Railroad, Ranching, and Rockets

Sandwiched between the Sacramento Mountains and White Sands, Alamogordo, aka “Alamo,” is a community of contrasts. Founded as a railroad town, it has evolved dramatically over the last century, while simultaneously retaining its small-town charm. The dominance of the ranching industry at the turn of the century gave way to highly sensitive military training and weapons development during World War 2. Though ranching and rocketry are still core industries, the trains remain a ubiquitous presence. Their whistles are part of Alamogordo’s white noise, past and present.

A “Good” Western Town

Alamogordo was founded in 1898 by William Hawkins and two brothers from New York, Charles and John Eddy. Charles was one of the main investors in the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, a spur of the transcontinental railway, linking the east-west route to El Paso. The site was chosen based on the abundance of lumber in the Sacramento Mountains, a crucial commodity for railroad ties.

The Eddy brothers were determined to establish a “good” western town, one without the unbridled vice, drunkenness, and sin associated with the “Wild West.” Their first attempt was a settlement on the Pecos, called Eddy. They built irrigation systems, hotels, churches, schools, and parks, establishing a community based on principles of abstinence from alcohol, virtue and piety. It didn’t work out. Forbidding things only makes them more enticing. A strip of brothels and bars opened right outside of town. That became Carlsbad.

Alamogordo was their second attempt. They applied lessons learned in Carlsbad, allowing one saloon at Pennsylvania (present-day White Sands Blvd) and 10th Street. However, to prevent additional bars from opening, the deed to every lot of land sold included restrictions on the sale or production of alcohol. Those restrictions remained on the books into the 1980s, though the city adopted a more tolerant view of alcohol sales within city limits over the years.

Urban Planning in Territorial New Mexico

Alamogordo is a good example of early urban planning in the southwest. The Eddy brothers and William Hawkins laid the town out in a grid, with wide thoroughfares. East-west streets were assigned numbers, while north-south streets were named after states. The main strip, Pennsylvania Avenue, was eventually renamed White Sands Boulevard. John Eddy named the settlement Alamogordo based on a grove of fat cottonwoods he remembered from the banks of the Pecos. The river is 130-miles away from Alamogordo. I’m not sure why white sand didn’t factor into the naming. It must have been a very impressive copse of cottonwoods.

They prioritized education from inception, establishing a public school in a tent, prior to the existence of permanent structures. The court was in the same tent, so classes were canceled when court was in session. At the time, a significant percentage of the residents were tuberculosis patients, seeking a cure in the hot, dry climate.

Commerce and Cattlemen

The railroad propelled numerous New Mexico communities into the 20th century, rapidly accelerating the transition from frontier life to modern life. The route chosen for the transcontinental railway, and various spurs, gave birth to some towns, brought fortune to others, and heralded collapse or stagnation for more remote communities. Trains provided a steady, reliable supply line. They connected southern New Mexico to more populated communities in the east, attracting entrepreneurs, investors, opportunists, prospectors, gamblers, ranchers, cattle rustlers, and homesteaders. Land with reliable water and good grazing land was quickly snapped up, with cattle ranches peppering the basin to provide beef to Fort Stanton. However, the agricultural focus shifted rapidly when the United States entered WW2.

Military in the Modern Era

Alamogordo has been a hub for the military since 1942, the year that construction was initiated on the Alamogordo Air Field, which is the military facility that evolved into Holloman Air Force Base. It was built as a training center for allied pilots from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. By the time the installation was ready to be put into service, the mission changed due to the war escalating in Europe. Throughout WW2, bomber crews trained for active service overseas. In fact, the training targets are still out in the desert, readily visible from the air.

After World War II, the base shifted gears again, becoming a research and development facility for the USAF missile program. Missiles developed at Holloman include the first Army rocket, the Tiny Tim, the Rascal, the Falcon, the MGM-13 Mace, the MGM-1 Matador, and the AGM-45 Shrike. Military systems developed at Holloman include inertial guidance systems, radar target scattering research, and target drone systems.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History tells the story of the nation’s aerospace programs and the role that Alamogordo played, in the past and present. It is one of 52 stops on New Mexico’s Space Trail. Collectively, they tell the story of New Mexico’s contribution to space and technology, from ancient times into the future.

