While staying in Las Cruces, NM at the end of February, 2020 we took a day trip to White Sands National Park and Alamogordo. This is the largest gypsum dune field in the world and is so large it can actually be seen from space. White Sands has been a National Monument since 1933 and in January, 2020 became the 62nd National Park. So, of course, I had to get a t-shirt with the new White Sands National Park on it! The visitor center sign out front will be changing soon!
White Sands is truly magical sight to see with endless rolling white dunes with a backdrop of the San Andres Mountains to the west. This is our second visit in 2 years and February was a better time to visit because of smaller crowds and the weather was sunny but cool which allowed us to hike further into the rolling dunes. Also, the sand was so cold to the touch and to walk on! We read that the dunes move 15 feet per year with the winds off the mountains blowing the gypsum. A couple of the pictures below show the dunes trying to take over the road that the park rangers have to plow daily to keep it passable and in a few areas it was very narrow for two cars to pass.
After visiting White Sands we drove into Alamogordo. Located here is Holloman Air Force Base and is the site of the testing range where the first atomic bomb was exploded in 1945. Also, this is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, sits at 4336′ elevation and is one of the larger cities in NM. It really is a barren desert city with the beautiful Sacramento Mountains bordering on the east, and so different from the White Sands only 20 miles away. After eating lunch we had to go the the famous McGinn’s PistachioLand and see the World’s Largest Pistachio! After spending lots of time tasting ALL the different flavored pistachios inside the store we could not agree on a favorite so we had to buy 3 different packages; dark chocolate, red chili, and sriracha honey roasted. YUM!
Another fun and memorable day. Thanks for visiting our site and enjoy the pictures!
While staying in the Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort we met several of our neighbors and they were all into exploring the trails around New Mexico with their Side-By-Side ATVs. We were lucky enough that Doug and Susan, our next door neighbors, had a 4-seat unit and they invited us out for a couple of trips into the desert and mountain areas around Truth or Consequences and Caballo in the Rio Grande river valley.
New Mexico has an abundance of trails that are open to the public and most are only accessible by 4-wheel ATVs like theirs. There are many rocky, steep and narrow areas that most normal vehicles even with 4-wheel drive could not navigate. We were amazed that they could follow all the trails without getting lost!
Our trip took us into the mountains and up to several old abandoned mines. The views of the desert valley on the way up were spectacular and we were even surprised to find sand dunes and red dirt way up there.
At each mine, there were opportunities to search in the discard piles for amethyst, quartz and other rock specimens. Anna took home quite a few smaller rocks hoping to make jewelry out of them at some point in the future. One of the mines we visited had partially collapsed inside and was clearly not safe but we were able to go several hundred feet inside another. It was interesting to imagine how difficult it must have been to mine here with mostly hammers and chisels. At least they had spectacular views of the valley below when they emerged from the mine!
Site Quality: Dirt/gravel pads and roads. Our site was long enough for our rig and truck.
Access: Easy access from Interstate 25 just south of the New Mexico / Colorado boarder.
Staff: The manager we checked in with was friendly and helpful although we had to wait for her to return from an errand. Once before we came here to get propane and the office was also closed during the day when it was supposed to be open.
Amenities: There were Restrooms with showers, laundry facilities, and a dump station but we didn’t use them. I believe they may have all been closed in winter when we were there. Propane on site.
Cellular/WiFi: Verizon and AT&T were decent. The park had WiFi but we did not use it.
What we liked: Ease of access along I-25. Full hookups during the winter. Nice views of the mountains west of Raton. Propane is available on site.
What we didn’t like: The park is mostly dirt and could be very muddy – luckily although there was still some snow on the ground the mud for the streets was not bad. There was some mud near the entrance to our rig. There is an alley that separates the front of the park from the back.
Verdict: The Raton KOA is good for a short stopover on the way to or from Colorado along I-25.
As we started planning our trip back eastward, we looked at Lajitas near Big Bend. The problem we ran into was that the week we planned to be there was in the middle of spring break and we could only get a few consecutive days. That area was a bit out of the way to only have a few days so we decided to go to Carlsbad, NM instead. This turned out to be a good idea because March is a slow time for area activities including Carlsbad Caverns. In fact, crowds there are only 1/3 what they would be in the summer at about 2000 per day. We were told those numbers can be as low as 200 per day in January and February.
When we arrived at the Cavern, they offered two self-guided options both for the same price. On the web site it wasn’t clear but it looked like you had to pick one and then not see the other area. Actually, you can do both for the same price. We decided to start on the Natural Entrance Trail – an approximately a 1.25 mile hike down sometimes steep trails to 750 feet below the surface. An alternative to this is to take the elevator down but you would miss so much if you did. At the end of the trail you end up at the snack bar and elevator area where you can join the Big Room Trail which is another 1.25 miles. Where the first trail was a bit more confining than the big room, it’s all relative as the Natural Entrance Trail still goes through some very large areas of the cavern with very interesting things to see along the way. Once in the Big Room you really do get a sense of the size and grandeur of this treasure. We were told that 6 football fields would fit inside the Big Room. Unfortunately, pictures do not capture what it’s like to be in the Cavern. Due to low light levels I would have needed a tripod to capture many of the sights (they allow you to bring one but I didn’t ) so many of the pictures aren’t great. We were here many, many years ago with our kids for a vacation. It was so great to see it all again!
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We spent a week in Las Cruces in early March and enjoyed our stay in the Hacienda RV Resort in the heart of the city. We had THE BEST Mexican food at Nopalito Restaurant and have discovered yummy Prickly Pear Margaritas! We liked them so much we had to buy some Prickly Pear syrup so we could make our own.
We only had a couple of days to explore and get some shopping done because of weather. During several days with wild wind and dust storms we had to just hunker down, keep the windows closed and wait them out. At one point we had wind gusts over 60 MPH!
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