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Person walking on sand dunes in White Sands National Park in New Mexico



Everyone who lives in New Mexico needs to visit White Sands National Park at least once to see this dramatic landscape of endless, white sand dunes. It’s a sight you will never forget.

Many visitors don’t realize that there are several places to hike there – which allows for a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the beautiful landscape.

Here are some hikes you should check out on your next (or first!) visit.

Dune Life Nature Trail

If you want to get to know the local flora and fauna, this is a great place to start. This 1-mile trail is at the edge of the dunefield, where you’ll find a more diverse ecosystem – or rather, an ecotone, where two ecosystems (desert scrub and gypsum sand dunes, in this case) overlap. Though you likely won’t see the animals out and about during your hike – desert creatures are usually nocturnal – you will get to see their tracks in the sand. This trail is relatively easy, except for a climb up two steep dunes. And keep in mind that walking on soft sand is challenging, so wear good shoes and rest when you need to.

Alkali Flat Trail

Don’t be deceived by the name – this trail isn’t flat, at all. It is a very difficult trail, covering 5 miles up and over steep dunes. The name of this trail refers to what was once the dry lakebed of Lake Otero, which once stood in this spot during the last Ice Age. Though this is a genuinely rigorous trail, it’s the one that offers the best views of endless dunes with very few footprints.

Playa Trail

This is perhaps the easiest trail in the park, at just about half-mile, round trip. The area fills with water during the monsoon season, but is dry the rest of the year, which makes for a unique ecosystem and constantly changing habitat. Each time you see it, it will look different because of this. Best of all, this trail has a surprise at the end of it: an Ice Age scene where you’ll get to see what the area looked like many years ago – and who lived in it.

To keep up with all the best places to explore in the Las Cruces region, follow the Sonoma Palms blog.


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