Best Time to Visit White Sands National Park

Find the perfect season for your White Sands National Park visit! Ideal times for outdoor activities and avoiding crowds. Explore tips for every month.

Tobi Miles
July 5, 2024
Find the perfect season for your White Sands National Park visit! Ideal times for outdoor activities and avoiding crowds. Explore tips for every month.

White Sands is one of the country’s newest National Parks. After being a National Monument for decades, the national park system welcomed it in December 2019. White Sands is described by the National Park Foundation as a sea of sand.

White Sands National Park is a mesmerizing landscape that is well worth the visit at any time of year. However, there are certain things that visitors should consider when planning their trip.

Between March and May is the best time to visit White Sands National Park. This is due to the consistent 80-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and an average of only 1 rainy day per month. It is also the ideal time for visiting the historic Trinity Test Site. The winter boasts fewer crowds and up to 30% lower costs of accommodation.

Are you in search of gorgeous dune scapes? Unique hikes? Interesting history? White Sands National Park has it all. The best time of year to go depends on what type of vacation you are hoping for.

For example, if you want to incorporate a stop at the Trinity Test Site into your trip, be mindful that it only opens twice a year. Or if you want to spend your entire time playing in the sand dunes, be hesitant to go during peak summer hours. It can get unbearably hot during the day.

What is the Worst Time to Visit White Sands National Park?

The worst time to visit White Sands National Park is in the peak summer when temperatures and crowds are high. Daytime averages range around 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Crowds in the summertime are also heavy.

Dodge the heat and people by visiting in the spring or fall instead.

What is the Cheapest Time to Visit White Sands National Park?

The cheapest time to visit White Sands National Park is in January. The month of December closely follows. The price of accommodation can drop by as much as 30% at this time of year.

What Time of Year Does White Sands National Park Have the Best Weather?

White Sands National Park has the best weather in the spring and autumn. Temperatures are often a pleasant 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the park is located in New Mexico, rainfall is almost nonexistent year round.

Plan Your Outdoor Recreation at the White Sands National Park: Monthly Breakdown

January: Best Time For a Tour of Lake Lucero

Lake Lucero is a dry lakebed located within White Sands National Park. You can’t exactly take a boat tour, or much less expect to play in the water here. However, touring the lake bed is an excellent way to learn about the history of White Sands National Park.

The “sand” in the park’s namesake isn’t sand at all. Instead, it is white, powdered gypsum covering the desert. Lake Lucero is a great place to learn about this geologic history.

Each month, park rangers offer guided tours down to Lake Lucero. They discuss this history and more on the excursion.

  • The best time to see snow on the dunes
  • The best time for sand sledding

Related Read: 75 BEST Things To Do in New Mexico

February: Best Time for Horseback Riding

Credit: Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch / Facebook

One of the most popular activities in White Sands National Park is horseback and pack animal riding. You may go out with a guided group or obtain a permit for individual rides.

No matter what you choose, horseback and pack animal riding is an excellent way to experience the topography. Sand hikes are difficult. Animal riding is a less strenuous activity than walking.

One popular place to ride horses for the day is Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in White Sands National Park. They have accommodation options, dining, and daily horseback rides through the dunes.

  • The best time for pack animal riding
  • The best time to go barefoot (the sand isn’t unbearably hot)

March: Best Time for Sand Dune Hiking

The weather in White Sands National Park is warm year-round. However, March is one of the best times to go hiking. The sand can get quite hot in the summer. With minimal shade, it can be hard to catch a break from the heat.

March temperatures tend to linger around 71 degrees Fahrenheit during the day with minimal rainfall. This makes for pleasant hiking weather and the optimal sand temperature to go barefoot in the soft dunes.

Some say the sands resemble the white, powdery beaches of the Caribbean. See for yourself when you visit.

  • The best time to hike the Dune Trails
  • The best time to hike the Playa Trail
  • The best time to hike the Alkali Flat Trail

Related Read: 12 Best Camping Spots In New Mexico

April: Best Time to Visit the Site of the First Nuclear Test

Credit: Wikipedia

White Sands National Park is an active missile testing site. That being said, it is a safe place to visit. Visitors will be cautioned well in advance if they should avoid hiking in certain areas or on certain days.

Every April and October, visitors have the rare chance to tour the Trinity Test Site and the McDonald Ranch House.

Here, you can learn all about the Manhattan Project and current missile testing practices. It is an experience that is entirely unique to White Sands National Park.

  • The best time to visit the McDonald Ranch House
  • The best time to visit the Trinity Test Site

May: Best Time to Try Out an ATV

ATV riding is an incredibly popular sport on the sand dunes. The White Sands Missile Range has a variety of off-road vehicles open to the public. They also have a 15-acre ATV course. Of course, this destination is completely safe and welcoming to visitors.

Try your hand at off-roading on the dune tracks. They traverse through flat lands and sandy hills. It is accessible for even the most amateur of ATV riders. Just be sure that all drivers are at least 18 and possess a valid driver's license.

