For all of eternity.
It’s worth it.
Beyond that little incident and the fact the Cool Whip was appalled that she had to carry a pack, we had a wonderful adventure. White Sands National Monument is a beautiful dog friendly area to explore.
White Sands Monument is just outside Alamogordo and the Holloman Air Force Base. It is about six hours from Phoenix. I considered adding Organ Mountains to our trip, but I opted for City of Rocks State Park. But whether you add more pit stops or not, this unique desert spot is worth the trip.
The dunes are made of white gypsum, a fair bit different from the classic brown sand of say Great Sand Dunes National Park. Sunrise and sunset are particularly good times to see the dune as they take on the colors of the sky.
Activities at White Sands include the following and more:
- Hiking – Dune Life Nature Trail, Playa Trail, Interdune Boardwalk, Alkali Flat Trail, Backcountry Camping Trail
- Sand Sledding – Bring your plastic snow saucer or purchase one at the visitor center
- Picnicking – There are shaded tables and grills with nearby restrooms in the parking areas
- Backcountry Camping – There are no drive-up sites or rv camping options, but you can still spend a night in a tent
Check the Weather... and the Missile Launches
The temperature at White Sands can also get a little extreme. Summer temps average 95 during the day and 55 at night. Winter cools down to 60 as a high and lows down to 23.
And yes, be sure to check for any planned missile range testing. White Sands National Monument is surrounded by White Sands Missile Range. Missile range tests occur about twice a week. The monument and part of highway US 70 may be closed for an hour or two during this time.
Reservations, Permits, and Cost
Rangers assign the 10 available camping spots on a first-come-first-served basis. Camping fees are $3.00 per person aged 16+ and $1.50 for those 15 and younger. You’ll pay this fee AND the general entrance fee (waived if you have the national park pass) at the fee station.
You must leave your site by 1:00 pm the next day and you must request a new permit in person if you wish to stay another night.
Poop: Your Dog and YOU
The Backcountry Camping Trail
The backcountry camping trail is a 2-mile lollipop loop that goes up, over, down, and around many dunes. With the ever-changing nature of the dunes, there is no regular trail on the ground you’ll follow. Instead, you follow orange trail markers staked into the ground.
Once you reach your first marker on the trail, do not continue moving forward until you see the next marker. Continue this way for the remainder of the backcountry trail. Remember, you’re in a giant sandbox with no other landmarks to guide you, so it’s easy to become disoriented and lose track of your direction.
Camping with Dogs
What to bring:
- Water. There is NO water out in the dunes. Not even a stream. Make sure you bring plenty for your and your dog. Even if the temps are cool, it takes some effort hiking across the dunes.
- Poop bags. Yup, I’m mentioning them again. Don’t be THAT person leaving poo around for others to stumble upon. Don’t bury it either. With all the wind blowing things around, it will resurface in no time.
- Warm gear. The wind can cool you down a lot during the day and it gets quite a bit cooler at night. Make sure your pup is comfortable. Bring a warm coat and a blanket or sleeping bag for your pup to snuggle into at night. Other than during our hike out to the campsite (mid-afternoon in February), Cool Whip and Hercules wore their fleece jackets the entire time.
Now get on out there and have some fun!