Anyone in the know about “sand surfing” and sand dune “sledding” is probably aware of the big name celebrity sand dunes and sand surfing opportunities in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, and Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. But did you know there is another hidden, under-rated state park in which to explore these fascinating natural phenomena? Welcome to the Monahans sand dunes in Monahans Sandhills State Park, one of the most intriguing and imaginative of all the Texas state parks!
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Table of Contents
Guide to the Monahans Sand Dunes in Monahans Sandhills State Park
This guide to the Monahans sand dunes covers the following:
- Location of Monahans Sandhills State Park
- Background on the Monahans Sand Dunes
- What to Do at Monahans Sandhills State Park
- Lodging at Monahans Sandhills State Park
***Monahans Sandhills State Park is open daily from 7am – 10pm. Entrance fees are $4 per person (children under 12 are free), and campsites are reservable online for $15. You can purchase a day pass or make a camping reservation to this state park HERE in advance.
Location of Monahans Sandhills State Park
Monahans Sandhills State Park is located just west of the outskirts of the small Texas town of Monahans, its namesake. It can be accessed directly from Interstate 20, exit 86, and is immediately off the access road. Upon arriving, you will see the Dunagan Visitor Center, where you can park and go in to pay the $4 per person entrance fee, and rent disks for sand sledding if you choose. These disks are a few dollars more per disk.
Monahans Sandhills State Park has a singular park road that winds its way past acres of sand dunes, until it terminates amongst the largest dunes in the park. Along the way, you will see several smaller roads that branch off to various picnic areas, but the campground, and the best sand surfing dunes, are all the way at the back of the park at the end of the park road. Once you arrive at the end of the park road, you will see the rolling Monahans sand dunes and day use pavilions to the right, and the historic “yellow” house, restroom facilities, and the entrance to the Willow Draw Campground to the left. Campsites can be booked online HERE for $15 a site!
Background on the Monahans Sand Dunes
Although you may not immediately be able to tell when exploring this inconspicuous state park, these Monahans sand dunes extend for thousands of acres. While the exact creation of these sand dunes is unknown, it is believed that they are the remnants of the nearby mountain ranges, including the southern end of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico, which, as time eroded and evolved them, blew the remaining leftovers towards Monahans.
Even today, these dunes are still “alive”, and are constantly created, changed, molded, and shaped. The largest dunes can even get as high as 50 feet tall, such as the dune endearingly nicknamed “Mount Everest” by the park staff.
Despite its seemingly inhospitable environment, there are plenty of lifeforms that cling to the dunes. Visitors can witness short, brushy vegetation, such as native shin oak, curiously springing up through the dunes, seemingly impervious to the harsh environment. Ironically, these forms of desert vegetation are what helps to sustain the dunes by giving them a form of informal, internal skeleton. The roots of plants like the shin oak can form extensive underground networks, which help give the dunes the supportive framework they need to maintain stability. There is a fascinating amount of life at work here at the Monahans sand dunes, both below and above the surface!
In addition to plant life, water sources can dwell and seep at low points between the dunes, remarkably sustaining a surprising amount of wildlife. Badgers, javelinas, grasshoppers, and several species of rats call the Monahans sand dunes their home. Dusk and dawn are the best times to try to catch a glimpse of these critters.
What to Do at the Monahans Sand Dunes
This is a park to let your inner child loose to play! The activities available here will undoubtedly tug at the little kid in you, no matter your age. The obvious highlight, of course, is the chance to sand sled in this giant sized sandbox!
***There are no marked trails at Monahans Sandhills State Park – visitors are free to explore the dunes at will! If you do explore the dunes past sand sledding, be sure to pay very close attention to your surroundings, and be mindful of how hot the dunes can heat up, especially in the warmer months!
Sand Surfing and Sand Dune Sledding at Monahans Sandhills State Park
Whether you call it sand surfing or sand sledding, you cannot go wrong spending a day riding the Monahans sand dunes! For a very small fee, visitors can rent circular disks with which to “surf” and “sled” on the dunes. Once obtained from the Dunagan Visitor Center, guests can make their way towards the back of the park along the main park road, until reaching the day use area. Here there are a handful of picnic tables and pavilions, but these are immediately dwarfed by the stark white dunes overshadowing them in the background. The most impressive dunes here at Monahans Sandhills State Park are only a several minute jaunt in from the day use parking area. There are no marked trails, and exploration is up to each individual!
