New Mexico : Safety by City
- Elephant Butte
- Las Cruces
- Los Alamos
- Red River
- Rio Rancho
- Santa Fe
- Silver City
- Truth or Consequences
Alamogordo, in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, is often overlooked by travelers zooming down Highway 54.
But those who exit the interstate will find a charming oasis tucked between the Sacramento Mountains and White Sands National Park.
Though the railroad first put Alamogordo on the map in 1898, it was the national spotlight of the Trinity Test that cemented its place in history books.
On a July morning in 1945, the dunes outside of town lit up brighter than the sun as the first atomic bomb exploded.
The desert was forever changed, as was the world.
White Sands Missile Range is still testing missiles in modern-day war strategy.
But Alamogordo is more than a wartime footnote.
It has emerged from the shadow of the bomb to become a destination in its own right.
Visitors flock to the New Mexico Museum of Space History to learn about local aeronautics achievements.
You can go sledding in the summer at White Sands National Park.
Take a photo with the world’s largest pistachio and tour the famous farm.
So bypass expectations of a barren military outpost.
In Alamogordo, small-town charm meets scientific history under the expansive New Mexican sky.
For those willing to venture off the highway, a singular oasis waits to be discovered.
If you’re wondering how Alamogordo got its name, it’s a combination of the Spanish words for “cottonwood” and “fat,” named by John Arthur Eddy.
I’ll let him explain it to you.
“It would have been natural to use the word”Alamo”, but it was objectionable because of its being so common and so many Alamos.
In my cowboy days, one of my favorite camping places between Las Vegas and Seven Rivers, was on a little stream running into the east side of the Pecos, called”AlamoGordo”.
I had learned its meaning to be, a big or “Rotund” cottonwood, and upon seeing such a tree, at the mouth of the Alamo Canon, the name came back impressively to me.
And that is how Alamogordo got its name.”
– The papers of John Arthur Eddy, circa 1923
Warnings & Dangers in Alamogordo
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Alamogordo and almost an overwhelming number of safe places to visit. You definitely won't get bored!
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Z Transit is the public bus system here. Taxis and rideshares are available and rental cars should be easy to find at the airport of your choice. Having a rental car will help you reach some of the major attractions that are 15-50 miles away.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Carry only what you need with you, and if you have a lot of stuff, especially when visiting the national park, bring a backpack. The risk is low here, but always use close attention to detail when it comes to your personal belongings.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Wind storms can kick up dust and sand, reducing visibility and impacting air quality. Wildfires can devastate large parts of the land and also cause breathing issues. Severe thunderstorms develop quickly and can be intense, while usually short-lived. The town did have a minor tornado in 2023, which isn't that common but still a possibility. That's why it's important to stay aware of the weather risks on any given day.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Alamogordo has fewer than eight robberies a year on average, giving this a low risk, especially if you're visiting tourist destinations, museums, and entertainment districts.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base bring a medium risk to the region, but let's be honest—there's a phenomenal amount of security around the military bases and the town of Alamogordo because of that risk. If you notice anything suspicious that could be terrorism-related, call 1-800-CALL-SPY to reach the U.S. Army Counterintelligence hotline.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Scammers can be hard to spot. In fact, even the Alamogordo city offices were scammed out of $250,000! While there's not a common tourist scam here, you want to watch for anyone being pushy to get money from you or making threats if you don't pay them money (like you'll be arrested if you don't pay for this ticket right now!). The risk is low, but keep it low by staying informed on common scammer tactics from the Better Business Bureau.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women have a low risk here, the same as everyone else. The town has a lot of great places for mothers or groups of women to enjoy. You will need to know wilderness safety skills to enjoy your time outdoors.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The city's latest Water Quality Report is from 2021, but all requirements were met or exceeded. No violations were incurred. The town does have a water conservation plan you can review in the document posted online. Simple things like turning off the water while you brush your teeth or taking a shower that is five minutes or shorter will really help this drought-stricken area.
