Sledding and Backcountry Camping at White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument is a geologic and visual wonder. Set within the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico, large white gypsum dunes are held in place by a ring of mountains. It’s a dreamlike setting that has you thinking you’ve landed on a frozen ocean.


The fine white sand is caused by the erosion of gypsum off the nearby mountains that crystallizes in the desert heat and because of its colour stays cool to the touch even in soaring desert temperatures. The dunes reach up to 60 feet creating an unforgettable playground for a day of sledding. Shifting light across the ethereal landscape attracts photography enthusiasts from around the world.

With the exception of the beetle, animals that inhabit the area including spiders, scorpions, lizards, toads and foxes that were once darker in colour have evolved to camouflage with the environment and are now nearly white. This is a fascinating instance of evolution as it occurred relatively fast over the short 7,000 year life of the dunes (young in geologic terms).

For the ultimate experience in the dunes, the visitor center gives out 10 backcountry camping permits per day (on a first-come-first-served basis) for the chance to sleep under the stars among the surreal white desert landscape.

We put together a video on our experience at White Sands with more information on sledding and backcountry camping, please enjoy!