New Mexico : Safety by City
- Elephant Butte
- Las Cruces
- Los Alamos
- Red River
- Rio Rancho
- Santa Fe
- Silver City
- Truth or Consequences
Los Alamos is a unique destination that offers a mix of natural beauty, scientific intrigue, and outdoor adventure, surrounded by the red rock-filled Jemez Mountains.
This is where the top-secret Manhattan Project developed the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II, which is why the town’s nickname is “Atomic City.”
The Los Alamos History Museum and Bradbury Science Museum provide fascinating insights into the town’s pivotal role in ending the war.
It’s also home to the National Park Service’s Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
Los Alamos is still a National Laboratory, adhering to strict security protocols.
Keep reading to find out how you can get a tour “behind the fence.”
Beyond atomic history, Los Alamos also appeals to nature lovers.
The incredible rock formations and hiking trails of nearby Bandelier National Monument and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument showcase the area’s remarkable geology.
Outdoor enthusiasts can also go camping, fishing, mountain biking, and skiing in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Despite its remote location, the town has a vibrant downtown district dotted with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and performance art.
Visitors will also enjoy Los Alamos’ scenic drives with views of red and orange mesas, canyons, and mountains, as well as its diverse museums covering science, history, nature, and art.
With its beautiful natural setting, a wealth of recreational activities, and world-class museums, Los Alamos offers an exceptional New Mexico experience unlike anywhere else in the state.
Warnings & Dangers in Los Alamos
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here, with plenty of things to do in a community that has historically low crime rates. Being the site of nuclear and radioactive weapons might be a little concerning, but we'll talk about the risks and rewards as we go.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Atomic City Transit is the bus system in the region. It takes people around town and to the laboratory site (for those who work there). Taxis and rideshares are available, but you'd be better off getting your own car since the costs of visiting rural areas will add up quickly.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
This is a low risk, but there isn't firm data offered about how many of the 58 thefts were car break-ins vs. pickpockets. Use all the standard caution, but there's not an overwhelming problem here with pickpocketing or purse snatching.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Wildfires are the biggest risk and happen far too often. Winter storms can be treacherous but come with plenty of warnings. Even routine summer thunderstorms can pose lightning strike dangers (which can also cause wildfires). Heavy rain and flash flooding are another danger. It's a medium risk here, and you must stay weather aware.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The area usually has 1-2 robberies a year, but there were none in 2021 and 2022. That's a low risk. You've got a better chance of a bear coming after your backpack with unsecured food in it.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
With a nuclear national laboratory, there's going to be a high risk of a terrorist group WANTING to attack here. However, there's a low risk they'll get the chance with all the security this area gets. The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) website has all the information you need to know about safety and risks.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk if you stay informed. The police department will release current scams, like someone posing as an officer demanding money or else you'll be arrested. Avoid any deal that seems too good to be true, and don't offer personal information to anyone who calls or texts you if you didn't initiate the communication.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
This is another low risk with a safe town and plenty of security and law enforcement. The risks do go up in the wilderness if you aren't prepared or plan on adventuring alone. Go with a group if you can, and always let someone know where you are going with the expected return time.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations, making this a low risk. Any urgent issues, like a water main break, would be communicated through emergency notification systems or social media.
Safest Places to Visit in Los Alamos
VisitLosAlamos.org is the official tourism website for the region.
Check out the maps and brochures section, as it goes well beyond just a single tourist guide.
You can get trail maps, an orientation guide, and even a list of tours.
The first thing to know when driving to Los Alamos is that you’ll take a beautiful section of road that twists and turns as it rises up the mountains before descending into the valley.
Of course, this seclusion was needed when the “Top Secret” government operation was first started.
Walk through downtown and see the shops, restaurants, and historic sites.
Use the Los Alamos Main Street website to find walking tour maps and events happening during your visit.
You can learn more about the town’s atomic history by visiting the Bradbury Science Center and the Los Alamos History Museum Campus.
There’s also a self-guided “Atomic City Spy Tour” you can download from the app stores to learn about all the secret ways the town operated during the Manhattan Project.
If you want to learn more about the plants and animals of this region, visit the Los Alamos Nature Center.
Pajarito Mountain is a four-season destination with summer hiking and biking trails and a winter ski resort.
Los Alamos proudly touts that it is the gateway to three national parks.
- Bandelier National Monument: See cliffside dwellings from Ancestral Pueblos among 33,000 acres of preserved land.
- Valles Caldera National Preserve: See the “geologic gem” left behind from a volcano eruption more than a million years ago.
- Manhattan Project National Historical Park: This park also includes two other locations in the nation. One in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the other in Hanford, Washington.