Safest Places to Visit in Alamogordo
The official tourism site for the region is Alamodordonmtrue.com.
If you have an iOS device, you can download an app with all the tourism website information on your mobile device.
The tourism bureau also releases a monthly newsletter.
While you can sign up to get them via email, you can also read the most recent versions online without having to give personal information.
To address the big nuclear weapon in the room, here’s what you can see at the White Sands Missile Range, and they both require a bit of driving:
- Trinity Test Site: Tour the grounds where the first nuclear device was detonated in 1945. See the obelisk marking the blast’s epicenter and walk the crater’s radioactive green glass called Trinitite, only available to see two days a year.
- White Sands Missile Range Museum: Go through base security to visit this museum 50 miles from Alamogordo. Explore top-secret rocket projects and America’s early space missions launched from this rugged desert base. Marvel at a V-2 rocket, the German technology that kickstarted the space race when it landed here in 1945.
White Sands National Park is just 15 minutes southeast, right next to the military base.
You can walk, sled, and explore the white sand dunes of this amazing spectacle.
Alamogordo has a nice collection of museums to explore in town, and there’s something for everyone:
- American Armed Forces Museum
- New Mexico Museum of Space History
- New Horizons Dome Theater and Planetarium
- Tulardoa Basin Museum of History
- Toy Train Depot Museum
- Shroud Exhibit and Museum
Alamogordo always offers a chance to see more than 300 animals at the Alameda Park Zoo.
This zoo opened in 1898 and is beloved in the community.
One of the highlights is the Mexican Gray Wolf facility, where you can learn about protecting this species from extinction.
You’ll go nuts for the world’s largest pistachio on the north side of town at McGinn’s PistachioLand.
You can shop at the store for pistachio brittle and pick up some famous New Mexican chile sauce while you’re there!
Farm tours are available to see how the pistachios have become such an important product here.
There’s also a wine-tasting room attached to the store.
Places to Avoid in Alamogordo
You won’t find dangerous neighborhoods here or bad parts of town, but always stick to the highways and main surface streets.
This is a small town, so there’s little risk of getting lost.
Also, avoid trying to sneak past the fence of the missile range.
You might think nobody is watching, but I promise you, they are, and you’ll get taken by federal authorities to be questioned.
I do have a list of things to avoid if you are visiting White Sands National Park.
- Don’t let your phone battery die. Use airplane mode to avoid draining it in the heat.
- Stay aware of your surroundings and path in the park. Your footprints in the sand will quickly disappear, and you won’t be able to follow your own trail back.
- If you get lost, go to the top of the nearest dune and wait there. Don’t try to find your way out. It’s safer to wait for someone to pass by to get help.
- Avoid going into the sand without a whistle, headlamp, mirror (for signaling for help in the sun), and a flashlight.
- Avoid hiking in the park if the temperature is going to be hotter than 85°(F).
- If you see clouds forming, a storm could develop. Get back to safety ASAP. Monsoon storms build very fast and can be quite intense.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Alamogordo
- Alamogordo has its own police department. You can call (575) 439-4300 with specific questions or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Facebook @AlamogordoPoliceDepartment for updates during your trip.
- The police department doesn’t have official crime data posted since 2020, but there is a Weekly Activity Log posted on its website where you can learn more about trending crimes. The previous weeks are also available.
- Use the Notify Me function on the city’s website to sign up for emailed notifications about emergencies, safety concerns or other important information. You can pick and choose which categories are important to you. I’d recommend the Alert Center options.
- If you’ll be using Z Transit to get around, download the ETA SPOT app to get live updates on bus locations. You must have the exact change to board the bug. Read the “Rider’s Guide” before you choose to rely on that mode of transportation while you’re here.
- Do not take any sand, rocks, artifacts, or fossils you find in any wilderness area or national park. It’s a federal crime. You should report any perceived fossil to the park rangers. As more of a motivation to leave things alone, there could be unexploded ordnances buried in the sand. Definitely report one of those to park rangers, even if it just looks like a piece of metal.
