White Sands National Monument Travel GuideBrowse 3 travel reviews, 1 travel blogs and 86 travel photos from real travelers to White Sands National Monument.
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White Sands National Monument Overview
White Sands National Monument is a 275 square mile desert covered in white gypsum sand dunes. The park is located 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo, New Mexico. The visitor center offers a museum and short video on the dunes and the Dunes Drive leads 8 miles into the dune field with various picnic shelters and hiking trails along the way. The boardwalk trail is handicap accessible. Activities in the park include ranger guided hikes, self-guided trails, wandering on your own, and even sledding!
This area used to be covered by warm, shallow seas that deposited rocks, including a gypsum layer. The rocks domed up during the mountain building of the Rockies. About 10 million years ago the dome collapsed, forming the Tularosa Basin. The Sacramento Mtns to the east and San Andreas Mtns to the west are the original edges of the dome and form a ring around the basin. No rivers drain the basin, so all the sediment (gypsum in particular) stays in the basin. Any gypsum that erodes from the surrounding mountains stays in the basin and eventually forms the gypsum sand dunes. Gypsum dissolves in water, but the lack of water in the desert, as well as lack of river drainage, allows the white gypsum sand to form and stay. The wind keeps the dunes moving - some move up to 35 feet per year!
Note: Wandering off on your own in this desert is not suggested!