3 National Parks Where You Can Sandboard

Sandboarding: The Basics

National Park Service

If sandboarding looks eerily similar to snowboarding, that's because it is. The concept is almost identical - strap a board to your feet and surf down a mountain of sand at a quick clip, maneuvering your body and shifting your weight from toe to heel to navigate the dunes as you make your way to the bottom.

If, however, you think you can turn your snowboard into a sandboard during the summer months, you'd be wrong. Sandboards are designed specifically for sand, and snowboards won't cut it. Most sand dune areas have nearby retailers that rent or sell sandboards to interested parties. These retailers can help you find the right board for your height, weight, and riding preference.

Like it's snow-sport counterpart, sandboarding does take some practice. It requires balance, coordination, and core strength to control the board, and you may find yourself spending a fair amount of time in the sand on your first few attempts. Luckily, boarding in sand tends to be a slightly slower undertaking due to sand's greater friction, so it is easier to catch on to than snowboarding, and crash landings generally happen at slower speeds.

One other thing to keep in mind is that most sand dunes don't boast ski lifts to help boarders get up and down the sandy slopes. After boarding to the bottom of the dunes, you have to climb to the top to do it again - while carrying your board. This is a great workout, but it does get tiring and can be uncomfortable, especially on hot or windy days.

There are lots of places to try sandboarding, but for an especially cool experience, head to one of the following National Parks that feature sand dunes and opportunities for boarding.

Great Sand Dunes

National Park Service

The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve located in Colorado has some of the most incredible dunes in the world. Sandboarding and sandsledding are allowed in all non-vegetative areas of the park, so much so that the National Park Service put together a short video introducing the sports and offering beginner's tips.

While the boarding is incredible, it's best to go early or late in the day, particularly during hot times of the year. It's possible for the sand to reach 150 degrees F, which can make sandboarding borderline unbearable.

If you don't own your own board, you can rent one.

Death Valley

National Park Service

Death Valley National Park straddles the California/Nevada borderĀ and boasts the illustrious titles of the "hottest, driest, lowest" place in the United States. About 1% of this vast park includes sand dunes, and sandboarding is allowed on a very limited segment. In fact, it's only allowed on the Mesquite Flat Dunes - they're the best known and most visited dunes in the park, located near Stovepipe Wells in California. The sand peaks only rise to a maximum of 100-feet, which means short rides, but an easy climb.

White Sands

National Park Service

White Sands National Monument, located in New Mexico, is like the Great Sand Dunes younger cousin. The white sands (they're quite literally white) are beautiful to behold, and the arcing dunes cover a vast 275 square miles.

Sledding is actively encouraged on the dunes, and White Sands provides safety guidelines that are particularly important for children to follow, as they're the most susceptible to injury. Sandboarding, however, is not addressed on the White Sands website. It's a good idea to board in areas that aren't overrun with other park guests, that don't feature much dune vegetation, and hills that end with a nice, soft slope and generous sand, rather than compact or hard areas.

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