Colorado : Safety by City
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Cue up the Dixie Chicks’ song “Wide Open Spaces” to set the tone for Alamosa, Colorado.
This is simultaneously in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything.
If you look at Alamosa and just see a Walmart and a university, you aren’t looking closely enough or wide enough.
Alamosa itself isn’t going to impress the cowboy hat off your head in this Southwestern watering hole, but when you look around it, you’ll see it’s a great center of some natural, manmade, spiritual, and downright comical attractions.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is a 30-minute drive away.
By day, you see sweeping sights of sand dunes bending to the mercy of the wind with the landscape behind it dotted with snowcapped mountains.
By night, you see the glory of the skies with absolutely no city lights impacting the incredible views.
There’s even a place to search those skies for UFOs.
You can chill in the hot springs or stop by the alligator farm.
You could hunt and fish in a place where nobody could find you if you don’t come back.
You could hide away at a remote waterfall and just let the ASMR soothe your soul.
You can even visit a modern-day Calvary with the 15 stations of the Cross in a historic town.
If you truly need to get away, this is the getaway for you.
Warnings & Dangers in Alamosa
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk. Nearly 70% of violent crimes happen in homes. It's a town designed for tourists but it doesn't roll out the red carpet. It's just a nice trip to a different era and a slower pace of life.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
A local bus service cleverly named the Bustang can take you to a few places in town and then around this incredibly outdoor region. Some routes will take you to Denver as well. You're going to have a hard time finding a taxi or rideshare. It's best to have a car here and make sure it has 4-wheel drive or AWD. It's low risk when riding public transportation, but you won't be able to go on your own schedule.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a one in 29 risks of being a theft victim here, but just one pickpocket was reported in 2020, so there's a low risk. Almost half of the thefts were shoplifting.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Alamosa is about as cold as you can get in Colorado in the winter and snowstorms happen frequently. Even snowstorms in other parts of the state can close access roads to Alamosa. Warmer months bring wildfire dangers. There's a medium risk, especially if you've never worried about wildfire before. 337 wildfires burned in the state in 2021.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Just seven robberies were reported in 2021 and two of them were in public places, so there's a low risk.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This isn't a hard target and I doubt a single terrorist group out there could find Alamosa on a map. It's a very low risk here.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
It seems like every town has the same scams with someone calling a resident and demanding money for a warrant, an unpaid utility bill, etc. Those are the common scams here and there's a low risk of a tourist getting scammed.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should feel safe here, but it is a rather rugged town with a lot of wide-open space to get lost in if you don't have the right equipment. Prepare for your travels ahead of time and I'd suggest not walking around after dark by yourself. Stick to the main roads and don't go wandering through unknown neighborhoods.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
All of the samples taken for the 2021 Water Quality Report show no violations and they meet or exceed standards. There's a low risk in the water and it's safe to use for drinking or bathing.
Safest Places to Visit in Alamosa
Alamosa is, by design, a transportation and supply core for the San Luis Valley.
It was not made to have things to do in town, but to explore the magical world of nature ( OK, and some paranormal) around it.
That said, start at the San Luis Valley Museum in town.
You’ll get a look at the history of this remote area and all the people who walked it before you.
It will also help plan the rest of your trip.
Be one of the half a million people a year who see the Great Sand Dunes.
Here you’ll find the tallest dunes nationwide, but there are still mountains and forests to explore throughout the 230 miles of land.
I highly recommend the National Park website as it details what to expect month by month.
This park is also a certified International Dark Sky Park, meaning stargazing is phenomenal here.
Zapata Falls is a public place, but it can feel like a private gem you found on your own because it’s so secluded.
From the second you park your car with sweeping views of the sand dunes, through the hike to get you to the falls, you’ll fall more in love with mother nature as you go.
There are four locations where you can enjoy the hot springs around Alamosa, and each offers a different experience, but they all offer the legendary healing waters from deep in the earth.
Imagine the surprise of 1930s drillers looking for oil but instead unearthed hot water.
Their disappointment is now your luxury.
Travel 40 miles to San Luis where you can see the 15 Stations of the Cross through monuments.
For those who aren’t Catholic, the stations represent the path to Jesus dying on the cross and his resurrection.
There’s more hiking and exploring to be done in San Luis, but this is the main attraction.
For those who believe in a different type of event in the heavens above, check out the UFO Watchtower.
It’s in Hooper and offers a 360-degree view of the valley.
The website for it looks like something designed the day after the Internet was founded, so right away you know this is nothing fancy.
The watchtower is really a rise about 20 feet off the ground where you can sit and watch the sky with a cold beer or cup of water.
Camping is allowed and there’s a $5 per-car fee.
You can even see the remains of an animal killed in an “other worldly” event.
Last, but not least, there’s the Colorado Gators Reptile Park.
No, alligators aren’t commonly found here, but the owners bought 100 baby gators in 1987 to help eat some of the waste from their fish-processing farm.
Curious neighbors wanted to see the alligators and now it’s a full-fledged roadside attraction.
Places to Avoid in Alamosa
Alamosa really isn’t big enough to have a good side or bad side of town.
The crime maps show a balance of crime spread out across the main part of the city and the outskirts with very low crime rates.
