Visiting White Sands National Monument was at the top of our list of things to do while in southern New Mexico. It’s such an incredible, ethereally beautiful landscape and we couldn’t wait to take our bus there!
Oliver Lee & Frenchy
We decided to stay at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, located about 20 miles from the national monument, for 3 nights with the intention of using it as a base for visiting White Sands National Monument. Given the park’s proximity to Alamogordo and White Sands, it seems like most folks stay here with the same thing in mind. However, we were delighted to find that this park definitely stands on its own as a neat destination!
Though small, the park has great view of the mountains and valley below and some nice hiking trails: the Dog Canyon Trail (an out & back at 5.5 miles each way) and the Riparian Nature Trail (1/2 mile loop). There’s a creek that flows out of a narrow canyon along the Riparian Trail and we took some time to explore off-trail for a bit and hiked/scrambled over rocks while following the stream bed. It was pretty neat to see the contrast between the surrounding desert terrain and the lushness of the vegetation along the creek.
The park also contains the remains of a rock-cabin built by Frenchy, a solitary settler who came to NM from France in the late 1800’s. Frenchy was responsible for hand-building the still-intact rock walls that snake up the impressively steep slopes of Dog Canyon. These were apparently built to contain his herd of cattle and protect his orchard — seeing the remains of his handiwork gave us an appreciation for Frenchy’s work ethic and determination.
White Sands Blue Sky
One of the nice things about visiting White Sands National Monument, is the required entry fee gets you six days of access to the park. This enabled us to make more than one excursion over the course of two days – once to catch sunset, and another to see the park just after sunrise. It was an incredible experience hiking around the park- there’s a soothing quality to the pattern of repeating dunes and subtle ripples in the sands and seeing it right as the day’s light is changing really brings out this place’s stark beauty. (Hard to believe this is part of an active missile testing area!)
Despite being 35 feet of bright blue metal, our bus actually seemed to blend in quite nicely at White Sands – we think this is because it was the same color as the sky! (Maybe we should rename ourselves the Sky Bus…)
read our campsite reviews on campendium: Oliver Lee Memorial State Park & LAke Holloman