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White Sands National Monument – New Mexico


Like No Place Else on Earth

“Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and created the world’s largest gypsum dune field.

White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment.”,  this is how the National Park Service describes White Sands national Monument.

When visiting white sands, If you did not know better, you would think that there had been a snowstorm. The sand  drifts and blows into dunes that look exactly like snowdrifts, the road is actually plowed with sand piled on the shoulders as if it were snow in of northern part of United States after a  heavy snow-storm.

White Sands is a very unique destination for photography. The sand is continually blowing and drifting and changing the landscape.  Several species of plants have adapted well to this moving sand and the desert environment and are able to survive amongst the dunes.  The contrast of the brilliant white sand and the green plant life makes for very interesting photos. Adding to the effect are the ripples created by the blowing sand, and the stark shadows from the overhead sun.

Lone plant among the gypsum dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. (Greg Disch)

What to Photograph:

The primary subject for your photography at White Sands is of course the sand dunes. Of equal importance to the sand dunes is plant life and, the stark contrast between the sand and the plants. The play of light and shadow on the dunes creates surreal photographs.

Best Time for Photographers:

Any time can be a good time for photographing in White Sands National Monument. The park is open year-round, except for special closures due to testing at the White Sands missile base which is adjoining the monument.  Early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is at a low angle will provide the best detail in the fine textures of the sand and the ripples appearing upon the dunes.


Below is a self running slide show of images.  If you mouse over the images you will have forward and back arrows, and the photo caption will appear at the top.  At the bottom are additional controls and the filmstrip to go directly to an image.  The four arrow icon in the bottom right corner will run the show full screen, ESC key will return.  By clicking on an image you will be taken to the image in the stock photo gallery where you may order prints or license the photo.

White Sands National Monument – Images by Greg Disch

Where it is:

Located in south central New Mexico


Getting to the monument

The visitor center is located on U.S. Highway 70, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Alamogordo and 52 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Travelers from Carlsbad Caverns to southern Arizona can follow U.S. 82 through the scenic Sacramento Mountains to reach White Sands National Monument.



Interactive Google Map

Use the map  + – controls to zoom in and out, click and drag the to move the map, use the Map drop-down to change to “Map”, “Satellite”, “Hybrid”, or “Terrain” views.  Drag the little man icon from the upper left corner to a map location for street level view.

Map of White Sands National Monument

Map of Dune Drive



$3 per person (good for 7 days)

Children 15 and under are free.

Entrance fees are collected at the entrance station on the Dunes Drive.

NOTE: They cannot accept credit cards for admission fees or passport purchases.

Holders of the Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Interagency Volunteer Pass and White Sands Annual Pass will be admitted free along with three other persons (16 and older) in a private non-commerical vehicle.


National Park Service Web Site

Location Contact Information:

White Sands National Monument
PO Box 1086
Holloman AFB, NM 88330

E-mail Us

(575) 679-2599

Nearest City or Town:

Alamogordo New Mexico


The gift shop at the White Sands National Monument Visitor Center offers packaged sandwiches, snacks and drinks. The nearest restaurants are in Alamogordo (14 miles east) and Las Cruces (52 miles west).

There is no lodging within White Sands National Monument.

For those who would like to spend a night camping beneath the stars in the dunes, White Sands National Monument has ten primitive backcountry camping sites available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Lone yucca plant in the ripples of sand at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. (Greg Disch)

Tips for the Photographer:


You do not need a great deal of equipment to photograph the White Sands National Monument, most things can be shot with a standard lens.

Photography Tips:

When photographing  White Sands, be particularly careful to watch for distractions in the background of your images.  Another factor to consider is that the white sands will fool the automatic exposure of your camera, for a proper exposure you will need to overexpose about 1 1/2 to 2 f-stops.



Current Sunrise/Sunset and Moon Phase for this Photographic Destination


White Sands Photo Gallery

Click Here for full page gallery

More Photographic Destinations in New Mexico:

Interactive Google Map

Use the map  + – controls to zoom in and out, use the Map drop-down to change to “Map”, “Satellite”, “Hybrid”, or “Terrain” views.  Drag the little man icon from the upper left corner to a map location for street level view. Click on a pushpin for more information about the Photographic Destination, then click on the title to go to the location page.

Click Here for Photographic Destinations by State





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Fort Smith, Arkansas 72904

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