The next stop on our Coast to Coast adventure across the United States, after leaving Tucson, is to another world class attraction in New Mexico – the White Sands National Monument –but not before getting a blown tyre enroute!
The White Sands National Monument is located in the Tularosa Basin and is primarily comprised of the ever changing, but always advancing, snow white sand dunes. The dunes are composed of gypsum crystals and are the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Gypsum is usually water soluble, therefore is carried away by rainfall and its runoff so it rarely accumulates as dunes, but because of the dryness of the Tularosa Basin it remains as a solid.
The White Sands are located within the White Sands Missile Range (the largest missile testing range in America and includes the Trinity Site), which incidentally also has its own missile park and museum that is well worth a visit. The visitor center is situated along Interstate Highway 70, between Las Cruces and Alamogordo. If you're coming from El Paso on the border with Mexico then it’s a 90 minute drive north.
As you can see from the photos, this place is also appropriately named; the brilliant white dunes seem to stretch to the horizon and are heaps of fun to run around in. Definitely a must see if you’re on your own Coast to Coast adventure!
There are also short trails – the Playa Trail, Dune Life Trail, Interdune Broadwalk & Alkali Flat which leads to a cool viewpoint.
For those wishing to camp overnight in an RV or other vehicle there is no options for doing so with the White Sands Monument, but within an easy hours drive there is several campgrounds at Oliver Lee Park, Aguirre Springs Rec Area and in summer in the Lincoln National Forest. For those who are wanting to camp amongst the dunes, there is a back country permit system which issues permits for up the ten primitive camp sites within the dunes. Check out the National Park Services page for more information.