Places to Avoid in Los Alamos
Los Alamos doesn’t have bad neighborhoods or dangerous parts of town, but you should still stay out of any neighborhood where you don’t have friends or relatives.
Sticking to the main streets is always the safest route.
With so many places here named “Los Alamos,” it can be easy to get the actual laboratory confused with the National Park Service site or other safe areas.
You cannot get into the National Laboratory without prior approval and registration on a guided tour.
These tours are only available to U.S. residents who are 18 or older and have valid U.S. identification.
Please look for the “Behind the Fence Tours” on the NPS or laboratory websites to get the full list of requirements and tour dates.
You should also avoid making any jokes about bombs or nuclear weapons.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is embarking on its latest iteration of defense systems due to the conflict in Ukraine.
There is no tolerance for “I was just joking” here.
At a minimum, you’ll get a visit from some very unhappy military officers.
If you have any concerns about the potential for radioactivity in this area because of the national laboratory, you can review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website to see the Los Alamos section with updated health and safety information.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Los Alamos
- Los Alamos has a police department that covers the county and the town (which is technically a Census Designated Place). You can email with specific questions using firstname.lastname@example.org or call (505) 662-8222.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts to get emergency notifications while you’re visiting this area. You can either enroll online or get the app. In the car, you can tune into AM 1610 (WQFJ 525).
- Use the Los Alamos Fire Department website and social media pages to get updates on fire restrictions. These can severely limit any kind of outdoor burning, even charcoal or wood grills.
- NM Wildfire Info is the name of the website where you can track wildfire activity. Don’t ever assume, because a fire looks far away, that it won’t be near you. Shifting winds can change the behavior of a fire quickly or carry embers several miles to start a new fire.
- It’s important while you’re hiking or spending time outdoors that you do a full-body scan for ticks after each outing. Ticks can carry Lyme Disease. Be sure to remove the entire tick, focus on the head and then disinfect the area.
- Don’t feed any wildlife in this area. You could be inadvertently attracting bears and deer. If that isn’t enough of a warning for you, animals that become accustomed to human food can be rejected by their families and end up having to be put down.
- Carry bear spray in the wilderness each and every time you go. Wear it on your hip and only use it if a bear attack is imminent.
- Give yourself time to acclimate to the higher altitude here if you’re from a lower altitude place. I always test my limits by going for a run or doing a short workout to see if I get short of breath. A person will usually acclimate within two days.
- You can submit a crime tip through the police department’s website. Even if it’s just suspicious activity, you should still report it. This isn’t an alternative to calling 911 during an emergency.
- Avoid land that has been scarred by recent wildfires, including the Cerro Pelado Fire Area, until the land is open again to visitors. Scarred land is given years to repair itself, and the land left behind is more prone to flash flooding.
So... How Safe Is Los Alamos Really?
New Mexico, as a whole, can get a bad reputation for having a lot of crime, but that’s not the case in Los Alamos.
First of all, the police department is completely transparent about crime data, which is a novelty among the many other cities in the state.
Then we see not only are all crime categories well below state and national averages, but those numbers have consistently been going down since 2011.
For example, in 2011, Los Alamos had more than 200 thefts.
In 2022, that number was 58.
Even when you look at crime categories that were “up 200%” between 2021 and 2022, the context is most important, since that means that sexual assaults went from zero to two.
Then you see that the police department is still growing its arsenal of safety tools, like the new high-tech mobile surveillance vehicle that can go where crimes are happening.
“The mobility of this camera allows us to move it to any area where we see a need for extra surveillance,” Deputy Chief Oliver Morris said.
“This is assisting us in our investigation into the recent rash of catalytic converter thefts.
We also have additional tools we are seeking contract approval for right now that will enhance even more our crime prevention capabilities.”
Los Alamos also has plenty of government workers and Department of Defense officers, so this is one of the most secure places in the country due to the potential risks.
How Does Los Alamos Compare?
- Visas - Citizens of Visa Waiver countries only need ESTA approval. Others need visitor visas issued in advance. A valid passport that doesn't expire within six months is required. Check the U.S. State Department for Visa processing and wait times.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Exchange currency before you get to this small town. You will get the lowest fees at your home bank. Using a credit card provides the best fraud protection.
- Weather - Since Los Alamos is more than 7,300 feet above sea level, the weather won't get as hot as in other parts of New Mexico. Pack layers of clothing. Wear your hiking shoes before you go to break them in. Bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
- Airports - Albuquerque International Sunport is the largest airport in the region. You'll drive about 75 miles to get there. Santa Fe has a regional airport with service provided by only one airline.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance that covers your transportation, health, and adventures will be the most beneficial. If you're traveling with a group, see if you can get a group rate that is less expensive than individual plans.
Los Alamos Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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