Highlights from our road trip to White Sands National Monument with a quick stop at Great Sand Dunes
We have a new Christmas tradition. For the last 2 years, we have decided to take advantage of the holiday and the less-crowded national parks, pack up the pups in the Koopa Trooper, and go on a camping road trip adventure.
This year, the destination was White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. We were excited about the warmer weather south of Colorado and that the park allows dogs! (most national parks do not, so keep that in mind my fellow dog people!)
We packed up Koopa. We love this little make-shift camper so much. It is always so exciting when we can throw all our bare essentials in and hit the open road!
Our first stop was in Great Sand Dunes National Park. We have been here several times and it has a special place in our hearts! This broke up the drive pretty evenly and we knew there was some good free camping around.
Most of our drive on the way to the Sand Dunes looked like this. Foggy and icy, eerie but beautiful.
When we finally got to the park, the fog finally cleared up for truly spectacular views! This was the first time we had gotten to see the dunes covered in snow.
We camped at Zapata falls. We were the only ones there which was awesome. And even better, we were above the clouds! Check out that view! Not bad, right?
We stayed one night here and it go down to 6 degrees! This is when the dogs really come in handy. They are like little personal space heaters. All 4 of us piled up on a full futon mattress, we manage to stay warm 🙂
Next, we were on our way south…. like very south… like almost in Mexico south.
As you can probably imagine, there wasn’t much to look at on the way but the desert has it’s own unique beauty. Wide open spaces, straight roads, few cars, and the occasional mesa here and there makes for a calming landscape.
We camped at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in Alamagordo, NM. We planned to stay one night but liked this spot so much, we spent the remaining 3 nights of the trip there at site 42. It was $10/night, has dog-friendly trails within the park, picnic tables, showers that you don’t have to pay extra for, fire rings, and nice views of Dog Canyon and the sunset.
But the best view from our campsite was straight up. You could easily see the milky way with your naked eye. It wasn’t the best time of year for stargazing in this part of the world because the galactic center is currently below the horizon but still . . . not too shabby.
We also heard a chorus of coyotes calling to each other each night.
So.. confession. . . I was the one who planned this trip (hi, tiffany speaking here). I got so excited to see that White Sands allows dogs in the park that I overlooked a VERY important alert on the park website. They were closed on Christmas day!
The original plan was to spend Christmas there and then head back towards CO and break the trip up again. Fortunately, my blunder didn’t ruin the trip (Zac insists 😛 ). After an early and disappointing morning driving up to a closed gate to the park, we found a Denny’s (they’re always open!) and devised a new plan. We went back to camp and hiked Dog Canyon with the pups, which turned out to be awesome BTW.
Then we headed back to camp and took it easy. Roasted crescent roll-wrapped weenies over the campfire, got day-drunk, and read books.
So the day AFTER Christmas, we finally made it to White Sands. Totally worth the wait . .
275 square miles of sandy desert and large dunes made of gypsum sand (which, fun fact, doesn’t get hot to the touch so it won’t burn dogs’ pads!). We bought a little sled and sped down the dunes, raced up them, and the dogs ran and ran for ever without running into another park visitor. It was magical.
Let me know if you have any questions about the area! I highly recommend making the trip!