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White Sands National Park Sledding: Everything You Need to Know

Me holding up a blue sand saucer above my head, sitting on the sand

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White Sands National Park in New Mexico is known for the gypsum sand dunes, which spread out as far as you can see and make for some incredible views and hiking. But the most thing to do at White Sands National Park? Sledding!

You can go sledding down the slopes of gypsum sand in the park, using saucers you either bring with you or purchase at the gift shop.

And here’s everything you need to know about sledding in White Sands!

Visiting White Sands! Check out our post about the best things to do in White Sands!

Why Go Sledding at White Sands National Park?

The simple answer is it’s the most fun thing to do at White Sands National Park! (Especially if you’re traveling with children!)

The sand at White Sands is gypsum sand, which is a super unique type of sand. And this is the largest gypsum dune field in the world!

Fun fact: Gypsum has accumulated here because when it gets washed down the mountains by water, the water evaporates and the gypsum doesn’t. And the fact that gypsum dune fields were founds on Mars is what has led researches to believe the could be (or has been) water present on Mars!

Anyway, all that to say…there is no where else in the world like White Sands and sledding here is such a unique adventure!

Lots of people having fun on the dunes in White Sands!

Where to Get a Sled at White Sands

While you can definitely bring your own sled to White Sands, lots of visitors don’t. (Especially if you, like us, flew in and needed to fly back home.) But you can get sleds at the gift shop next to the White Sands Visitor Center! It’s located through the courtyard in the second building.

You could also buy a sled locally at Wal-Mart or sporting goods stores. Plastic snow saucers are the best, and lighter-weight ones tend to move faster than heavier ones.

How much are sleds at White Sands?

If you want to buy a sand sled at White Sands, you can get them in gift shop for $20.99. And you can also buy wax for $2.99. (You’ll want wax to help your sled go faster!)

When you are done with your sled, you can “sell” them back to the gift shop for a $5.00 gift shop credit. So wait to buy your souvenirs until you return your sleds!

Or you can of course keep your sleds. But since we had to fly home on a plane, that wasn’t really an option for us.

Best Places to Sled in White Sands

The best places to sled in White Sands National Park are going to be at the back of the park!

There are three main areas to White Sands:

  1. The front desert section (where the Visitor Center is)
  2. The dunes with vegetation in the middle of the park (where you’ll find several of the hiking trails)
  3. The back of the park where the dunes are free of vegetation (this is where you’ll want to sled!)

There is basically one road — Dunes Drive — in White Sands. So just follow it toward the back of the park and find a sledding area that looks good to you.

There are lots of different parking areas in the back of White Sands where you can park and sled. Most people go for areas near the Alkali Flat Trailhead. But we also loved sledding near the West Filming Area parking lot.

You could also sled near the Yucca Picnic Area or Roadrunner Picnic Area. Basically just drive around until you find the right spot. There are lots of options!

Cars parked in parking lot and people sledding on dunes

Tips for White Sands National Park Sledding

Ok, now we know where to sled, so here are some tips to make the most of your White Sands National Park sledding time.

Wax Your Sled

One key to getting some speed on the dunes is to wax the bottom of your sled. Just rub sled wax over it until you have a nice coating. This will help reduce friction with the sand and increase your speed.

Don’t Be Afraid of Steep Hills

Two people standing on top of white sands hill

I know that some of the hills in White Sands can look a little…daunting. And if we were sledding on snow, you would avoid them.

But you go A LOT slower sledding on sand than you do on snow, so don’t be afraid of some of the steeper looking hills!

Pro Tip: Find a steep hill that also has a gentler slope off to the side that you can climb to get up! Climbing up the dunes is hard work, so you’ll want to find the easiest way up.

Make a Path

Another trick to getting down easier and faster, is to travel on a pre-made track. Start off by going down in the same spot a couple of times to make a track in the sand. Then just keep going down that same track for maximum speed. (But I promise, you still don’t go all that fast.)

Indented path down the slope of the sand dune with kid about to go down
Indented path in the sand

Go Barefoot

Now, this of course totally depends on the weather, but we ditched out shoes SO fast when we were sledding! The sand gets everywhere, and gypsum sand is a lot cooler to the touch than other sand, so we were perfectly comfortable.

Now, it was a coolish day when we were there, so I can’t attest to how the sand would be barefoot in the middle of the summer. But if the temperature allows for it, going barefoot is a lot easier!

Have Plenty of Water!

You are in the desert, so hydrate hydrate hydrate! Even in cooler weather, make sure you have plenty of water with you during your White Sands adventures and take drink breaks often.

More Things To Do in White Sands National Park

While sand sledding is obviously the most fun thing to do in White Sands National Park, here are some more things you can do:

  • Playa Trail — A short, flat trail (0.2 miles) that takes you to the playa, a flat lake that goes through interesting seasonal differences.
  • Dune Life Nature Trail — A 1-mile trail up and over some dunes with vegetation.
  • Interdune Boardwalk — A short (0.38 miles) trail on a raised boardwalk over the dunes.
  • Alakli Flat Trail — The longest trail in the park. A 5-mile loop taking to over dunes and out to the Alkali flat.
  • Backcountry Camping Trail — A 2.2-mile loop trail that takes you out to a backcountry camping area.
  • Sunset Stroll — Join a ranger at sunset each night for a short walk and to learn more about White Sands.
  • Backcountry Camping — You can go camping in the Background Camping Area, but you will need a permit. (Note: The Backcountry Camping Area is currently closed for rehabilitation. Check for updates here.)
Flat trail that then climbs up a dune with vegetation
Beginning of Dune Life Nature Trail

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