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White Sands National Monument (with your dog)

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

If you’ve got a dog and you’re heading to New Mexico, or just passing through on a longer road trip, you need to add White Sands National Monument to your itinerary.

I’ve wanted to visit this spot ever since we visited Great Sand Dunes in Colorado last year with the pups, and it did not disappoint! I might even say it was better than the Dunes! Here’s why:

White Sands National Monument allows dogs everywhere except the visitor center or other public buildings. It’s 275 square miles of white sand formed into dunes of gypsum crystals for you and your dog to explore! And where Great Sand Dunes National Park has sand that gets so hot by 10am at some times of the year that it’s really only safe for your dog in the morning or evening, the sand at White Sands seems to stay cool all day long even in the 100 degree heat we had been experiencing on our trip. This is all due to the higher water table that means there is much more water in the sand, creating a harder pack and sand that stays cool to the touch all day (in our experience). What a blast for you and your dog!

The whole park is open to explore, though there are designated trails to follow as well. We opted for the Alkalie Flats Trail in the morning with a distance of 5 miles, and contrary to its name of “flat,” the difficulty level is strenuous and climbs up and down dunes for most of the way. We recommend you start early and bring LOTS of water. There was only one tiny sliver of shade on the whole hike, so you’re going to want to bring some water to drink, and some to “waste” by dumping it on your dog and yourself in the warmer months. On this trip we also brought boots for our dog, CoolWhip, however, she didn’t end up needing them. A swamp cooler would also be helpful to keep dogs, especially those with darker coats, cool. The hike is marked with large red stakes sticking out of the dunes and you’re going to want to follow them closely, as it’s easy to get lost our there. The whole 5-mile loop was a lot of fun with plenty of photo opportunities against a beautiful sandy background.

We got out of the heat midday and came back for the 7pm Ranger-led evening hike. We called ahead and dogs were allowed (yay!). This evening program was only about .25 miles (and 35 minutes) but we learned quite a bit about the flora and fauna present in the park, so we highly recommend it.

The park also offers sledding on the dunes, which we skipped this time. We did it at Great Sand Dunes and had a blast though, so if you haven’t and don’t mind getting sand everywhere, give it a try!

Camping: There is only hike-to style camping in the park so we ended up staying in the Organ Mountains at a pullout on Baylor Pass Road which was a lovely place to park the van and sleep. We woke up to a gorgeous view of the mountains!

Hotels: The second night we got an inexpensive hotel (La Quinta: $65 in July) about 50 minutes away in Las Cruces and enjoyed the authentic Mexican restaurants in the area. It was nice to have a place to cool-off mid-day and get CoolWhip out of the sun for a while.

In total we spent about 1.5 days at the park and I think this was the perfect amount of time to spend in summer. I would love to return in the cooler months to be able to stay out a little longer into the day (but one can only take so much of 100-degree heat without much shade!).

Overall, if you want to visit an amazing national monument with your dog, you really can’t go wrong with White Sands National Monument!

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