Avoid looking for the once-popular Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.
It closed down in 2019, but a lot of tourism sites and even the city website still have a link to a dead link that once held that information.
If you are visiting here but trying to stay connected to work or friends, let your colleagues know you might not have good mobile service during the drive from city to city.
There might be WiFi at some businesses you visit, but in the parks, you’ll have a slim chance of getting service.
Bring a hot spot if you can’t unplug (but you should really find a way to unplug).
Safety Tips for Traveling to Alamosa
- When visiting the dunes in the warmer months, always wear closed-toe shoes. The sand can get up to 150°(F) in summer and easily burn feet. Even sandals will expose the tops of feet to second-degree burns.
- Don’t dig deep holes in the dunes. This isn’t like a beach where you can build a sandcastle. A hole in the dune can collapse and trap a person if they aren’t careful.
- Blowing sand can also be dangerous. The reason the sand dunes even exist is because of strong crosswinds that prevent the sand from blowing one way or another. I once walked on a beach while a hurricane was offshore, and I wore Capri pants. The sand blowing on my calves literally scraped away my skin like sandpaper. It’s incredibly painful for weeks.
- When visiting at night, there are absolutely no lights provided by the park service. Try to bring a flashlight with a red bulb or use a red gel filter over the flashlight. This helps you see a path without impacting other people from seeing the night skies.
- Alamosa is at 7500 feet above sea level and the elevation only goes up from there. This means altitude sickness can set in. It generally starts with shortness of breath and a painful headache like you’ve never experienced before. Drink plenty of water throughout your stay and give yourself a day or two to acclimate to the higher elevation before going higher.
- The road to Zapata Falls is not for the faint of heart. It has a lot of steep drops and can be quite bumpy from wear and tear. In the winter it is still accessible, but you’ll need a high clearance vehicle and plenty of patience. However, it’s worth it to see the falls frozen in all their splendor.
- There are a lot of bicyclists in Alamosa and Colorado law considers bicyclists to be the same as vehicles when it comes to obeying traffic laws. That means stopping at a red light, coming to a full stop at stop signs before proceeding, and giving the right of way to pedestrians.
- Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, but you can’t just walk down the street smoking a doobie. (Do people still say Doobies? Am I dating myself?) You can use marijuana in private homes if the owner or landlord says it’s okay. That’s a really watered-down version of the law, but be sure you study it before you go if you wish to take part in recreational use.
- You’ll need a fishing license if you want to catch some fish in Colorado and your home state or country fishing license won’t suffice. Go to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website to buy yours. A five-day pass is $33 and a one-day license is $18.
- For the love of God and all that is holy – lock your car doors and take your belongings inside. Leave nothing inside in plain sight. I worked in local newsrooms for 25 years and now I’ve been a travel safety writer for hundreds of stories and you know what always makes the top 3 concerns for crime in every city? Thefts from cars that weren’t locked, had windows rolled down, or the keys were left inside.
So... How Safe Is Alamosa Really?
Alamosa is a tale of two statistical crime cities.
There are the actual numbers and then the context of the numbers.
- You have a one in 134 chance of being a victim of a violent crime, just looking at the numbers. That’s pretty high.
- Considering 50 of those were in homes and only two were against strangers, you have anywhere from a one in 426 risks or a one in 4902 risks.
Now let’s look at theft:
- Just looking at raw numbers, there’s a one in 26 risk of being a victim. Wow. That’s dangerous, eh?
- Taking out shoplifting, there’s now a one in 45 chance. Not great, but still better.
- Taking out shoplifting, car break-ins, and bicycle thefts, you’ve now got one in 70 chance.
- Looking at all thefts, but considering the estimated 283,000 people who travel here each year, there’s now a one in 791 chance.
You can see how easy it can be to twist the numbers on other websites saying “this is one of the most dangerous cities of its size,” but it’s really not.
This is a tourist city that needs the flow of people coming in to keep it safe.
There have only been five homicides here since 2010 and all of them have been solved.
There’s also going to be a crime in every community.
Alamosa isn’t a place where people go looking for trouble, but it’s also not so remote it avoids trouble.
Follow basic safety steps and you’ll be safe in Alamosa and surrounding areas.
How Does Alamosa Compare?
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
When you arrive in the United States, by air, or when you cross the border, you'll have the visa checked there. You won't need processing between cities and states.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. Park passes, many attractions and licenses can be purchased ahead of time online. It's a good idea to have some cash here, as some of the out-of-the-way attractions might only take cash, but don't carry a big wad of it around with you.
You'll need layers of winter clothing and waterproof boots to keep warm here. There is a lot to do in the winter wilderness, but if you don't dress correctly you could get frostbite. Summers can get hot, so you'll need loose, light-colored clothing. Bring sunscreen for any time of year due to the elevation and intensity of the sun.
The San Luis Valley Regional Airport is on the south side of Alamosa. You can also drive to Denver (4 hours), Albuquerque (3:30 hours), or Colorado Springs (3 hours) to find larger airports.
With the remote location and variable weather and winds in Alamosa, it's a good idea to get travel insurance.
Alamosa Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Colorado - Safety by City