White Sands Dunes Drive

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is an impressive site with its pure white gypsum sand dunes — the largest in the world with 275 square miles of gypsum dunes. Before I began exploring the dunes themselves, I dove the entire Dunes Drive which is about 8 miles round trip. For those visiting for the first time like myself, it’s a great way to get a quick overview of the entire White Sands National Monument before choosing where to explore the sand dunes. While there are many beautiful sights which will peak your interest and help you decide where you want to explore, one of the unexpected sights I saw on the drive was the piles of white gypsum sand on the side of the road:

Gypsum sand piles on Dunes Road at White Sands National Monument

There is so much gypsum sand and it’s constantly being blown by the wind that they need to plow Dunes Road just like snow in the mountains.

Oregon Caves Entrance

When you arrive at Oregon Caves National Monument, there is a short walk from the parking area to the visitors center. The walk is along a paved road and immediately gives a feel of the area with a lot of moss clinging to rocks and trees:

Oregon Caves moss on rocks

Oregon Caves moss hanging from trees

Once you reach the visitors center building, there is a beautiful waterfall that empties into a clear pond. This is the water that is coming out of the cave entrance from the river that runs through it:

Oregon Caves entrance waterfall

Oregon Caves entrance pond

It’s only possible to explore the Oregon Caves by guided tour which leave in groups of a maximum of 15 people on a regular basis depending on how crowded the day is. A guide will take you up to the Oregon Cave entrance where you will be greeted by a moss covered entrance:

Oregon Caves National Monument entrance

and a river flowing below you:

Oregon Caves river at entrance

The guided tour was wonderful providing a nice history of the cave with plenty of opportunities to take photos and ask questions. The first stop inside the cave on the Oregon Caves tour is at Watson’s Grotto.