The Best Women’s Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

Girls Who Travel | Women's Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park in New Mexico is the perfect destination for women to enjoy a solo itinerary.  Whether your purpose is to unplug in the remote and deafening silence of the desert, recharge with unique adventures and experiences, reconnect with your inner child as you play in the dunes, or reaffirm yourself on solo hiking and camping in the backcountry, White Sands will leave you with unforgettable memories, in a setting perfectly suited for one.

Girls Who Travel | Women's Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park

What To Know Before You Go

  • Entrance Fees: $25 per vehicle (good for 7 consecutive days)
  • Hours: White Sands National Park is open daily from 7 AM – sunset (with the exception of Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day)
  • Location: White Sands National Park is located in south central New Mexico.¬†
  • Closest Town(s): Alamogordo, NM and Las Cruces, NM
  • Closest Airport(s): Las Cruces International Airport
  • Accommodations: there is backcountry camping within White Sands National Park.¬† Outside of the park, there are hotel chains and vacation rentals in both Alamogordo and Las Cruces.
  • Pet Policy: White Sands National Park is one of the few National Parks where pets are welcome.¬† Leashed pets can hike the trails, but they are not allowed in park buildings.¬† Be sure to bring along plenty of water for pets, pick up after them, and never leave them unattended or in vehicles.¬†¬†Pick up some tips on taking your dog camping for the first time.
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: fall through spring are the most ideal times to visit White Sands National Park.¬† Because of its southern location and desert surroundings, White Sands National Park experiences moderate daytime temperatures even in the middle of winter.¬†Summer is the least ideal time of year to visit, due to the extreme daytime temperatures coupled with the minimal shade and full exposure of the dunes.¬†¬†
  • Additional Tips: due to White Sand National Park‚Äôs close proximity to the White Sands Missile Range, it is occasionally closed for missile testing.¬† Always check for closures and alerts on the park website before visiting.¬† In the backcountry, always stay on designated trails in order to avoid any proximity to the Missile Range.¬†¬†

Women’s Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

Girls Who Travel | Women's Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

What makes White Sands National Park perfect for a solo itinerary for women?  First, it is relatively compact and easy to navigate.  There is one main park road which all attractions are located off of.  That means no getting lost while trying to navigate your way through the park solo. And because the park is relatively small, you won’t spend a lot of time alone in your car driving from one point to another. You can spend that valuable time instead experiencing all the unique things about this park.  

Second, White Sands National Park is well suited for those solo travelers who are looking for a destination to unplug and unwind in.  White Sands is less visited than other mega parks like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.  For proof of this, compare the annual 780,000 visitors to White Sands National Park to the 5 million annual visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. If your purpose of solo travel here is to get away from the hustle and bustle, you are much more likely to have the trails, roads, campground, and park buildings more to yourself at White Sands.  

Thirdly, White Sands has a handful of hiking trails that are perfect for a solo itinerary, as they range in difficulty and length. There is a trail here for every type of visitor, for those that want to leisurely take in the sights and sounds along quiet nature trails, and those that want to reaffirm that solo hiking spirit within themselves by tackling challenging backcountry trails over the dunes.  

White Sands and the surrounding area offers the perfect blend of a more remote Southwestern destination, with just enough amenities and accommodations to not overly-commercialize the experience, while still providing enough convenience for a solo traveler. For those not opting for a night under the stars within the park itself, the nearby towns of Alamogordo and Las Cruces are small enough to maintain that less busy facade, while still accommodating guests to White Sands.  

Lastly, White Sands National Park is a destination best suited for a one or two day itinerary.  For those solo travelers that may be intimidated by the longer itineraries necessary to experience other destinations, rest assured that you can easily experience the best of White Sands in 24 Р48 blissful solo hours.  And for those that crave a longer solo itinerary, there are plenty of additional attractions near White Sands National Park, including several other National Park standouts!