  • The best time for driving the dunes drive
  • The best time for photography

June: Best Time for Camping

White Sands National Park is a stunning place to go camping and see the stars. The park has a handful of camping sites.

You can also try backcountry camping off the backcountry trail. This allows you to camp in solitude away from other park visitors. It is an excellent way to spend a tranquil night away from civilization and under the stars.

The park is even safe enough to camp tent-less. Bring a sleeping pad and doze off under sprawling views of the Milky Way.

June is one of the best times for camping because of the warmer nights. Park lows can fall to sub-freezing temperatures at times throughout the year. However, in the summer, nighttime temperatures remain at a pleasant 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The best time to hike the backcountry camping trail
  • The best time to walk the interdune boardwalk

Related Read: Do You Need A Passport To Go To New Mexico?

July: Best Time for a Daytrip to Carlsbad Caverns

White Sands National Park can be unbearably hot in the summer. A great way to escape the heat is to take a day trip to the nearby Carlsbad Caverns. This attraction is just three hours away by car.

The Carlsbad Caverns is a National Park with mesmerizing caves and rock formations to explore. Getting inside the caverns is an excellent way to escape the summer heat in New Mexico.

Here, you can learn all about regional geography and take guided cavern tours.

  • The best time to visit the white sands missile range museum
  • The best time to learn about the geology of White Sands National Park

August: Best Time for Night Hiking

There is no bad time to go stargazing in White Sands National Park. The skies tend to be clear with an average of only 27 rainy days per year. However, it can get quite cold at night in the park.

August is the perfect month for stargazing due to the relatively warm nights around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay out on the white sands or bring along a tent. You can also stay at one of the nearby ranches.

  • The best time for stargazing
  • The best time to visit the Space Mural Museum

September: Best Time to Learn About Alien Lore

Rumors of New Mexico and alien civilizations go back for over half a century. With Area 51 in the state, people like to believe that New Mexico may be home to extraterrestrials.

Alien lore has been focused on White Sands National park for a while. People claim sightings, and in 2019 a man even claimed he saw a metal monolith among the dunes.

Believe in them or not, no visit to White Sands would be complete without learning about the alien lore. September is a great time to do this to get out of the heat. Visit the Roswell and Space Triangle while here.

  • The best time to catch a guided full moon hike
  • The best time to catch a sunset

October: Best Time for Picnicking

October gives way to mild temperatures after the brutal summer heat in New Mexico. It is an excellent time to pack a picnic and eat al fresco in the sand dunes.

Be sure to feature some of the local produce of the region in your meal. New Mexico is known for beef, pecans, wheat, potatoes, and more popular foodstuffs.

Take your picnic while the sun is setting for spectacular views of the sand dunes. Be prepared for the temperature to drop at night, though. In October, daytime temperatures can dip from 80 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit when the sky darkens.

  • The best time for biking
  • The best time for a ranger-guided tour

Related Read: 20 Golden Reasons to go Albuquerque Balloon Festival?

November: Best Time to Check out Spaceport America

White Sands National Park is a pilgrimage for outer space enthusiasts. Beyond the popular alien lore, Spaceport America is a nearby attraction.

Spaceport America is the world’s first spaceport. A spaceport is like an airport, but it is meant for commercial space travel. Trips to space aren’t exactly accessible for the average person. However, visitors are still encouraged to check out the facility.

It is open to the public for people to learn all about space education. It is also a rocket-friendly environment with over 18,000 acres of open land.

  • The best time to learn the history of the park at the Visitor Center
  • Visit the Very Large Array

December: Best Time for a Day Trip to Las Cruces

The weather at White Sands National Park isn’t great in December. Daytime temperatures don’t get above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and at night, the temperature is sub-freezing. Use the opportunity to take a day trip to one of the nearby towns.

Las Cruces is one of the best nearby places to visit. The city was recently voted as the third best travel destination in the United States by Money Magazine.

It got its ranking due to its close proximity to natural treasures. However, the town itself is also worth spending a day in. Beyond quaint shops, restaurants, and accommodations, the backdrop of the town offers spectacular views of the Organ Mountains.

  • The best time to explore El Paso
  • The best time to explore Alamogordo

What is the Best Time to Avoid Crowds in White Sands National Park?

The best time to avoid crowds in White Sands National Park is in the winter months of December and January. Peak season is in the summer when most national parks see their highest visitation rates.

Crowds are also sparse at White Sands National park in the autumn months. Especially in October.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
July 5, 2024 11:06 AM

Tobi Miles is a University of Florida graduate turned globe-trotting culinary explorer and digital nomad expert. As the founder of "Bytes & Bites," he combines his passion for international cuisine with practical advice on remote work, inspiring others to experience the world through food and cultural immersion. With 32 countries under his belt and a knack for uncovering hidden culinary gems, Tobi is redefining the intersection of work, travel, and gastronomy for a new generation of adventurers.

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