New Mexico : Safety by City
- Elephant Butte
- Las Cruces
- Los Alamos
- Red River
- Rio Rancho
- Santa Fe
- Silver City
- Truth or Consequences
At first glance, Raton, New Mexico, looks like nothing more than a pit stop on a road trip between Denver and Albuquerque.
Raton is definitely worth a closer look.
It’s hard to imagine when you look across this rugged and steep terrain of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that this was once a main road for people in covered wagons.
Raton Pass is the highest point on the famed Santa Fe Trail.
Raton (“Rah-TONE”) was established as a railroad town in 1880, and those trains still take people from Chicago to Los Angeles to this day.
The fascinating parts of Raton are also off the beaten path, where you can walk a trail along the edge of a volcano and step onto the site of the asteroid that smashed into Earth, killing the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
With a downtown that grips Old West lifestyles and wilderness areas as stunning at night as they are in the daytime, Raton is a great destination with unique elements you can’t find anywhere else on Earth.
Warnings & Dangers in Raton
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Raton with many wonderful things to do, but you should always stay cognizant that this is a transient area with a lot of new people coming in and out, and the wilderness comes with its own set of risks.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
No public transportation system is available in Raton, but taxis and rideshares should be easy enough to find. You can arrive by train or car, and rental cars should be easy to find at your airport of choice.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, but it still warrants using smart personal safety steps to keep your stuff safe. Don't carry expensive stuff with you or leave valuables in plain sight in your car.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of some kind of severe weather throughout the year in Raton, but you have the added risk of elevation changes that experience different weather. It might be raining in Raton with blinding snow on the pass. Wildfires can be sparked by a small thunderstorm. Flash flooding is common when there is heavy rain. It's just important to stay aware of the weather. Even extreme heat can be dangerous for an unprepared hiker.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Raton averages fewer than six robberies a year, with most years seeing half that. It's never a low enough risk to let your guard down, but that shouldn't be one of your top concerns here.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is another low risk. When you're surrounded by millions of wilderness acres, it's pretty certain there isn't a risk of terrorism. Terrorists target high-profile locations with a lot of people and iconic landmarks.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The scam risk is low, but the potential for panhandlers is there. I love road-tripping, but it seems like every remote highway town has someone at the gas station with a sob story about how much they need just "a few bucks for gas." You can also check the New Mexico Attorney General's Office website for the most common scams.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
This is another low risk, but it's strongly recommended that you don't travel alone on the trails. If you are a solo traveler (as I usually am), let someone know where you are going and when you'll be back, and set up check-in times with friends. It's important to have a travel safety kit with a fully inflated spare tire and fluids to top off if your car breaks down. Bring a red garment to use as a flag if you get stuck.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
You can ask specific questions about water quality by calling the Raton Water Works supervisor at (575)445-3861. The 2021 Water Quality Report shows one violation but otherwise full compliance. The violation is explained, and the tap water was never posing a danger. The overall risk is low, but you must check for specific issues when you arrive.
Safest Places to Visit in Raton
Explore Raton is the name of the travel website for the city and region.
There’s a free tourist guide you can download without giving any personal information.
There are two areas that fall under the National Park Service, and those are Capulin Volcano National Monument, where you can walk along the edge of a volcano’s rim, and Goat Hill, which is part of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
The best information on those locations is on their respective NPS websites.
Learn more about the Santa Fe Trail at the Raton Museum, with many details about the mining history of the region.
A stop there will give you more knowledge to truly enjoy the surrounding historic district, filled with shops, restaurants, and Old West vibes.
Pick up a self-guided walking tour map while you’re at the museum and find your way to the murals created during the Great Depression.
Sugarite Canyon State Park is a pristine wilderness perfect for escaping into nature, whether you want to hike a mountain or enjoy a lakeside lunch.
Camping under the unfiltered night skies is another popular activity here.
Vermejo is a resort community on nearly 600,000 acres, but those who want to enjoy all the benefits should book a room here.
It’s a mix of wilderness, elegance, and history on a historic ranch once owned by Howard Hughes.
I want to back up to the Goat Hill attraction because there’s something more there than the historic Santa Fe Trail.
It’s also worth revisiting since a sign for the “Iridium Layer” probably won’t resonate unless you know what it means.
Without ruining too much of the story, this is what scientists believed an asteroid left behind when it smashed into the earth, killing the dinosaurs.
It’s on a line known as the KT Boundary.
This anomaly and several trails wind through the surrounding Climax Canyon Park.
Places to Avoid in Raton
Raton is a safe city with no dangerous neighborhoods or parts of town.
That’s a good thing, mostly because the town is too small to have a section to avoid.
