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How Accessible Is Accessible: White Sands National Park

Photography by Randy Martinez ©2021

Visiting White Sands National Park was quite an adventure. I was filled with excitement as my partner Randy Martinez & I drove into the unknown. This was my first trip to the park, and going on this journey with no expectations, was quite exhilarating!

The entrance to the park is located 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo and 54 miles east of Las Cruces on US 70.

Along the drive I wondered if we were heading in the right direction, because even though the white sand dunes cover 275 square miles of the Chihuahuan Desert, they are hidden away like a best kept secret in the heart of the Tularosa Basin.

When Randy and I drove into the park, the first thing we did was stop at the Visitor Center. If you like history, you’ll love the visitor center complex. It is a national historic district designed in Pueblo Revival style built in 1936.

I like stopping at the Visitor Center before exploring and talking to the Rangers and Volunteers, because they know everything about what’s happening in the park. Things are always changing, and this is the best way to get updated information when visiting any park, especially when it comes to accessibility.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

White Sands National Park is open every day, year-round except for December 25, Christmas Day. The gates open at 7 AM, but be aware that the Park hours do change.

The park can have unexpected closures due to the Weather and Missile Testing!

If you are sensitive to loud noise, be aware that White Sands National Park does missile testing. While visiting the park, we heard two loud booms, that sounded like bombs being dropped that scared the wits out of me!

Researching where I’m going, and planning ahead, and being aware, helps make my travels a lot easier!

I like to support the parks whenever I can, so I purchased a T-shirt at the Visitor Center and also got a sled for my partner as a thank you for being an amazing assistant. Sledding is a popular activity at the park, and if you don’t own a sled, don’t worry! You can purchase plastic snow saucers and wax at the park's gift shop. Hold onto your receipt because at the end of the day, if you feel you won’t be using the sled you purchased again, you can recycle it & sell it back to the gift shop.

I am not able to climb any sand dunes or doing any sledding, so I had fun taking photographs of Randy.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

If you have a permanent disability and have a National Park ACCESS PASS, show it at the gate with your ID to get free entry into the park. If you don’t know about the ACCESS PASS, read my blog about it here

As we entered the park, we were greeted by shimmering, soft, white, gypsum sand dunes. Millions of years ago, the Permian Sea left behind layers of gypsum. When mountains rose, they carried the gypsum high and over the years, the melting glaciers dissolved the mineral into the basin. Today wind, snow and rain continue the process of breaking down the crystals, turning them into sand, moving the sand into piles of dunes, some reaching over 50 feet high!

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

We made our way to the “Interdune Boardwalk” which is the one accessible trail here.

I am happy to report that this trail is ADA Compliant! It's an Accessible boardwalk trail 2000 feet through the sand dunes; the trail is a wheelchair accessible walkway, and it has hand rails, benches and a shaded area with informative signs about the environment, wildlife and plant life.

Watch the Youtube video (It is captioned if you require it), to learn more about this trail!

Things to keep in mind when visiting the park:

-Bring water bottles, always carry them & keep them filled. If you need to fill your water bottle, the visitor center is the only place to fill water containers.

-Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.

-Bring food and snacks.

-Seek Shaded areas! There is a shaded area on the Interdune Boardwalk trail & they have shaded picnic areas around the park.

-Leave No Trace! There are a total of 62 shaded tables, in the three picnic areas each having an elevated grill, and some tables are ADA accessible. Tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It gets windy there, so be sure to bag, tie and remove your trash.

-If you’re sledding, sled away from the road.

-Pets are allowed as long as they are on a leash.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of How Accessible Is Accessible! Contributions help keep The Disabled Photographer Project and this series going, and you can support the project by making a donation Here:

The project is also currently seeking partnerships, sponsors, grants, and ambassadorships. For inquiries contact Denise Vasquez

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