Solo Itinerary Outline For White Sands National Park

Girls Who Travel | Women's Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park is best suited for a one to two day solo itinerary.  The three biggest attractions at White Sands National Park are sand sledding, hiking, and ranger guided tours.  The amount of hiking and the types of hikes may largely determine your amount of time at White Sands National Park.  Regardless of whether you spend one or two days, you should absolutely plan to enjoy as many of these highlights as possible.  

1 Day Solo Itinerary for White Sands National Park

Stop #1: White Sands Visitor Center

Be sure to make an initial stop at the Visitor Center when you first arrive.  Enjoy the unique architecture and the desert landscape surrounding the Visitor Center. Inside you can peruse the museum exhibits and park gift store, learn more about the fascinating history and geology of White Sands, chat with rangers, and fill up on water if necessary.

Stop #2: Explore the Dunes

No matter your age, no visit to White Sands National Park would be complete without simply exploring the dunes.  Even as a solo traveler without accompanying children, you really should take advantage of this chance to let your inner child out! One of the main attractions at White Sands National Park is sand sledding. Not only is it undeniably fun, but it is easy to accomplish at White Sands.  You can bring your own sled, or rent one from the Visitor Center. Then simply drive along the park road until you spot some dunes you want to sled. The tallest and best sledding dunes are located further into the park, a slightly longer drive down the park road.  You might be surprised at just how much of a workout it is to climb up the sand dunes, but that will quickly be forgotten during the sheer enjoyment of sledding down! If you feel up for making a few friends during your solo itinerary, this is a guaranteed chance as you can race, compete, or simply laugh along with fellow sledders!

Stop #3: Nature Trail Hikes on the Dune Life and Interdune Boardwalk Trails

There are 6 hiking trails in White Sands National Park. There are shorter nature trails, and some longer backcountry trails. The great thing about the hiking trails is that each one is coded with a symbol and color, and each trail is well marked with signage indicating the color and symbol, making the trails very easy and solo friendly to navigate.  

Warm up to your visit in White Sands by learning more about the park on these two scenic nature trails: the Dune Life Nature Trail and the Interdune Boardwalk Trail. Each of these shorter nature trails traverse the heart of the dunes and provide fantastic scenery.  The trailheads are also only a few minutes apart from each other.

The Dune Life Nature Trail is a one mile long round trip loop trail that is rated easy. It takes approximately 20 Р30 minutes to complete, though you may take longer to read the informational bulletins and signs along the trail. You can also watch for signs of native wildlife, like the tracks of resident foxes, badgers, rodents, and reptiles.  

The nearby Interdune Boardwalk Trail is just under a half mile in round trip length, and takes approximately 10 Р15 minutes to complete. The entirety of this trail is boardwalk, and it also contains more educational bulletins to enjoy.  

Together these two nature trails can typically be explored in 1 – 1.5 hours.  

Stop #4: Picnic Lunch

Picnic lunches are the way to go in White Sands, and there are plenty of picnic areas to enjoy a quick meal. Bring your own snacks, or grab some to go from the Visitor Center.

Stop #5: Longer Hike or Ranger Guided Tour

For the afternoon hours, you can choose to explore one of the lengthier hikes in the park, or take advantage of one of the ranger guided tours and programs (or possibly do both).  

For a mid-length hike, look at the 1.8 mile long White Sands Backcountry Trail, or the 1.6 mile long Lake Lucero Trail. The White Sands Backcountry Trail explores more of the characteristic white dunes, as well as being the access trail for the backcountry campground, for those opting to camp in the park.  

The Lake Lucero Trail provides a glimpse into a completely different region of the park. The name is somewhat misleading, as there is no longer a lake here.  But there used to be one, and the remaining remnants that are still visible today are what make this hike truly fascinating.  What at first glimpse appears to be a vast desert wasteland, upon closer examination reveals desert arroyos and shimmering deposits of selenite crystals, on display in what is now this dry lake bed.  

The Lake Lucero Trail is only accessible as a guided tour operated through the National Park. Reservations are required. It is the least visited of the six hiking trails in White Sands, for those explorers that truly want to get off the grid during their visit. 

