Hiking Project Logo

blue Backcountry Camping Trail


1.7 mile 2.8 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 18' 5 m
Descent: -13' -4 m
High: 3,979' 1,213 m
Low: 3,966' 1,209 m


Avg Grade: 0% (0°)
Max Grade: 1% (0°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Brian Smith


Getting forecast...

Current trail conditions

Unknown See History

Popular hikes nearby

Navigate on-trail with our free app

iOS App Store Android App Store

A shorter alternative to Alkali Flat Trail, this loop offers a similar adventure in the dunes.

Brian Smith

Features Views · Wildflowers

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.


The Backcountry Loop is most commonly used by backpackers who want to spend the night in the dunes and under the stars. That said, it is also open to guests that are looking for a shorter hike than the Alkali Flat Trail through the heart of the dunes.

The trail is approximately 2.2 miles round-trip and is fairly strenuous as it meanders up and down over the dunes. The average completion time for the trail is roughly 1.5 hours.

Flora & Fauna

As expected, plant and animal life is sparse in the rough environment of White Sands. Desert grasses and shrubs take hold in some areas, with roots strong enough to create columns of sand as the dunes shift around them. Mesquite trees grow in some of the flatlands.

A surprising variety of animals live in White Sands. Beetles, snakes, and lizards are the most common and aren't hard to find. Hawks soar overhead, and owls can be found hunting prey. Mice and several types of foxes make their home here as well. Larger predators, like coyotes and bobcats, are not unheard of.

One especially unique feature to the area are species of mice, insects, and lizards who have evolved white coloration to camouflage them against the gypsum dunes. These animals are endemic to White Sands and aren't found anywhere else in the world.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow hikers know what's here.


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


May 25, 2019
Apr 6, 2019
mi ke
Overnight stay 1.7mi
Jun 9, 2018
Jean-Claude Linossi
Only walked a section of the trail, too hot and dangerous in heat. 1mi — 30h 00m
May 14, 2018
Matteo F
May 12, 2018
Matteo F
Nov 19, 2017
Austin Lynch
Sep 21, 2017
Sabrina Tavella
wild West Adventures 1.7mi
Apr 7, 2017
David Hitchcock
Nice hike amongst the dunes. 1.8mi — 1h 00m

Trail Ratings

  3.6 from 5 votes


  3.6 from 5 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in New Mexico


7 Views Last Month
407 Since Jan 26, 2016
Intermediate Intermediate



Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking