Travel dates :: March 12 – 14, 2016
After a wonderful four nights in Carlsbad, New Mexico it was time to keep moving west. Our next planned stop was Las Cruces, New Mexico.
There were two routes to choose from going from Carlsbad to Las Cruces and we opted for the route that went right through the White Sands National Monument because that was on our list of things to see.
However this route ended up taking us up through Lincoln National Forest – and we reached an elevation of 8,300 feet! The drive up to the summit was a gradual uphill grade with BEAUTIFUL views and we even saw SNOW along the roadside! The climb down the other side of the mountain had a fairly steep grade – something we hadn’t driven for months and I was a little bit nervous. But we just took our sweet time, shifted into a lower gear and let our truck’s tow/haul mechanism do most of the work.
There were a lot of curves which meant other traffic wasn’t going fast either and we even went through a tunnel at one point!
It wasn’t long after we descended that we reached White Sands National Monument and we pulled into the Visitor’s Center parking lot. Thankfully they have 3-4 RV parking spots, we had plenty of room to park. But imagine when it’s busy that it could be difficult to find parking.
We started inside the Visitor’s Center and picked up the Junior Ranger booklets for the kids (read more about the Jr. Ranger Program here).
We watched the 20 minute video on the White Sands National Monument in the Visitor’s Center and learned so much about this unique place. The displays inside the visitor’s center are fantastic!
Then we headed back out to the truck and drove it into the White Sands National Monument! It was a Saturday so it was fairly crowded but we found it was easy to drive through the monument.
There are lots of big pull-thrus and parking areas with plenty of room to turn around. You can see the kids and Jeremy hiking on the sand in the top right corner of the photo above.
The area was currently under a severe wind watch, and the park ranger had told us that parts of the white sands were under whiteout conditions, so we opted to just drive part of the way in. You can see the sand flying around in the background in the photo above.
We parked and let the kids run around the sand. It was GLORIOUS. So soft and beautiful. It reminded us a lot of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park in Michigan but was a different landscape with the desert habitat.
Here are photos of the fun we had. . . .
You can rent sleds in the gift shop and use these for sliding down the sand. We opted NOT to do this because of the wind and because we had already had a LOOONG morning with the drive through the mountains.
The kids really didn’t want to leave, but we still had a bit of a drive to get to our campground in Las Cruces.
We stopped back into the Visitor’s Center briefly to submit our Junior Ranger books and earn our badges. What a wonderful time we had. I’d love to go back on a weekday, during the school year, and stay all day until after sunset. I heard the sunset and stars are INCREDIBLE there. So that’s now on my bucket list for next time around.
We pulled into Las Cruces later that night and were exhausted from the fun. The winds picked up around 4 p.m. and we had 45-50 mph wind gusts blowing wind right at our trailer. It howled all night and we just stayed put inside.
The next day one of my roommates from college drove down from Socorro with her adorable baby boy. We spent he morning visiting and then went to lunch at La Posta De Mesilla – rated one of the top 10 Mexican restaurants in the US and in business since 1939. The restaurant building dates back to the 1840s and it was gorgeous inside. The food was delicious and so we enjoyed walking around the small town of Mesilla.
After lunch we went to the nearby Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park and walked along some of their nature trails. It was a wonderful day in Las Cruces!
This would be our last day in New Mexico. From here we head to Tucson. . .
Have you been to White Sands National Monument before? What are your favorite locations in New Mexico?