Other ranger programs that may be of interest in the latter hours of Day 1 include:

Drop In Programs Рdrop in programs occur randomly throughout the week, based on park ranger availability. These park programs are free and offer visitors the chance to learn more about the geology, plants, wildlife, and history of White Sands. The best way to learn more about drop in programs is to inquire at the Visitor Center upon arrival.  

Sunset Strolls Рlike the name implies, these ranger guided strolls occur at sunset, and they last approximately one hour. It is a great way to catch an unforgettable sunset, a must for any aspiring or experienced photographer, as well as learn more from the ranger during the walk. Sunset stroll programs occur on weekend nights and are also free.  

Moonlight Hikes and Full Moon Nights Рthese ranger programs occur less frequently, as they happen in conjunction with the full moon. If you are lucky enough to catch one, it is an experience unlike any other to enjoy White Sands National Park under the glow of the moon. Moonlight hikes are ranger guided hikes, whereas Full Moon Nights are night time events that include live music, as well as various presenters and artists. Reservations are required for Moonlight Hikes, but Full Moon Nights are free of charge.

Stop #6: Accommodations

Accommodation options for lodging during your White Sands solo itinerary include backcountry camping within the park, or accommodations outside the park.  

Backcountry camping in White Sands National Park is allowed with a permit. The backcountry camping site can be accessed by the White Sands Backcountry Trail. (Backcountry camping is currently closed for rehabilitation).  

Outside the park, solo travelers can take advantage of accommodations in nearby Alamogordo or Las Cruces. There are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in either town. For those that are set on camping, in addition to the backcountry campsite within White Sands National Park, there are also several nearby campgrounds within a short drive of the park, including Oliver Lee Memorial State Park and Lincoln National Forest.  

Optional: 2 Day Women’s Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

Girls Who Travel | Women's Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

If you want to spend more time exploring in the park, there is still plenty more to see on an optional second day.  

Stop 1: The Alkali Flat Trail or Playa Trail 

Each of these hikes offer something unique. The Alkali Flat Trail is the longest and most remote trail in the park. It is a 4.4 mile long round trip loop trail that is rated moderate for some elevation and challenging terrain. If you hike this trail early in the morning, you may even be the only hiker. It is the ultimate escape for those solo hikers that want to experience the most welcoming silence and solitude. It is also a great way to reaffirm the inner confidence of a solo hike, as this trail happens to be the most challenging in the park. It involves climbing numerous sand dunes, to be rewarded with the most stunning and uninterrupted panoramas!

If you plan to hike the Alkali Trail, be sure to have all necessary day hiking gear and plenty of water.  It is not recommended to hike the Alkali Trail in summer, due to excessive temperatures.  

If you prefer a shorter trail without compromising on views, then check out the Playa Trail. This short, easy rated hike is just under half a mile. The Playa Trail is unique as it is always changing. Its ecosystem is all based on the seasons. Depending on subsequent weather patterns and environmental elements, you may witness everything from colorful pools of water to crystals along the way.  

Stop #2: Wrap Up Your White Sands Solo Itinerary

White Sands National Park

If you have hiked all the hikes, you can choose to wrap up your White Sands National Park solo itinerary with a little more sand sledding, or perhaps catching a ranger Drop In Program for that day. It is also easy to add one of the nearby attractions in the area onto your second day.

Other Nearby Attractions To Your Solo Itinerary For White Sands National Park

Girls Who Travel

White Sands National Park is located within just a couple hours of several other southwest National Parks, both within the state of New Mexico, and neighboring Texas.  

First up is New Mexico’s other National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The subterranean caves are the highlight here, but there are a surprising amount of adventures just outside the park. In the town of Carlsbad itself, like these top 8 things to do in Carlsbad. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located just three hours from White Sands National Park.

Also located just 3 hours east is another National Park in Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This park is home to the tallest mountains in Texas, and that rugged environment has created quite a list of things to do at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, from hiking to camping to wildlife watching.  

Kristen Czudak

Kristen Czudak is the owner, adventurer, and coach behind Yonderlust Ramblings, an active travel website. Looking for a different kind of vacation? Active travel is the answer! Discover just how far your own two feet can take you.

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