Alamogordo Today

Today, Alamogordo is the largest town in the Tularosa Basin, with a population of around 32,000. It is definitely a military town. A significant portion of Alamogordo’s population lives there due to Holloman Air Force base, whether currently enlisted or retired.

Furthermore, Alamogordo is an outstanding place to establish base camp to explore the Tularosa Basin and Sacramento Mountains. It is a small town with ample amenities in terms of dining and lodging. Though White Sands National Park is the biggest attraction in terms of travel and tourism (and impressive), it isn’t the only attraction by far.

Basin & Range Scenic Byway

Alamogordo Visitor Center

1376 East Ninth Street
Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 439-4100


White Sands Balloon & Music Festival

Visit Alamogordo in to watch colorful hot air balloons waft over the white dunes of White Sands National Park. The annual event is usually the first or second weekend of September.

Sunrise at White Sands
Sunrise at White Sands National Park, Alamogordo’s most popular and well known tourist destination.

Things to See & Do

Sunflowers outside of High Rolls New Mexico
September sunflowers outside of High Rolls, New Mexico.
Alameda Zoo

The Alameda Zoo is one of the oldest in the Southwest. They specialize in rehabilitating injured wildlife, including participation in the reintroduction of the Mexican Wolf. Home to nearly 300 animals representing 90 species, the 12-acre complex offers an education center, picnic area, playground and gift shop that’s perfect for families and visitors of all ages. Open daily 9am to 5pm.

1321 N. White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM
(575) 439-4290

Desert Lakes Golf Course

Year-round course features four sets of tees for golfers of all levels. The tree-lined front nine has a parkland-style layout highlighting large greens with subtle undulations. The back nine, or “desert nine,” is cut out of dramatic southern New Mexico desert and the course includes numerous water hazards.

2351 Hamilton Rd. Alamogordo, NM
(575) 437-0290La Luz PotteryLa Luz Pottery Tour

The La Luz Pottery Factory is a 235-acre property in La Luz New Mexico, the oldest community in the Tularosa Basin. Built-in 1930 by the wealthy New England industrialist Roland Hazard, the factory created over 90 styles of pottery that were actively collected around the world before it closed in 1949. Tours of the property are available through the Tularosa Basin Museum of History on two Saturdays per month.

For more options, check out the Basin & Range Scenic Byway, a day-trip that showcases the diverse scenery of the Basin & Range province, with ample stops to keep you busy for a day (or more).

Flickinger Center for Performing Arts

1110 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 437-2202 | info@flickingercenter.com

With local roots in the New Mexico art scene and a global reach hosting and collaborating with artists, musicians, and creatives from around the world, Flickinger needs to be the next step in your art journey.

Heart of the Desert Pistachios & Wine

7288 US-54, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 434-0035

Eagle Ranch is the home of New Mexico’s first and largest producing pistachio groves with approximately 13,000 trees. Wines were added to the product line in 2002. The seven different varieties of grapes harvested each year make the production of a wide range of wines possible.



McGinns Pistachioland

7320 Hwy 54 70, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(800) 368-3081

The McGinn family started growing pistachios in the Tularosa Basin in 1980. This area in southern New Mexico has an arid climate ideal for growing pistachios. Tom McGinn, the founder, and his son Tim harvested the first substantial crop in 1988. The original 40 acre farm has grown to 111 acres today with over 12,000 pistachio trees and 14 acres of wine grapes.

Old Apple Barn | High Rolls

949 US-82, High Rolls, NM 88325
(575) 682-2276

The Historic Old Apple Barn was built in 1941 in Mountain Park, New Mexico. The Cloud-Climbing Railroad stopped at the Barn to load apples grown in the spring-fed orchards.

Roadrunner Emporium

928 N New York Ave, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(707) 880-6238

Alamogordo’ New Mexico’s history comes alive at Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques & More with an old-fashioned mercantile style feel of shopping for fine art, collectibles and antiques in an historic building preserved with the original art deco safe on display having survived the likes of Billy the Kid and others of an era gone by.

Trinity Site Tours

Trinity Site is where the world’s first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain Time July 16, 1945.” Twice a year, first Saturday in April & third Saturday in October. Shuttles depart from Alamogordo.

Sunrise at White SandsWhite Sands National Park

19955 Highway 70 West
Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 479-6124

One of the most well-known and popular natural features in the Tularosa Basin is White Sands National Park, the largest gypsum dune field in the world, covering 275 square miles. Gypsum is water-soluble, rarely found in sand form. White Sands exists due to New Mexico’s dry climate and the Tularosa Basin’s lack of drainage to the sea. The dunes were formed over millions of years, as wind and water eroded the gypsum deposits washed down from the San Andres Mountains into fine, white sand.

