How to Visit White Sands National Park and Where to Camp

Mar 15, 2023 | Campgrounds

How to Visit White Sands National Park and Where to Camp

You'll find full-moon guided hikes, sand boarding, and plenty of nearby RV camping at this New Mexico park.

By Robert Annis

Photo: Robert Annis

The powdery white sand might technically be gypsum, but the miles upon miles of dunes look remarkably like snow. New Mexico’s White Sands National Park is gorgeous, especially at sunset, and after the rain has erased the footprints on the sand. It might also be the only national park where areas are sometimes closed because of missile testing. 

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During summer full-moon nights, the national park extends its hours and offers ranger-guided full-moon hikes. These 1- to 2-mile hikes sell out very quickly, but you can book your spot up to 2 months early. If you can’t make it to one of the full-moon events, then a guided sunset hike is the next best option. 

Entrance sign to national park that reads "White Sands National Park"
Photo: Robert Annis

In addition to the Interdune Boardwalk, there are four short, marked hiking trails. Most people prefer to wander the dunes, but if you plan to do this, make sure you bring a compass and know how to use it. According to a ranger, several people have needed to be rescued by park staff after getting lost on the dunes.

Besides walking up and around the dunes, the most popular activity is sledding down them. You can buy plastic-disc-style sleds at the visitor center or bring your own.

How to Get There by RV

The entrance to the park is located on busy U.S. Route 70, about 15 miles from Alamogordo, New Mexico. Inside the park, the main road is the 8-mile Dunes Drive. At the midpoint, the pavement gives way to hard-packed gypsum, but most rigs shouldn’t have issues.

Where to Camp

There’s no RV camping in the relatively small park, but you have plenty of options nearby. Just a few miles from Alamogordo and down the road from a state park, you’ll find the free Dog Canyon dispersed camping area. You can’t get more basic—it’s essentially a large parking area—but it’s impressively clean and quiet, with nice views of the Sacramento Mountains. 

If you want (or need) amenities, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is nearby. Given its location, this is a popular spot, so be sure to make a reservation in advance. Choose between sites with hookups or more primitive sites. 

Other Nearby Camping Options