New Mexico : Safety by City
- Elephant Butte
- Las Cruces
- Los Alamos
- Red River
- Rio Rancho
- Santa Fe
- Silver City
- Truth or Consequences
Tucumcari, New Mexico, sits on a lonely stretch of highway, almost halfway between Amarillo and Albuquerque.
From the highway, you might not see much worth stopping for, but once we take this closer look, you’ll see it’s worth the exit.
Tucumcari (“TWO-Come-carry”) is part of the historic Route 66 corridor that went from Chicago to Los Angeles.
The history of this land goes back much further, with dinosaur fossils unearthed from back in the day when prehistoric hunters tracked down mammoths.
Native Americans later lived off this land, using the mesa top to ambush cattle drivers.
That led to the naming of the town, which is taken from the Camanche word “tukanukaru,” meaning “to lie in wait.”
It is the remote location that actually put the town on maps as a much-needed rest stop on the dusty road.
Then the railroad came, which also turned Tucumcari into a Wild West town that once was nicknamed Six Shooter Siding.
Today, Tucumcari is a town of 5,200 people, all ready to share the history and highlights of the region with travelers from around the world.
Pixar fans might recognize some of the places we’re going to discuss as we go.
That’s because Route 66, and Tucumcari especially, was an inspiration for the movie Cars.
Warnings & Dangers in Tucumcari
OVERALL RISK : LOW
As far as I can tell from some in-depth research, there's a low risk here. Crime data hasn't been available since 2016, and even news stories about crimes in Tucumcari are hard to find. With so many touristy things to do, there are certain to be plenty of safe places to explore.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need a car here, as Tucumcari is remote and doesn't have a public transportation system. There are some cabs and rideshare options, but you still need to get there. Greyhound buses do have a route to the town, but the train service is long gone.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
You can expect a low risk, but you should also take the necessary steps to protect your belongings as you would in any tourist town.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk as storms throughout the year can cause problems in town and on the interstate. High winds, flash flooding, severe thunderstorms, and wildfires are the biggest risks. Quay County has an emergency management plan you can review online.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
This is another low risk, but I can only say that with the knowledge that I can't find evidence of any muggings in news research. Between 2002 and 2016, the city didn't have more than five robberies in one year.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a low risk as this is just such a remote location. Terrorists are usually looking for large populations and national treasures to target. You can always review the overall concerns of terrorism in America on the Homeland Security website.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There have been a few scam reports here in the past few years, but all target residents. On the off chance someone sends you a check to cash, you should know there's no free money just handed out here. Report it immediately.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
I've driven this route several times as a solo woman. Since my car was stocked with an emergency kit and I knew highway safety for driving around semi-trucks, I felt no risk. Use extra caution at gas stations around the interstate, as that might be the most likely spot for transient drivers to look for a crime of opportunity.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows a clean bill of health. The water utility made the statement, "Local Water vigilantly safeguards its water supplies and, once again, we are proud to report that our system has not violated a maximum contaminant level or any other water quality standard."
Safest Places to Visit in Tucumcari
Visit Tucumcari is the name of the tourism website for this region.
You can always tell how well a city treats tourists by the robust nature of the tourist site.
There’s also a tourist guide you can download without having to give personal information.
It’s important to have a map of Tucumcari because it’s not a town where all of the attractions are downtown.
In fact, Route 66 is a separate road from Main Street.
Stroll down Historic Route 66.
Walk along Tucumcari’s stretch of the iconic Mother Road and take in the vintage neon signs like the Blue Swallow Motel.
Pop into souvenir shops and diners along the way.
Even if you’re just driving through, it’s worth the detour down Historic Route 66 to see the dozens of murals along the way.
There’s a mural map checklist on the tourism site.
You can also listen to the Tucumcari Talking Tour, which is available through your car radio system (1640AM), and it will guide you through all the highlights of the town.
This is a particularly safe option if you’re visiting on a hot summer day.
Explore the Odeon Theatre in the downtown historic district.
Take a tour of this historic 1300-seat theater that opened in the late 1920s and was once considered a premiere theater.
The Mesalands Dinosaur Museum has more than 200 life-size dinosaur skeleton replicas, real fossils, and hands-on exhibits.
The gem and mineral collection is also impressive.
Other museums include the Tucumcari Historical Museum and the Tucumcari Railroad Museum.
Take the mile hike up Tucumcari Mountain to see why this was such an ideal place for Native Americans to lie in wait.
In a much less violent historical note, this mountain also inspired the Radiator Springs mountain in the Pixar movie Cars.
Trek over a mile up this peak for panoramic views of Tucumcari and the eastern plains.
The moderate trail takes about 2 hours round-trip.
Tucumcari Lake is a great place to beat the summer heat by boating, fishing, paddle boarding or swimming just outside of town.