Located about 16 miles south of Alamogordo, White Sands is visually stunning. Mother Nature is showing off. It is a great place to create memories with family and friends whether you prefer to hike the dunes, sled the dunes, watch the sun set, or just enjoy a peaceful picnic at one of the art-deco shelters for the day. The admission fee covers a week.

Oliver Lee State Park
Dog Canyon at Oliver Lee State Park.

Outdoor Recreation

There are over 100 maintained trails that range in use from hiking, pack/saddle, mountain biking, motorcycle and ATV riding. Camping is also available in many areas in developed campgrounds as well as primitive camping in the Lincoln National Forest.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

409 Dog Canyon Rd.
Alamogordo, NM 88310
Park Manager: Katherine.German@emnrd.nm.gov
Landline: (575) 437-8284 | Cell: (505) 660-7381

Set against the dramatic Sacramento Mountains, Oliver Lee State Park features a historic ranch house, quiet camping, and pools of water under the cottonwood trees of Dog Canyon. Located 15-minutes south of Alamogordo on US-54, the park is named after Oliver Milton Lee, rancher, lawman, legislator, entrepreneur, and possibly the murderer of A.J. Fountain and his 8-year old son in the 1890s, one of southern New Mexico’s unsolved murders. Lee was arrested, but not convicted. If he was guilty, it wasn’t the first time he got away with murder. He was arrested for shooting his neighbor’s son in the head in the 1880s, but no one would testify against him.

Oliver Lee continued to work his Dog Canyon Ranch until 1914, when he sold his ranch to a group of businessmen. Later, he was elected to the state legislature, serving in numerous business organizations until he died of a stroke in 1941.

Red Sands

Bureau of Land Management
(575) 525-4300

Lots of people visit White Sands. Far fewer discover Red Sands, with is just east of White Sands. Red Sands is an OHV area, where you can do all the things that they won’t let you do at White Sands. Located approximately 20 miles south of Alamogordo on the west side of HWY 54.

Fresnal Canyon Road

Trekking the Trails Near Alamogordo

Alamo Peak Trail

The Alamo Peak trail is 3 miles long. It begins at FR 64D and ends at FR 90. The trail is open for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and motorcycle trail riding. No ATV’s or UTV’s.

Alamo Canyon Trail

The Alamo Canyon trail is 7.3 miles long. It begins FR 90 and ends at the mouth of Alamo Canyon in Alamogordo. The trail is open for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and motorcycle trail riding. No ATV’s or UTV’s.

Bridal Veil Falls Trail

Located just NW of the Village of High Rolls, this trail connects into the Grandview and Salado Canyon trails. Parking can be found at the trailhead for the Grandview Trail. Follow 162C NW out of High Rolls. About 1.5 miles down the road you will see a trailhead and parking area for the Grandview Trail to the west. The trailhead for the Bridal Veil Falls Trail  is across the road to the east. Additional access for this trail can be found about 1 mile further down the road at the parking area for the Salado Trail. Walk down the power line road until you find the old railroad grade. Follow this trail east for about 1 mile and the trail will transition into T129. Hiking only.

Dog Canyon Trail

The Dog Canyon Trail begins next to the Oliver Lee State Park visitor center and heads into the Lincoln National Forest within a ½ mile. This challenging trail starts at 4,400’ and climbs 5 miles up the mountain to 7,600’, ending at Forest Road 90B.

Grandview Trail

The Grand View trail is and easy trail. It is 1.3 miles long, beginning and ending at Forest Road 162C just north of High Rolls. Open for hiking and horseback riding.

Riparian Nature Trail

The Riparian Nature Trail starts at the Oliver Lee State Park visitor center, leading to the small pools of water at the mouth of Dog Canyon. The trail provides the opportunity to view a variety of riparian vegetation, an uncommon experience in the arid desert. The trail follows the dry creek bed before heading up to the ruins of Frenchy’s Cabin (0.5 mile).

Salado Canyon Trail

Located near High Rolls, the Salado Canyon Trail is a moderate trail constructed along portions of the abandoned Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railroad grade. Volunteers have restored a train trestle of approximately 110 feet that spans a creek, allowing a unique opportunity to ‘tread the train trestle’.

