Last Updated on August 13, 2022
If you ever dreamed of sandboarding down dunes as white as snow, go to New Mexico.
The presence of white minerals and unique environmental conditions give the sand at the White Sands National Park a spectacular bright color you will not find anywhere else, making it an incredibly suggestive and unique spot for sand surfing and sand sledding.
The site is also great for hiking and easily accessibly from El Paso, Texas.
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Sand Sledding at White Sands National Park
The white sands of New Mexico are stunning white dunes that get their color from a mineral called gypsum and make for one of the most beautiful places where you can go sandboarding.
The White Sands National Park (formerly known as the White Sands National Monument) is part of the Chihuahuan desert and easily reachable from Texas as well. Sand sledding is a very popular activity amongst adults and children and you can rent a plastic disc sled directly at the park.
Gypsum sand is more sandboard-friendly compared to regular quartz sand, which is why plastic dune sleds are suitable for sliding (although a wooden sled with a laminate base will alway perform better). You will still need to wax your board, sandboard wax can be purchased directly at the site.
Sleds rental and prices
Renting a sled from the gift shop is not possible, but you can buy a sled with an option to “sell it back”. You should expect to spend $10-$15 for a sled and you should be able to get $3-$5 back if you decide to return it (mind that if the sled shows sign of wearing you may not be able to sell it back).
You may want to bring your own sled instead or purchase one from Walmart or Big 5 before arriving at the site. Be also prepare to spend $2 for a block of wax, which is an acceptable price.
Unlike most desert sand dunes which have high friction sand and require you to use a wooden sandsled with sandboard wax, the sand at White Sands National Park is very sledge-friendly. This means you can use a cheaper plastic or steel sled for sandboarding without issues.
CYBER RYDER Foam Sled
Steel Sand Slider
Best Sledding Spots
The steepest dunes for sledding at White Sands National Park are located at the center of the park and specifically at the end of Dunes Drive. Walk a few dunes away from the parking area and make sure to find spots without vegetation, the taller the dune, the more fun your ride will be. Make sure that the spot you choose is far away from the road and that the sand is soft and silky.
White Sands Sledding Tips
- Pick a spot away from vegetation and obstructions of any kind.
- Apply sandboard wax thoroughly to the base of your sled before every ride.
- Once you are in position, use your arms to push you down the sand hill.
- Try to keep your body weight centered on the board as you sled.
- For the smoothest rides go sand sledding after rain when the sand is still wet.
- Have fun!
Other activities and things to do at White Sands National Park
Besides sand sledding, these stunning white dunes are worth visiting for a hike, camping, or pic-nic. The scenery is truly unique and wonderful and the gypsum sand rarely gets hot, making it possible to walk around barefoot on a hot day unlike other deserts. One portion of the park is dedicated to sand duning and access with your off-road vehicle will cost you 20$.
Trekking enthusiast? White Sands has five trails for hiking at different difficulty levels:
- Interdune Boardwalk – 0.4 miles beginner friendly trail
- Playa Trail: 0.5 miles flat trail
- Dune Life Nature Trail: 1.2 miles trail for with a few hills to climb
- Backcountry Camping Trail: 2 miles moderate difficulty trail
- Alkali Flat Trail: 5 miles roundtrip trail for expert hikers who like a challenge
What to wear
If you are planning to spend several hours at the park, it’s important that you protect your skin from the sun. While the desert heat won’t be much of a problem at White Sands, UV rays get reflected by the sand so you gotta take some precautions, wear a strong sunscreen and reapply it every two-three hours or so, and remember to protect your eyes with a pair of sunglasses (sand blindness is a thing).
The closest airport to the White Sands National Park is El Paso international airport in Texas. Unfortunately, there is currently no public transportation reaching the site, so you will have to rent a car. The park is easily reachable from El Paso, the closest towns in New Mexico are Alamogordo and Las Cruces.
Why are the sand dunes in New Mexico white?
The sand at the White Sands National Park is white because it is made of gypsum rather quartz. This mineral is composed of calcium sulfate and water, and it is rare to find because water-soluble, which means rain would normally dissolve the sand.
Thankfully, the White Sand National Park is located in a high desert area at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert, where rain is virtually absent.
Video: Sledding and Hiking at White Sands National Park
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