stuck in the sand at elephant butte

Stuck In the Sand at Elephant Butte Lake – What To Do?

Hot Tips

So many of us have been there. At the lake, where there’s all that lovely sandy beach. And you can drive on it! Or can you? Truth is, it is all too easy to get your vehicle stuck.

We have tips. Primarily –

Don’t drive on the sand

The most obvious way to avoid getting your vehicle stuck in the sand at Elephant Butte Lake is: never drive on the sand at Elephant Butte Lake.

Park on solid ground, and walk. It’s good for ya! 🙂 But if you must drive on the beach…

Use These Tips When Driving on Sand

Use 4-Low

If you have 4-wheel drive, keep it in 4-Low.

Be Brave

Whether or not you have 4WD, if you find yourself driving on the sand, don’t panic. Driving confidently can actually help! If you aren’t feeling confident, fake it. Hesitant driving is an excellent way to get stuck. Keep moving at a constant, sensible speed.

Stay On Track

Don’t try to carve your own path on the sand. Stay in the packed-down tracks of other vehicles.


Letting some air out of your tires increases the ratio of rubber-to-sand, and this may help with traction. Recommended pressure for driving on sand is 12-20 psi. 20 psi for driving around confidently, lowered to as little as 12 psi if you get stuck. If you do need to take your tires to an extra low pressure, try not to drive aggressively – doing so could pop the tire off the rim. Which brings us to…


Might be a good idea, if you know you are going to deflate your tires, to carry a hand-pump and an air gauge. Might also be a good idea, if you plan to drive on sand, to carry a shovel and some lumber.

So what if you get stuck anyway?


If you feel your vehicle sinking, STOP. Don’t gun the engine to try and get out. You’ll dig yourself in deeper.


Figure out which way you want to go – getting back to your own tracks, or to someone else’s, is a good plan.

Dig & Bolster

Dig around the tires, then give them extra traction by stuffing objects under them. Driftwood, rocks, wood blocks, lumber, even your car’s floor mats might provide better traction than sand.

Position the objects so that you can drive on them toward the path you’ve chosen. The straighter your wheels are, the better. With your wheels dug out, and with detritus stuffed underneath them creating an “out” path, and the wheels as straight as possible, and maybe some friends on the back end giving a push, ease onto the gas pedal and attempt to drive out.

Still stuck?

Admit defeat & look around for help

Many good samaritans come to the lake prepared to help others dig out. (They cannot charge money for helping; non-pros charging for tows is against State Park Regulations.)

Remember – if someone stops and offers you a tow strap, do not let them connect to the car bumper! Connect the strap to the frame of the car instead. This ensures that your bumper will stay connected to your vehicle.

No good samaritans about?

Call Elephant Butte Lake State Park Ranger Station at 575-744-5421. They are available 24/7 and will try help to get you unstuck. Within reason.

If State Parks can’t dig you out, they will help you contact a towing service. Though you may be tempted to call Triple A, keep in mind that they have restrictions – in most cases they will only assist if you are on or near a major road. Read your AAA policy for more info.

You may need to rely on a local towing service, and that’s when things can get expensive. Professional tows can run anywhere from $75 to $250.

Better yet — just don’t get stuck!