Last Updated on March 24, 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 New Mexico

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.

Best Sleds for White Sands

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.

Flexible Flyer Metal Snow Disc Saucer Sled. Steel Sand Slider
Flexible Flyer
Steel Sand Slider
Browse more sleds for desert and beach dunes

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

Getting there

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.

Reviews

Selina (Sphynxee)Selina (Sphynxee)
16:44 21 Feb 22
The park ranger was extremely friendly who let us into the park. We didn't have enough time to stop by the visitor centre so can't review that portion of it. We also didn't stay for very long. At most an hour.But it is worth stopping by if you're passing through. It is stunning to walk out and see endless expanse of white sand where no footprints have been and be surrounded by mountains. We even took our shoes off to feel the texture, and the best way I can describe it is a mix between beach sand and desert sand. It was cold, but soft. Definitely one of our favourite parts of the road trip and we would love to come back when the camping loop is open again.It wasn't windy, or overcast when we went which I believe helped. As I read other reviews that said not to go when it's windy. It is $25 USD for your entry. Plus it's close to Roswell, so you could just make a quick stop over there too.
MM SylvesterMM Sylvester
20:53 08 Jul 21
Lots of fun. Take sunscreen and lots of water. Go early or bring a canopy to hang out under because the sun and its reflection off the sand is bright. Beautiful park. Bring or buy saucer sleds in the gift shop for a fun time sledding down the dunes. Go farther into the park for bigger dunes.
Jaclynn StollfusJaclynn Stollfus
11:11 16 Jun 21
So amazing. We went 3 days in a row at all different times.The morning was amazing to dig in the soft sand to harder sand beneath. Don't go mid day! Too hot and BRIGHT! Evening was amazing even after rain since there was a nice crust on the sand and sledding was perfect.
Adriana AndersonAdriana Anderson
16:46 09 Jun 21
A great experience for any age group. Beautiful, unique mass of white gypsum sand. I recommend trying the sand sledding and visiting the gift shop for the sleds. Location is very hot during the summer. Bring an ice chest, sun protective clothing, and plenty of cold water. This is a great place to capture photos, so bring a good camera
Steve ASteve A
05:23 05 Jan 21
Really exceeded my expectations. Went on New Years Eve in really really cold weather... Found it was like a winter wonder land except you don't get wet. The sand was super soft and powdery and a lot of fun to sled on. There is lots of room to explore without feeling crowded. The roads are suitable for an RV and there is generally ample parking. You really have to hike a way to get to clean dunes with no foot prints. Sleds are available for free when the park opens (people drop them off the previous day). Really unique and fun day activity. If you enjoy photography, evening golden hours have the sun setting behind the western mountain range so go out where there aren't any prints and wait. You will likely find other photographers on the horizon doing the same thing as you. Lastly, even on crowded days it doesn't feel crowded, you get lots of space. Have fun.

White Sands National Park / Monument in New Mexico

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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