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Dune Life Nature Trail

 3.5 (6)

Your introduction to the fascinating landscape of White Sands National Monument.

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Point to Point

4,016' 1,224 m


3,986' 1,215 m


69' 21 m


52' 16 m



Avg Grade (1°)


Max Grade (3°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly This trail has a few dunes to climb but is easy to hike. Kids would enjoy walking up and down the dunes.

Visitor passes are $5 for adults and are valid for six days. Except for December 25, White Sands is open year round. Park hours vary throughout the year, generally from 8 am to 6 pm. Dunes Drive is occasionally closed due to missile testing at the adjacent range, blocking access to the trail. Weather closures occur on occasion as well. Hours and closure information can be found here.


When you enter the White Sands National Monument, this is your first opportunity to hike on the sand. Although there isn't a true "trail" for much of this loop, the sand portions of this route is well-marked with orange posts buried in the sand. This loop is located along the fringe of the dune field and, therefore, is more densely vegetated than many other portions of the dunes.

The trail crosses the flat vegetated desert plain for the first 300 yards or so before beginning to ascend into the dunes. Along the way, trailside exhibits offer lots of information about the wildlife that you might see in the White Sands. Each display board in broken into two sections of information--one for adults and one for kids.

That said, this is not a play area - the trail is intended for nature study. Kids (and adults!) are welcome play out in the "Heart of the Sands," beside the picnic areas, away from plants and the road.

Flora & Fauna

White Sands National Monument experiences especially harsh environmental conditions, even for the desert. That hasn’t stopped many species of animal from adapting, surviving, and even flourishing here. If you look hard enough, you may see tracks in the sand to remind yourself of their presence. And while it may be difficult to believe, there are more than 800 types of animals that call white sands their home.

Plants play a crucial function in the ecosystems of White Sands National Monument, stabilizing the windward sides of the dunes and providing both shelter and food for fauna.


Shared By:

Brian Smith with improvements by Jean-Claude Linossi

Trail Ratings

  3.5 from 6 votes


  3.5 from 6 votes
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in New Mexico


4 Views Last Month
476 Since Jan 26, 2016



Watching the moon rise on the White Sands National Monument's "Full Moon Hike," held each month during the full moon.
Jul 19, 2019 near Holloma…, NM
The Sacramento Mountains seen from the Dune Life Nature Trail.
Feb 25, 2019 near Holloma…, NM
The San Andres Mountains as seen from the Dune Life Nature Trail.
Feb 25, 2019 near Holloma…, NM
White Sands National Monument Dune Life Nature Trail.
Jan 26, 2016 near Holloma…, NM
Rio Grande cottonwood (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizeni) on White Sands National Monument Dune Life Nature Trail
Jan 26, 2016 near Holloma…, NM
Full moon during our full moon hike
Jul 16, 2019 near Holloma…, NM



Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 79 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In


Nov 26, 2020
Kayla Bostic
Nov 8, 2020
Zane Grodman
Nov 8, 2020
Tom Herr
Nice loop through the sand. Gentle. 0.9mi
Oct 31, 2020
Lou Hibbard
With Jan 0.9mi
Sep 7, 2020
Rachel Pierstorff
Jan 8, 2020
Eric Lynch
Sep 18, 2019
Mark Simon
A very different kind of terrain. I haven't seen anything quite like it. Glad I came.
Jul 16, 2019
Jean-Claude Linossi
Went on ranger led full moon hike on that trail, Very experience to walk on these dunes in the light of the moon. 0.9mi — 1h 00m