White Sands is a place that surprisingly not many people know about. But if they do, they almost always have questions on the logistics. How do you get there? Where do you stay? What kind of photography gear is needed? All valid questions! I mean, it’s not every day you get to visit the world’s largest gypsum deposit! So, is here some key info and tips to help ensure that your visit goes as smoothly as possible!
1. PLANNING IS A GAMBLE
Planning a trip to White Sands could be one of the biggest gambles you take as a traveler. This is because there is missile testing that happens next door. While testing is going on, the park is closed. This means it is impossible to book months in advance with complete confidence. Your trip could definitely be put on hold or even cancelled if missile testing happens during the same time. You could go online to White Sands official website to find out more about the missile testing schedule.
2. FLY INTO EL PASO
El Paso, Texas is actually the closest airport that you can fly into even though White Sands is in New Mexico. El Paso is about an hour and a half away from the park so renting a car is going to be necessary.
There is nowhere to stay within the park unless you are camping overnight. Camping overnight requires you to have the skills to set up your own tent and be self-sufficient. There are no bathrooms so you’ll have to get cozy with nature whenever you need to relieve yourself.
Even though there is no lodging at the park, you can lodge in one of the many options in the town of Alamogordo. This is a great option if you want to explore during the day and sleep in a bed at night. Another benefit of staying in town is the fact that you’ll have easy access to places like Walmart and several restaurants.
4. PACK FOR WINTER
The one thing we should all know about deserts is that it is hot during the day but very cold at night. So, if you do choose to camp overnight, then it is imperative that you bring extra warm clothes for the night. The wind can also pick up at night so the temperature can feel even colder with the wind chill. I would also advise bringing a winter hat because you simply never know what mother nature will throw your way.
5. TENT SUPPLIES
In the town of Alamogordo, there is a Walmart. This is extremely helpful because this is where you can get your supplies for your tent. Or you can buy a tent there if you didn’t travel with one. Stocking up at Walmart is a key move to make! It can help ensure you’ll have a more comfortable overnight experience when you’re able to stock up on key items.
6. CAMPING OVERNIGHT
Camping overnight is the only way for you to see the sunrise or sunset! This is because the park closes just before sunset and doesn’t open again until after the sunrises the following morning. My suggestion for campsites would be to choose campsite #10. This is because the campsite is far enough into the wilderness but close enough to the parking lot in case you need to go back to your vehicle for any
reason. Dragging your items to your camp site is a real challenge so I can’t imagine doing anything further out than campsite #10. If you travel very light, then I supposed anywhere could be fine to stay at but be prepared to walk. Trekking in the sand with the hot sun beating on you isn’t the most comfortable feeling!
7. TELEPHOTO LENS
If you have a DLSR camera, my advice would be to rent a telephoto lens so you can shoot those amazing shots of the sand dunes. One would first think that all you need is a wide angle lens to capture the dunes. However, shooting the dunes like that would make your images flat looking. What a telesphoto lens does is brings the background forward while keeping you very visible. It makes for a much better use of framing for the overall shot.
8. WET WIPES AND FLASHLIGHTS
Since White Sands National Park has no bathrooms, this means that the wilderness is your only place to go. This means you’ll need a flashlight in case it’s pitch black outside and some wet wipes to clean up after yourself.
White Sands is one of those places that you’ll never forget. The scenery is so breathtaking and serene! But like with everything else, a little planning goes a long way. When you’ve properly prepped, then you’ll be sure to have the most amazing time ever!