The kids and I drove all the way across the country this summer to follow Jason from our old home in Raleigh, NC to our new home in the California Desert. Speed was somewhat important, but I tried to plan at least one fun or interesting stop for us each day. After a stressful drive through the mountains of New Mexico, it was a relief to pull into the visitor’s center at White Sands National Monument. Coming out of the mountains, the park looks like a thin, shimmering, sparkling band of white surrounded by the dull browns of the barren New Mexico wilderness. It’s only when you get close that you realize how big the park is. At 275 square miles, it’s the largest area of exposed gypsum sand crystals in the world.
Before entering the park, there’s a little visitor center with a gift shop and a room with some illustrations of the local geology. We paid the fee to get in and also rented a couple of flying-saucer-style sleds and a fist sized chunk of wax. Back in the car and we followed the winding roads to the entrance. I was a little sad that it wasn’t a sunny day, as I had imagined bright sun and blue skies for our stop. However, the dramatic grey clouds over the rolling dunes made for a different kind of beauty. The dunes became whiter and smoother the farther in we drove, and the wind created mesmerizing dancing patterns of white sand across the dark asphalt of the road.
We finally found a good place to stop and the kids bolted out of the car, happy to stretch their legs after 8 hours of driving. It was wonderful to just let them loose to run free and play as they liked, no rules or boundaries. We stayed until dusk, sledding, burying each other, rolling down the hills and dancing on the peaks of the dunes.
As the light began to fade, the wind picked up and it started to sprinkle. Just as I turned around to call Claire back to the car, I spotted her dancing with abandon on the tallest dune, with misty clouds of white sand kicked up around her feet. A vision I’ll never forget in a magical place.
Brenda - These photographs are spectacular. Oh, and by the way, love your writing, too!
admin - Thank you 🙂 <3
Sabine - The Travelling Chilli - These pictures are so beautiful!! I had never heard of this place, but it looks stunning. Nice description of it as well 🙂
Prianka | Map Halves - This is so cool!!! It reminds me that there are a lot of really beautiful places in America, I forget that sometimes living away from North America. It looks like your kids are having an awesome time too!
Lexi - You guys always have such lovely pictures!
Carol Colborn - Wow, we have been to some 80+ national parks and monuments but not White Sands. Your post shows why this is a huge mistake!
admin - More than 80 parks, that’s wonderful!!
Dean - Certainly a different look to the parts of New Mexico I have seen. And some really great photos of the kids, they made me smile.
Claudia - I loooove sand dunes. We have some of the highest dunes in Europe here in Sardinia, and I have seen them in other countries too (Peru, Chile among others). I have done sandboarding too. Now, I bet it was fun taking the sand off your kids at the end hehe
admin - We used to live by the beach, so I’m used to the sand getting in everything lol! I’d love to try sand boarding one day!!
Damien - I have to say, this looks a great spot for some sledding!
Emily - Wow, it look so surreal! Like another world.
Natasha - WOW! Stunning shots with the kids. 🙂 This place is so beautiful and I’ve never heard of it. Adding it to my road trip list for next year. Thank you!
Ynah CA - Great photos, love seeing kids enjoying the place like this. Never thought that New Mexico have a hidden treasure like this!
Elizabeth - Very aptly named. That sand is beautiful. Sledding on it looks like fun, I can see your kids thoroughly enjoyed it too!
Grietje | TravelGretl - Woow, that’s just insanely white! See the kids have a great time, looks like a lot of fun!
evan kristine - Your kids seem to enjoy this place 🙂
Nic from Roaming Renegades - Beautiful photos, it looks almost out of this world! Stunning place I never knew existed!
Alli - Oh my goodness!! Those photos! That sand! I hope you have a few of these framed around your home – they are incredible. It looks just like snow! Need to go here 🙂 🙂
xhristine - I want to do this! I went sand surfing but that was too hard.. this looks more my speed!
Mary Charie | Two Monkeys Travel - WOW! Very stunning! I didn’t know that that places exists! I love your photos especially the kids!
Katharina - Wow That is so beautiful! Gorgeous Pictures! Treasures for a lifetime! I can’t believe how white the sand is! Thank you for sharing x Kat I http://www.beautiullytravelled.com
Yosh - Thank you for this suggestion! We are traveling the opposite direction this summer with our littles.
admin - Awesome! I hope you have a great trip!