So what exactly does it feel like to sled on dunes or go sand surfing? When my sister and I visited this park, we immediately searched out “Mount Everest”, the highest dune in Monahans Sandhills State Park, as stated by the park ranger. This dune resides just slightly right of the day use parking area, and is renowned for being the best sledding and sand surfing peak in terms of speed. It only takes about three minutes of trudging through the silky quartz sand, which we did barefoot! Again, this is your chance to embrace your inner child, and the sand here is a welcoming, powdery texture.
Hiking up these dunes with disk in hand is quite a workout, due to the sinking action of the soft sand. But once to the top, the giddy exhilaration of surfing and sliding down a dune, gripping tightly to the sides of your disk while attempting to “steer”, is worth the effort! A lot of racing, tumbling, and laughing is sure to ensue on these Monahans sand dunes!
Insider Tip: Be sure to being plenty of water, even in the winter, but especially in the summer. The reflection of the Texas sun off of the white sand can be quite strong, and sunscreen protection is beneficial as well.
Equestrian Activities at Monahans Sandhills State Park
The Monahans sand dunes are also a popular equestrian destination. Horses are welcome here, and riding is open in a designated, 800 acre, equestrian area, although navigation is up to the rider as there are no marked trails.
Kite Flying at Monahans Sandhills State Park
This area of Texas is obviously a haven for wind, as evidenced by these wind shaped dunes. Therefore, it is also a prime destination for kite-flying! So bring along a kite in addition to your sand surfing disk, and take some time to truly marvel at and appreciate the mighty west Texas wind to its fullest!
Nature Viewing at Monahans Sandhills State Park
As mentioned, there is a surprising amount of life existent here at Monahans. If you wish to view wildlife, find a quiet spot early in the morning or at dusk on one of the Monahans sand dunes, and wait to hopefully catch a glimpse of a passing badger or javelina!
Insider Tip: Even if you don’t witness any wildlife, sunrise and sunset are among the best times to watch the stunning colors play off the beautiful backdrop of stark sand and endless horizon!
Lodging at Monahans Sandhills State Park
There are hotels available for booking in nearby Monahans, Midland, or Odessa, but the best way to truly experience this unique environment is to camp at the base of the dunes themselves. Monahans Sandhills State Park has one campground, the Willow Draw Campground, which is only a stone’s throw away from the largest dunes in the park. This campground consists of 26 reservable campsites, with water and electricity. There are equestrian spots as well. These campsites are available for $15 per night. Restroom facilities at the campground include showers, which comes in handy after a day of playing in the sand.
Insider Tip: Campfires are not allowed at Monahans, but each site is equipped with a barbeque grill.
Why You Should Visit the Monahans Sand Dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park
This hidden nook of west Texas is one of the reasons I am proud to be a Texan, and one of the many reasons I cannot imagine living elsewhere! Texas has a way of always surprising me, like when I discovered that there are sand dunes here! The Lone Star state seems to have it all, from coasts and beaches, to piney forests, to mountain ranges that tower over the western regions and red rock canyons that rival the Grand Canyon, the twin National Parks of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend National Park, and now, to the Monahans sand dunes! There is something for everyone here, but in particular, this is the place to go to revisit those nostalgic childhood days while feeling the sand beneath your feet, 500 miles from the nearest ocean!
Read More: I have so many favorite Texas moments, it is hard to narrow them down, but here are a few more!
- Looking for an alternative to that famous National Park with the huge canyon in Arizona? Try this hike through the 2nd largest canyon in the United States.
- Did you know that the tallest point in Texas is hiding in West Texas? Find out where on a trek to the top of Texas on the Guadalupe Peak hike!
- Most people know of Big Bend National Park, but did you know that Texas boasts a second stunning sibling National Park? Discover what is worth experiencing in Guadalupe Mountains National Park!
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