Located in southern New Mexico, White Sands National Park is an exciting and unique tourist spot that presents an interesting look at a geological wonder. Made up of 275 miles of alabaster-white sand dunes, the area was formed from naturally occurring gypsum that has eroded over time to create these sparkling hills.

The park features a beautiful adobe-style visitor’s center with a gift shop. Here you can learn about the history of the area and the science behind the formation of the White Sand dunes. Its also a great place to pick up some cool gem stones or even a beautiful block of selenite – the mineral from which the dunes are made. If you’re interested they also offer sleds for rental which give you a fun activity to partake in at the dunes. We opted out of this simply due to time restraints but its a wonderful option for kids. Ask with the gift shop cashier about purchasing previously used sleds for a fraction of the cost to save some money.

There are several hiking options here, including the most popular and lightest option of the Dune Life Nature Trail. At 1 mile, this self-guided loop trail offers gorgeous views of the dunes and is immersive without being strenuous. It is encouraged that hikes not be undertaken when the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and with good reason, the white sand is beautiful but the tiny grains double as tiny mirrors, reflecting the desert sun and multiplying its intensity.

Notably, this is one of the few areas that also offers a specific hike option for those with accessibility needs. If you or someone in your party has mobility limitations, try the Interdune Boardwalk for stunning views of the dunes that can be taken in from a stable metal walkway that runs between them. Its an option that helps set this location apart.

If you are looking to camp here, there are several locations for doing this and even the Backcountry Camping Trail with an increased difficulty, but the trade-off of even more epic views and camping sites. This hiking trail is not for the faint of heart, with some of the more difficult inclines and a 2 mile total distance. This still pales in comparison Alkali Flat trail, which, despite the name’s suggestion is not FLAT! This is a 5-mile hike with many inclines and declines and is not for the faint of heart.

I would encourage putting White Sands National Park on your itinerary for something fresh and unique that will make for great stories and pictures to share with friends back home. Find out more info here at the National Park’s official site for White Sands.