter fluid, lighter).
There aren’t any restaurants inside the monument property. However, they have awesome picinic areas all throughout the monument property. The picinic areas have picinic tables that are covered along with grills for guest use. You can pull your vehicle right up to the picinic areas too, which makes it easy for food prep.
3. Bring along sleds!
This sand is just like sledding on snow. Bring plastic sleds along and you and your kids will have a blast! My kids spent most of the time there sledding. Find a good dune, park in front of it, and sled till your heart’s content. My kids loved it so much that at bedtime they were begging to go back again.
4. Don’t let your kids roll in the sand.
My mistake. I allowed my kids a little bit too much freedom in the sand. My kids were rolling down the hills. Looked like fun but they were caked in sand. Sunblock is really helpful in making it stick 🙄. I washed Brielle’s hair five times at the hotel last night and she still has sand stuck to her hair and scalp. It was behind their ears, in their ears, and under their clothes (super yuck). Knowing what I know now, I would set one basic rule- no rolling in the sand. It looked like a fun couple of minutes for them, but the hour in the tub scrubbing wasn’t worth those few minutes in my opinion. Stick to the sleds and you will have plenty of fun.
5. If you have kids bring sand toys.
When the kids weren’t sledding they were playing with sand toys in this beautiful, fine sand. They had more fun with these sand toys here than they ever had at the beach.
6. When you decide to stop to sled or hike a dune, avoid being downdraft from the bathrooms.
The bathrooms give off a strong odor if you are close enough and the wind is going the right direction. Avoid this problem by not parking too close to a bathroom. They have lots of bathrooms on the property, which is super helpful, but they are the traditional park bathrooms that go into the ground and there are pipes that vent them up into the open air outside.
7. Wear bright, even fluorescent, colors.
We wore bright colored outfits during the drive but because a vomiting episode from Alex, the majority of our family ended up in different clothing than planned. The bright colored clothing shows up really great in photos. The brighter the better! My husband was still wearing his bright colored shirt when we got to the monument and it photographed really nicely!
8. Don’t miss the scenic drive through the monument property.
There is a great drive through the monument property that is breathtaking! Here is what the NPS Site says about this drive-
I took a video clip of this drive, it’s less than a minute, and here it is-
9. Book a hotel in Alamogordo.
I am so glad we stayed in Alamogordo, as our Fairfield Inn and Suites was located only about 15 minutes from the monument. If you or your kids are coated in sand, you will want to shower soon thereafter. I was helpful having a hotel so close. It also had guest laundry, thank goodness (did I mention Alex threw up on the drive). There was a DIY car wash close to the hotel, so Justin vacuumed sand out of the car while I bathed the kids. The town also has a bunch or restaurants and a Walmart very close to the Fairfield. This town was built up to accommodate the tourists and they did a great job!
10. Pay attention on the drive to and from the monument as the location is surrounded by interesting places to visit and things to see.
The monument is located amongst a missle launch site. Actually the very first atomic bomb was tested right there in Alamogordo. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-atomic-bomb-test-is-successfully-exploded
The area is rich in American military history. Interesting stuff for sure.
As we left the next day and began our drive to CA, we encountered lots of UFO themed restaraunts, stores, and museums along the way, especially when we reached Roswell, New Mexico (2 hours from the Sand Dunes). Roswell is famous for the “UFO” incident back in 1947- http://www.history.com/topics/roswell