Our day entailed a morning tour through Spider Cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and a late afternoon rendezvous to Roswell, which made us pull into Lake Holloman at the Holloman Air Force Base long after the sun had set. We spent one quiet evening along the lake before venturing out the next morning into White Sand Dunes National Monument just 2 miles down the road.
Before setting out for a hike, we drove along Dunes Drive to gape at the scenery. 16 miles of somewhat paved road stretch out into the dunes, laying out a lollipop route easily accessible from the main highway.
How did these pure white sand dunes even get here? Well, during the last ice age the area was covered in basins. As the lakes and basins dried out, gypsum was left behind in crystallite form, which was eventually crushed into sand through weathering and erosion. The longest hiking trail at White Sand Dunes, known as Alkali Flat, is 4.6 miles long and traverses through what was once Lake Otero, now a dried out lakebed.
Even with my anticipation of Alkali Trail being jaw-dropping gorgeous, I was still awe-struck by its artistic, natural beauty. As we traversed up and down the dunes, we were thankful it was December; the perfect 65º temperature was preferred over July’s 100º+ temperatures. Like a snow-covered winter wonderland, the snowy sand embraced us with the silence of Mother Nature. We walked, stopped, and often sat to gaze upon the ripples of sand slowly changing pattern with the warm breeze of the Southwest. It was even easy to see silhouettes of others in the distance, hunkered down in the ice-blue shade of the dune, simply taking it all in. Photos below capture our late afternoon hike on the dunes.