National Parks Count: 24
Hey there fellow adventurers! I went on a solo trip to White Sands, Guadalupe Mountains, and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks (and one other NPS unit, Chamizal National Memorial) in early November! It was a whirlwind trip but a fun one nonetheless! I am going to do this post different than my usual format with multiple stops in one trip. Instead of one big text wall of the entire trip I am going to break it into each park, even though it will be a little disjointed. I spend a lot of my free time planning out trips just for grins, mostly. Occasionally, I get to pull off some of my plans. In my quest for visiting national parks, there are certain routes that have always appealed to me to catch many parks in one trip, based on good logistics. For various reasons, mostly due to time, I haven’t really got to pull off any of them. A few months ago I saw some Southwest gimmick offering to extend my companion pass a couple months if I actually spent money and bought a ticket. I actually had a 100 dollar voucher from them and I found a Tampa to El Paso route that cost me a grand total of 135 dollars round trip for the first weekend in November. This gave me a perfect chance to do one of my trip loop ideas!
First up: White Sands National Park! Formerly White Sands National Monument, this is one of the newest parks with the National Park moniker having been a national park since the end of 2019, though its national monument status was secured in the 1930s. The park itself is composed of sand dunes made of gypsum. These are the largest gypsum sand dunes in the world and were created due to the area being under the sea long ago, then uplifted, and the surrounding mountains being stripped away by later water into an area where the water could not escape other than by evaporation, leaving these beautiful gypsum sand dunes behind.
But first, I had to get there! After landing in El Paso , I had some BANG ASS tacos at the El Paso Brewing Company. This place is a stone’s throw from the fence, the beer is ok, but the tacos the bartender cooked up…DELISH. After that I booked it up the road about 90 minutes to White Sands. There was a border patrol stop involved :/….he asked me if I was a citizen and if I had anyone hiding in the back of my vehicle. That was it. I feel like at least an ID check was in order…oh well! So back to White Sands! Ok. So this is a newer National Park. The newest ones in the system are Gateway Arch, Indiana Dunes, New River Gorge, and this one. New River is most certainly worthy of the national park moniker, in my opinion. Indiana Dunes is a small question mark. Gateway Arch is a huge question mark to me…White Sands is hitting somewhere between Indiana Dunes and the Arch. It is some cool white sand for sure. I get that its gypsum sand…but we have white sand here in Florida. The dunes are definitely not impressive, being 60 feet high at the highest. Indiana Dunes has big dunes, Florida has bigger dunes in places, and Great Sand Dunes is on a whole different level altogether. I feel like White Sands was best a National Monument…it is a beautiful place and very unique, but there really is not a whole lot of variety of things to do here.
The park is actually pretty small. There is a road that starts at the visitor center and runs a couple miles through the park and and comes back out where it starts. There are a couple trails of sorts, but nothing noteworthy other than one boardwalk. It seems that you can walk pretty much wherever you want, but I felt a little weird about doing that. Other activities that can be done are sand sledding, but again, compared to the sledding options at Great Sand Dunes, this would be a let down. Kids might love it though! There are some backcountry options if that’s your thing. I think camping out here would be AWESOME!
This was a short visit, only a couple hours. Honestly, this is probably my shortest ever national park visit. It’s a beautiful area, and it is understandable why it’s in the NPS system. Not every spot that deserves preservation is one that is a great place to visit, however, and I just don’t actually feel like it was a spot I would ever want to go out of my way to visit again.
Overall impressions: Pros: Beautiful area, and different for sure! If you don’t like people, this is a good spot! Cons: For a spot that is really off the beaten path of anything else you would probably be gearing up to do, there are not a lot of activities to fill in your time, at least not in my opinion. My opinion is probably jaded by the fact that there is currently not much in the area. You drive an hour and a half to the middle of nowhere. Experience the park. There didn’t seem to be much in the area, so it was a drive back, or a long drive to the next stop!
The Adventurer Final Word:
3 stars! Beautiful and remote, but a little lacking in a variety of things to do, compared to other national parks.