We liked White Sands so much we visited twice in two days! The first day we arrived around 4:00 and took the ranger’s advice to drive the loop during sunset and save hiking for another day. It was cloudy, windy, and cold—but it created a fun illusion that we were driving and walking around on ice.
There are several places to stop along the road and get out to walk on the dunes. One area has an elevated boardwalk and felt a bit more like a visit to the beach.
You might not have a lot of time for exploring, but White Sands is definitely worth a visit at the end of the day. The sunset creates some really neat colors and shadows on the dunes.
We went back the next morning with a cloudless sky overhead. And, wow, those sands are bright! Blindingly white!
We passed a few people on the trail, but mostly it felt like we were alone. And it was so quiet out there!
One regret: not buying sleds at the visitor center. Yes, you can go sledding on the dunes! (FYI, frisbees do not work.)