If you’re traveling on I-25 in the winter, avoid starting your road trip without checking road conditions and the weather forecast.
The pass can be closed because of winter storms, whiteout conditions, or treacherous roads.
Raton is one of the cities that is usually a start or end point for the closure.
An Amtrak train goes through a tunnel on Raton Pass, but much of the surrounding area is private land, and you shouldn’t hike on it.
There is a scenic view with some historical information on the Colorado side, just one mile north of the New Mexico border.
Also, when you look at the map for Climax Canyon Park, there appear to be roads on the “Scenic Highway.”
This is not a highway for cars.
The road is gravel, rocks, and mud.
ATVs and hikers are welcome but don’t try to drive the highway.
Another thing to check on a map is Route 555/York Canyon Road.
It goes through miles of beautiful mountainous regions, but it doesn’t go through to the other side.
After 34 miles, it turns into a dirt road on private property.
The only reason you would take that road is to visit Vermejo.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Raton
- Raton has its own police department. The phone number is (575) 445-2704, and you can find them on Facebook @RatonPoliceDepartment. If you have an issue on the interstate and need law enforcement, that jurisdiction is the New Mexico State Police. Their Facebook account is @NMStatePolice.
- You can track road conditions in both states, but you’ll need two apps/websites. New Mexico has nmroads.com, and Colorado uses COTrip. For the easiest option, create accounts on each site and set up alerts for I-25.
- Sign up for Notify Me email alerts from the city online. You don’t have to opt into the full list. Looking at the options, I think Public Notices and the Alert Center should be sufficient.
- Use an app like IQ Air to check the air quality in the region. Wildfire smoke can drift from far away and cause the air quality to drop.
- If you plan to swim in any river or like, check the water quality alerts through the recreational areas website. I noticed when I was researching Sugarite Canyon State Park that there is a water quality alert at the park. Especially when it’s warm, bodies of water can have dangerous algae or bacteria.
- The Raton city website has a section where you can submit requests to fix dangerous issues, like potholes. You can also report graffiti for the city to clean up.
- As you drive over Raton Pass, the steepest grade is 6%. Please give semi-trucks time to make that climb, and don’t tailgate. If you are driving slowly, move into the right lane and let faster traffic pass.
- In any wilderness area, don’t take any fossils, rocks, or dirt. It’s against the law and violates the Leave No Trace principles of enjoying the great outdoors. If you think you found something rare, contact the local police or the governing body of the wilderness area to let them know.
- The New Mexico Department of Fish & Game issues fishing licenses. You can’t fish in any New Mexico waters without having a license. Feel free to purchase it online ahead of time, and always carry the license with you.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the Colfax County Emergency Management website. These critical alerts will let you know about severe or winter weather, wildfires, and other safety risks.
So... How Safe Is Raton Really?
Raton is one of many cities in New Mexico that hasn’t released official crime data since 2020.
I can tell you that historically, even at the highest crime rate of the past decade, the violent crime rate was less than half the national average.
Theft rates and car theft rates were half the national average as well up to 2020.
Even so, I’d still recommend using extra caution if you’re stopping for gas or shopping at a local store, since there is a lot of transient traffic off the interstate.
If you’re pumping gas, keep the doors locked and bring your purse, wallet, and mobile phone with you.
Thieves sometimes sneak into the passenger side door while someone is pumping gas to grab items.
You should also use the closest gas pump to the station, as they are least likely to have credit card skimming devices.
To bypass that risk, pay for the gas inside the station.
It’s important to keep track of the weather and road conditions in this remote stretch of New Mexico and into Colorado.
Since you’re in the mountains, those conditions can change with the elevation.
How Does Raton Compare?
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- Visas - Whether you're crossing the Mexican border into New Mexico or flying into a United States airport, you'll have to present either a visa or visa waiver with a valid passport that isn't within six months of expiring.
- Currency - Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here. As a small town, there won't be currency exchange options here. Look for a Travelex location near your airport of choice or get currency exchanged at your home bank, where the lowest fees are offered.
- Weather - Bring layers, sturdy shoes, and sun protection to handle Raton's varied mountain weather and outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and exploring historic sites. Temperatures can have wide swings from day to night throughout the year, and winters easily get below freezing at night.
- Airports - The remote location of Raton means you'll have a hefty road trip to get to a major commercial airport. Colorado Springs is 150 miles away, while Albuquerque is 230 miles away. Santa Fe and Pueblo (Colorado) have smaller airports, but they're pretty far away too. It's worth driving a little more to get to the larger airports.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance for your itinerary and health would be ideal. Since there will be a lot of time on the road, you want emergency roadside assistance insurance too.
Raton Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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