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The Alkali Flat Trail is both the longest and most difficult hike in White Sands National Park.
Despite its name, it **is not** flat, but instead wanders through the expansive snow-white gypsum dunes, offering expansive views all along the way.
If you yearn for "spectacular views of endless dunes with few footprints," then this hike is for you. According to the NPS, "the Alkali Flat is the dry lakebed of Lake Otero, a lake that filled the bottom of the Tularosa Basin during the last ice age and covered 1,600 square miles." Other shorter hikes in the park, such as the [Dune Life Nature Trail](https://fatmap.com/routeid/2682892/dune-life-nature-trail/) and [Playa Trail](https://fatmap.com/routeid/2682891/playa-trail-overlook/), highlight the ever-evolving sand dunes, as well as the abundance of wildlife that thrive in this seemingly-barren wasteland.
The start of this hike is located at the end of the road, about seven miles from the Visitor Center.
The parking lot is large and suitable for larger vehicles or trailers, but there is no potable water or shade available once there.
A vault toilet is available nearby, however. The Alkali Flat Trail is blazed with a red diamond marker.
Under normal conditions, it is easy to follow; however, the National park Service warns that "if you cannot see the next trail marker because of blowing sand or because the trail marker is knocked down, do not proceed - return to your car." Weather conditions, especially strong winds, has been known to limit visibility to mere *feet*, and temperature can exceed 100 degrees during the summer months.
The NPS also recommends visitors **"do not start the hike if the temperature is at or above 85°F (30°C).** [Source](https://www.nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/alkali-flat-trail.htm)