If you pick just one souvenir shop, make it Tee Pee Curios.
This roadside souvenir stand is shaped like a giant teepee along I-40.
Grab Route 66 memorabilia and kitschy gifts inside.
Places to Avoid in Tucumcari
You don’t need to worry about bad parts of town or dangerous neighborhoods here.
The town is small, and the streets are easily laid out to navigate to see all the prime tourist spots.
One thing to note is that Tucumcari’s downtown can look a little worn down and blighted.
That’s because part of it is.
The extreme desert temperatures have taken their toll.
What the town lacks in charm, it more than makes up for in history.
In addition, we are very lucky that the town leaders didn’t raze the old buildings and put up new developments.
We’d lose a critical piece of Americana in the process.
There are several ghost towns near Tucumcari:
- Nara Visa
When you are visiting these towns, please just take photos and not any mementos.
Use caution when you’re walking around, as there is little to no maintenance done (hence the name “ghost town”).
Also, bring plenty of water with you, as dehydration can set in quickly in the desert, even in winter.
Make sure you have a spare tire that is inflated and an emergency supply kit.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Tucumcari
- Tucumcari does have its own police department. As of June 2023, the social media site (Facebook) was shut down, but you can call with any questions you have. That number is (575) 461-216.
- Use Nixle to get emergency alerts and other safety information during your visit to Tucumcari and Quay County. For specific information about natural hazards, call emergency management at (575) 461-8535.
- Use NM Roads to check road conditions along I-40. If there is an interstate closure, you won’t have easy detours to take. It’s better to know about the challenges ahead before you leave Tucumcari than to sit in traffic.
- When you are out in the wilderness, it is against federal law to take any fossils you find. Please report anything you unearth to the local police or sheriff’s office.
- Look at the schedule of annual events on the tourism website. This will either help you plan a trip while one of these events is happening or avoid the crowds that could lead to hotels selling out.
- Severe storms can be quite brutal in this part of New Mexico. In June 2023, a storm brought large hail that damaged a lot of neon signs. If you are on the road when a hailstorm is in the forecast, get off the road and look for a covered area to park. Hail can shatter a windshield quickly. NEVER park under a highway overpass during a hailstorm.
- New Mexico is known for its chiles, and if you aren’t familiar with the heat levels, you should ask before ordering. I have a horribly sensitive palette to heat (even pepper burns my mouth), so I always have to ask, “How hot is that chile?” When in doubt, order a glass of milk to dull the burn.
- While winter weather isn’t all that common here, a big storm can shut down the interstate between Amarillo and ABQ. You simply have to stay weather aware here.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the New Mexico Department of Fish & Game. You can purchase it online ahead of time. Just be sure to carry the license with you at all times.
- The biggest wildlife threats here are cougars and mountain lions. While most of the time, they will leave you alone; it’s important you don’t try to bait them or feed them. If you see an animal acting aggressively, call the police.
So... How Safe Is Tucumcari Really?
It’s unfortunate that Tucumcari Police don’t release official crime data annually because, from what I can tell, it would paint a good picture.
As with any town that draws in a lot of tourists, you should use standard cautions, such as:
- Always lock your car doors, even if you’re just going into a shop for a few minutes.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car in plain sight.
- Limit what you carry with you to the bare necessities.
- Avoid any part of town where you don’t need to be. That includes driving through random neighborhoods or on private rural property.
The weather here can be rough, but every risk comes with plenty of warning.
It’s just a matter of you staying informed while you’re traveling.
Highway signs will show certain risks but shouldn’t be relied upon to get the latest information about severe weather warnings.
After diving into several years of news stories related to crime, the biggest headlines I saw involved a pack of dogs killing a man walking down the street.
The owners were facing charges.
There were some mental health issues between police and residents.
Of the shootings reported, all were among people who knew each other.
There’s no reason to avoid Tucumcari, but you should realize how remote this region is.
Even if you’re passing through, don’t miss the chance to get gas or stock up on supplies.
How Does Tucumcari Compare?
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- Visas - All international visitors need a visa or visa waiver and a valid passport to get through Customs and Border Patrol at the airport or the Mexican border.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. Don't wait to get currency exchanged in Tucumcari. Your home bank will offer the lowest fees. Credit cards are widely accepted in this town.
- Weather - New Mexico can have extreme weather, with highs in triple digits in the summer and lows below freezing in the winter. Bring layers of clothing and plan to get dusty. The winds and dust of this region can easily clog a camera lens or get ground into your mobile phone if you don't have protection. Sunscreen and sunglasses are very helpful.
- Airports - Albuquerque International Sunport is the closest major airport. That's about two and a half hours away.
- Travel Insurance - You should have travel insurance that covers the rental car you're driving, emergency roadside assistance, health care emergencies, and any items lost during the trip.
Tucumcari Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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