- If you want to visit the museum at White Sands Missile Range, you’ll need to present your passport and visa and go through a background check. You won’t be able to take a car on the base if you are not a U.S. citizen, but the walk to the museum is only five minutes.
- From time to time, testing on the base will mean road closures in the area. You can call (575)-678-1178 to find out about the current roadblocks.
- Windy weather is common here, especially in the spring. Put those COVID masks to good use, or bring something to shield your eyes, nose, and mouth from dust storms. If you are driving and a dust storm is approaching, get off the road as soon as possible, even if it means pulling over on the shoulder. Visibility can be near zero during these events.
- One of the biggest safety questions in Alamogordo continues to be, “Is this area radioactive?” While the EPA goes into detail about this, and I won’t go down the rabbit hole, there is no level of radioactivity that should prevent you from visiting here. Even pieces of Trinitie, which were formed during the blast, are still in the desert and sold at some local shops as souvenirs. They do not pose a danger to handle. (They are illegal to dig up, however. You can buy them. You just can’t hunt for them.)
- If you’re like me, you might kick off your shoes and drop your coat as you walk into the hotel room. Anytime you take off your shoes or leave your clothing on the ground, you should shake them before putting them on. This is to make sure that a scorpion or spider hasn’t moved in, enjoying the cool, dark space. I haven’t lived in the desert for 10 years, but I still always shake my shoes before wearing them after I found a bark scorpion in my boot one day.
So... How Safe Is Alamogordo Really?
Alamogordo police haven’t posted valid crime data since 2020, and even that year’s data doesn’t look very reliable.
Even considering the pandemic year, the crime drop from 2019 was just too low for me to trust it.
I can tell you that Alamogordo is ranked as one of the top 10 safest cities in New Mexico.
The presence of White Sands Missile Range and the AFB means there’s a lot of security within the community beyond law enforcement.
This is also a big tourist destination, so that brings an additional sense of safety, since the economy relies on enjoyable travelers’ experiences.
On the flip side, a big tourist destination also means a potential for thieves looking for a crime of opportunity.
You can keep your risk low here by following a few basic safety steps:
- Always lock your car doors when you park.
- Do not leave anything in your car that is of value.
- Don’t store valuables in the trunk when you reach a destination. Thieves could see you doing that.
- Use hotel room safes and deadbolts for extra security.
- Bring a wallet, purse, or backpack that is hard to access for pickpockets. There are a lot of great sights where you might be distracted.
Even in the years with the highest crime rates between 2011 and 2020, the violent crime rate was still at the national average and half the New Mexico average.
You should also know desert survival skills and how to stay hydrated and protected from the intense sun to make the trip as safe and fun as possible.
How Does Alamogordo Compare?
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- Visas - The first step any international visitor should take is to see if they are eligible through the Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA). This would allow for a visa waiver instead of going through the whole visa process. A valid passport is also required.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the currency of the land, and nothing else will be accepted. Exchange currency in your home country or at a bank where you are a customer. You'll get lower fees. There is no currency exchange option at Albuquerque's airport.
- Weather - This part of New Mexico has extreme swings in temperatures in summer, with highs near triple digits and lows in the 60s (F). Winter highs can reach the 60s, but the lows will get near or below freezing. Bring layers of clothing, even in summer, to protect your skin from the sun. Sunglasses, several hats, and sunscreen will help with the effects of the sun on your skin and eyes.
- Airports - Alamogordo's airport does not have commercial flights. You're closest to El Paso's international airport, which is 90 minutes southeast. Albuquerque's airport is three and a half hours away, but there's a beautiful desert landscape along that route.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a smart idea when you're visiting a place this rural and with so many potential weather issues. If you're renting a car, have full coverage in case you get in an accident with an uninsured person.
Alamogordo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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