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Lake Lucero White Sands Natl Monument, NM

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Difficulty 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,999 feet
Elevation Gain 5 feet
Accumulated Gain 15 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 1.58
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
11  2012-02-20 imike
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 70 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Jan → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  7:05am - 5:28pm
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It's All About Getting There!
by imike

Likely In-Season!
Guide Needed
Publish Full Detail Guide

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Lake Lucero: the sometime lake that for most of the year lies as a dead, dry crystaline playa.

The exectional aspect: the very unique giant crystal formations along some of the edges. White Sands is the world's largest single deposit of gypsum, and Lake Lucero is the initial repository of that mineral as it leaches out of the mountains in seasonal floods. There it evaporates out of the solutions and takes on the various crystal forms that compose the White Sands Basin.

The normal way to visit the lake is to sign up for one of the monthly guided tours.

A more interesting approach is to seek out the special access permits that will allow you to hike across and into the no man's land werein the military conducts it's arms testing. The permit is contingent on no testing activity being scheduled around the dates of your permit.

This back door access will include 22-25 miles of cross desert trekking, often over and across the giant dunes, but mostly across the munchy playa. Depending on the conditions, this can be a very demanding hike or a near killer hike if the playa is a touch on the moist side. If you choose to make this path less traveled approach, I suggest carrying along a GPS with the lake spotted as a destination on the unit. The giant crystals are not to be found on the nearer portion of the lake basin; you will need to hike all the way to the far edge and seek them out.

Take along foot repair. The long crunchy miles and shoes full of sand will shred most folks feet (did mine!).

Also, do not rely on being able to retrace your footprints for your return route. On even a mild wind day the sand can shift to totally obliterate the prints. A safer, if longer approach: access the Playa along the marked Alkali Flat trail.

Or... take the easy, more normal route: drive to the Lake!

The Park service provides this info:

Have you ever wondered how the white sands formed? Take a tour to Lake Lucero with a ranger and learn about the formation of the sands and the special plants and animals that live in and around the dunes. These three-hour ranger-guided tours to the playa (dry lakebed) of Lake Lucero are offered once a month and reservations are required.

Reservations can be made by following the instructions below and can be made no more than one month in advance of the tour date. A special use fee is charged for the tour: $3.00 per person ages 16 and older, $1.50 for children and to holders of the Golden Age Pass. National Park/Golden Eagle Passports and the White Sands Annual Pass do not apply for this special tour.

DIFFICULTY OF THE HIKE- Moderate. The 1.5 mile round trip hike is through an arroyo and is not a maintained trail. The soil is loose and the terrain can be rough. This hike is not wheelchair accessible and is not recommended for those with impaired mobility.

The tour will begin at the Small Missile Range Gate intersection with US Highway 70, 25 miles west of White Sands National Monument headquarters, between mileposts 174 and 175. The trip will return to the Small Missile Range Gate three hours after the start time. Cameras may not be used while passing through the missile range, but are encouraged for use while at the monument lake area.
  • You will caravan in your own car from the gate to the trailhead (17.5 miles one way or 35 miles roundtrip). Have a full tank of gas before leaving home and a spare tire in case of a flat.
  • No sandals or open-toed shoes. Closed-toed shoes such as hiking boots or stout walking shoes are required.
  • The tour is three hours long, two of which will be outside. Bring snacks, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses for everyone in your group. Dress accordingly for the weather.
  • At least a gallon of water per person is required, otherwise you will not be allowed to attend the tour. Water is essential! One or two 20-ounce bottles of water is not enough! Dehydration and heat exhaustion can set in incredibly fast, especially in the summer when temperatures can soar well above 100?F (38?C), and can quickly result in death.
  • The hike to the lake shore is 3/4 of a mile over rough terrain and loose soils. This tour is not wheelchair accessible.
  • Pets are welcome as long as they are friendly and remain on a leash.

Check out the Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$
    Special Use

    White Sands National Monument
    Monument Entrance Fees

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Off of Hiway 70, west of Alamogordo, East of Las Cruces... drive to the entrance of the White Sands National Monument. For the guided tours, you have to pre-register and pay the fees assigned to this special use area. If you plan to hike the "backdoor"... seek out the code enforcement Ranger, they will process your permit request. The "normal" Rangers will probably not be able to help you. Both should be arranged will in advance.
    page created by imike on Feb 21 2012 3:45 pm
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