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About White Sands National Monument, Backcountry Primitive Sites
Spend a night under the twinkling stars of the vast New Mexico skies, surrounded by the world's largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument offers backpackers the opportunity to enjoy a night camping on the white sands and listening to the nocturnal activities of the animals that make their home here in this unique ecosystem. The Backcountry Loop is used most frequently by backpackers who want to spend a night under the stars in the dunes. However, it is also open to visitors that want a shorter hike through the heart of the dunes than the Alkali Flat trail. The trail is approximately 2.2 miles (3.5 km) round-trip and is a moderately strenuous hike up and down over the dunes. The average completion time for the trail is roughly 1.5 hours. There are ten primitive backcountry camping sites available on a first-come-first-served basis. Because of the possibility of closure due to missile testing on the adjacent missile range, we cannot allow advanced reservations.
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National Monument
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No Alchohol
Phone Service
Picnic Table
Trash Available
White Sands National Monument, Backcountry Primitive Sites is located in New Mexico
32.805 N
-106.275 W
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14 Reviews of White Sands National Monument, Backcountry Primitive Sites
There is literally nothing like this experience!

This is an awe inspiring and unique camping experience. It is not a place to relax all day, make a fire, and hang out camping experience. White Sands IS a place to experience at night, preferably during a full moon.

There are 10 spots and the office opens at 9:00, be EARLY (I always get there an hour before).

Once you get your spot do some local stuff, Alamogordo is 20 minutes to the east, not great but you can also head up to Cloudcroft which is nice and has great hiking. Or you can go to Los Cruces which is nicer and bigger and also has some hiking in the Organ MNTs.

Head back to camp 2 hours before sundown. You’ll have to hike about a mile in sand to your campsite. Set up and prepare to enjoy the night!

I’m usually set up an hour before sunset and then stay up till midnight or so. It’s amazing and no words or pictures can really do it justice (at night especially). In the morning it gets hot pretty quick so be prepared to leave early.

Enjoy, I’ve hit this every 6 months, three times in a row and it never gets old!

Unbelievable Beauty

This is a must see! It's hard to explain the beauty of White Sands in words, but it's definitely worth the stop and 1-2 mile hike in to a primitive spot. Primitive is the only option here and be sure to check weather patterns for the times you go. I went in early spring and the wind was pretty ferocious - luckily I was prepared and had all the necessary gear. It's a tough hike in depending on your pack and the sites are as bare as it gets, but the scenery makes this place what it is. Beautiful.

First to Review
If you are wanting a fun challenge this is a great one!

Backcountry camping can be interesting anywhere you go, but what about in a place where you will have your footsteps covered within hours of you entering and dunes constantly shifting to reveal new beauty?

If you are up for a challenge The White Sands National Monument is the place for just that. Of course this is a hike in camping experience so you can park your car along one of the numerous pull offs in the area and hike to your destination of choice. This trek will require a permit which is $3 for adults in addition to any entrance fees which are charged, of course if you have your park pass you can avoid an entrance fee.

You will need ALL your gear for this one and take into consideration a lower profile tent because winds will whip at taller ones. The official definition of backcountry camping here is a hike of a mile so that means you will need at least 1 liter of water per mile you are hiking and enough to sustain your needs during the evening as well.

I did notice that using my small camp burner was a little difficult here because of the wind. Though I was able to get it to work finally I had to turn it to the highest level and really make an effort to shelter it while it worked.

I really wanted to get some awesome night sky photography because of the brilliant sky you see above at this location, however I noticed that I had not come fully prepared to do so and so it turned into more of a quiet night than a night of activities.

I was very excited about this trip and I learned that for days and days I would continue to pull sand out of everything I owned, so it was one of those trips that keeps reminding you of your journey to say the least.


  • Bring a facemask or bandana to cover your mouth when you are out here otherwise you will be miserable and your lips will be very chapped.
  • Also try sledding while here, the white sands are slick like ice and almost have the same effect as snow sledding which can be very fun. If you choose to do this you can purchase a disk or rent one in the Visitor Center.
Fun in the sand

Not really sure how good the camp grounds are. Great for just sand boarding

Surreal park with easy backcountry camping

I won’t even say anything about the park, it’s something you need to experience and you’ll be convinced just by looking at any photos. This isn’t a campground but backcountry camping with a hike to the site of under a mile, so it’s perfect for backpacking trips for families. BUT walking on sand is a lot more tiring than you think it’ll be and water is heavier than you think it’s be!! You need to get a permit, which is very cheap, and forces you check in with the rangers about weather and whatever other issues there may be. Read up about leave no trace and specific rules for the sand dunes. …the weird thing is that there could be missles on the sand sometimes!! So if you see something weird stay away and tell the rangers asap!! This will be one of the best camping trips you’ll ever be on, no contest. ENJOY!

Ranger Review: Tredagain Sandals at White Sands Primitive Campsite, NM

Campground Review:

If you need any amenities when you camp this is definitely NOT the camp for you. But, if all you need is the ground, the stars, and yourself, this is DEFINITELY the site for you.

With zero hookups, no fires, no water access, there isn't not a lot of extras that come with these campsites. Regardless, camping in the White Sands National Monument, is one of the more memorable backcountry sites I've been to. The hike from the parking lot is barely 2 miles, but when you get to the site there is just seas of white surrounding you. And if at all possible try to camp here during a full moon. The light reflecting off the sands is a different experience.

Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally get products to test, and on this trip I was able to test out sandals from Tredagain. I am always skeptical of the "flip-flop" style sandals. In my experience, they fail after only a few months of wearing them, either by the connection between your toes breaking or the sole of the sandal splitting.

So, when I ordered these sandals I was already counting down the days until they broke.

Well, I'm still counting. When I got the sandals out of the box I was extremely impressed at the durability of the soles.

They were made for being put through the wringer.

During our road trip, my wife and I both had pairs and probably wore them 80% of the trip. We love these sandals. They were definitely #1 of the products were able to test out during our road trip.

Now, being flip-flop style sandals makes it hard to wear them in situations when you will be climbing or in need of footwear that stays secured to your feet. Other than that, they have become my go to sandal.

For more product review videos like this one click HERE.


If you want a peaceful night, do a backcountry trip at White Sands. It is the most quiet night you'll have (from humans!). We did hear a coyote or two.

BRING ALL YOUR WATER! This is primitive backcountry camping. I believe we picked up a free permit at the visitor center.

My kind of camping!

I love camping where you aren't by people. This place is great. The loop is a little over 2 miles up and down the dunes and there are a few designated camp sites around the loop. This place is among my favorites because its just you and nature (and the occasional creature sneaking around in the night). The white sand looks like snow but it was hot when I went so that was a new experience for me. A bit of a sensation confusion but oh so worth it.

Storms forced us out

I came back my second time to show my mom and brother what a spectacular place this was-- and they agreed! We hiked our stuff in and ignored the threats of the storm brewing. The wind whipped so hard it broke our tent!! Love this spot and this campground- but definetly will respect the the weather next time!

The best spot.

I have been back to this Campground twice because of the fun we had here. You get the whole desert to yourself for the night for playing in this giant sandbox. No toilets, no showers, no fires. But the best night ever. My dog would not let me go to bed- she wanted to keep playing- and with the moonlight reflecting off the sand, it almost felt like daytime! Catching the sunrise is worth the early wake up. This is definetly one of my favorite campsites.