No. 8 Sand Dunes
Monahans Sandhills State Park
The dunes were aglow in the afternoon sunlight, as though the sand itself were luminescent. A batch of kids charged uphill dragging plastic snow disks behind them, excited for another chance to swoop down the slopes. A roadrunner sat atop a pickup truck, surveying the scene. The 3,840-acre Monahans Sandhills State Park represents a mere portion of a massive field of dunes that extends two hundred miles from the Llano Estacado to New Mexico, and it is a magnet for sand surfers, who come for the Alta-worthy bowls and ridges, some topping seventy feet. The dynamic, shifting sands have a wild, unpredictable quality that you can experience yourself by renting a wakeboard or disk at park headquarters or wandering the 160-acre equestrian area, which has no marked trails. After traipsing through the dunes, I made my way to the park’s miniature forest of shin oak, two-foot-high trees that give both cover and nourishment to the wildlife out here—the sand was littered with the prints of rodents, small birds, lizards, and strange beetles—and whose acorns sustained indigenous tribes about 13,000 years ago. Torn between my thirst and the view, I was mightily relieved when a few fluffy white clouds blew in, a brief spot of shade in this Sahara.
Getting There: From Odessa, travel 38 miles west on Interstate 20, then take the exit for Park Road 41. (Open daily, $3. 432-943-2092.)