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Towering dunes mark a landscape here that has few equals in the United States. Located 16 miles southwest of Alamogordo, White Sands National Monument is the world’s largest gypsum dune field.
These white dunes move, change shape, and shift with the prevailing winds as they gradually march across the landscape, covering any plants in their path. From the visitors’ center, cars can trace the course of Dunes Drive, which heads 8 miles into the sand. From there, intrepid hikers can explore the dunes on foot by taking one of four trails. Not all of these dunes are the same – the keen eye can pick out barchan and parabolic dunes, each of which makes their own unique signature in the sand. Those wanting more detailed explanations of the landscape should sign up for one of the ranger-led nature walks and orientation discussions.
Oh – if you have a sled, be sure to bring it! Kids and adults alike can spend hours schussing down some of the steeper hills along Dunes Drive. And if it’s hot, don’t despair – unlike the dunes at many beaches, the gypsum dunes here don’t soak up heat, so they are safe to walk on even in the summer.