White Sands National Park is the newest National Park, designated such in 2019. Before then it was a National Monument. Some 275 square miles of dazzling white gypsum sand dunes shift and settle in the Tularosa Basin a short drive from Las Cruces. The park is surrounded by White Sands Missie Range and could be closed during missile range tests. Yikes! In fact, in 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site, just 100 miles north of the park. The day we visited it was blazing blue sky and sunny.
The ancient Permian Sea dried up millions of years ago and left behind layers of gypsum. For thousands of years wind and sun have separated the water from the gypsum and formed selenite crystals. The wind and water break down the crystals making them increasingly smaller until they are sand. Strong winds move the sand around and creates dunes.
Derek and I did a short mile long nature hike, and then a 5 mile Alkali Flat hike that went way out and around the dunefields. This was my favorite part of the park because although the park wasn’t busy at all the day we went, you could get away from anyone that might be there and explore on your own. The white sand against the blue sky and rocky mountains really popped and as the day went on, the shadows of the dunes grew more dramatic. What a cool place.