Take US82 to High Rolls, NM. Turn north onto FS Road 162C (turn at Post Office sign). Continue 2.7 miles until you see a small parking area on the right. It is where the powerline crosses the road. Hike down about .1 miles to the trail. You can vcross the reconstructed Salado Canyon Trestle (a railroad bridge) or hike to the Bridal Veil Falls trail, where there is a small waterfall next to the trail.

Tunnel Vista Trail

The half mile trail starts at the overlook between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft. It is short, but a steep descent/ascent. The payoff is a waterfall, which is less than a 15 minute hike from the overlook parking area.

Park west of the tunnel and walk towards tunnel. The trail is across from the “lights on for safety” sign. Stay high along the rock wall. People get off the trail all of the time, which makes getting up and down much more challenging and potentially dangerous.

The Indian Wells

The Indian Wells trail is a 1.2-mile, moderately challenging out-and-back trail in Alamogordo. It takes about 35-minutes to complete. The trail is well-marked trail, with a variety of terrain and some steep uphill marches. The trail head is located at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Excellent view of Alamogordo, making it an outstanding vantage point for sunset. There is no shade along the way, so you should apply sun protection and tote plenty of water.

New Mexico Space Museum in Alamogordo
New Mexico Museum of Space History. The building reflects the outdoor exhibit in the afternoon.

Alamogordo Museums

American Armed Forces Museum

The Museum was established to collect and preserve military memorabilia, represent all branches of service and commemorate all wars and military engagements in which American armed forces fought.

144 US-82, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 437-6000

New Mexico Museum of Space History

New Mexico Museum of Space History rewards you with the sight of an authentic “moon rock” as well as rare replicas of the first man-made satellites, Sputnik and Explorer. Permanent exhibits showcase the the history of rocketry and its pioneers. Open 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.

3198 State Route 2001, Alamogordo, NM
(575) 437-2840

Shroud Exhibit Museum

Life-size research grade color photograph of the famous Turin Shroud. Hear the history, understand its age, and learn facts about this most intensely studied artifact. Open Monday, Tuesday, Friday & Saturday 1 to 5pm, Sundays 2 to 4pm

923 New York Ave. Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 415-5206

Toy Train Depot and Railroad Museum

Inside the century-old depot you’ll find hundreds of scale models of train locomotives as well as passenger and freight cars, along with the world’s smallest scaled working train. Open 11 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Saturday. Open 12 pm to 4 pm Sundays.

1991 White Sands Blvd. Alamogordo, NM
(575) 437-2855

Tularosa Basin Museum of History

Learn about the early Native Americans who lived in the area, White Sands National Park, the local railroad, La Luz pottery, ranching, scouting and more. View artifacts and stories from the days of early man to Alamogordo’s role in the atomic and space ages. Open 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.

1004 N White Sands Blvd. Alamogordo, NM
(575) 434-4438

Classic Desert Aire Hotel in Alamogordo New Mexico
Classic Desert Aire Hotel on White Sands Blvd. in Alamogordo. Centrally located, pet friendly, convenient to amenities and local sights.

Alamogordo Lodging

Classic Desert Aire Hotel

1021 S White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 437-2110

Classic Desert Aire Hotel offers a variety of room and suite styles to accommodate leisure and business travelers. Pet-friendly. All rooms are non-smoking. Each guest room features comfortable king or queen beds, flat screen television, mini-fridge, microwave, and a coffee/tea maker, high-speed wireless internet in rooms and public areas, free parking, a guest laundry, and an on-site business center. Complimentary carryout breakfast provided.

Tavares Inn

153 San Pedro Dr, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 437-8779

Tavares Inn is located on 5- acres in a rural setting a few miles south of Alamogordo, west of the beautiful Sacramento Mountains. It is a pet friendly bed and breakfast in a 7000-square foot Spanish Colonial style home. Close to the local attractions and amenities, but away from the traffic and city clamor.

White Sands Motel

1101 S White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 437-2922

Recently renovated, White Sands Motel is Alamogordo’s only AAA approved small independent motel. Affordable rates, located within walking distance of major restaurants and shopping.

Lescombes Winery and Bistro in Alamogordo
Lescombes Bistro in Alamogordo. Delicious food and libations.

Alamogordo Dining

D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro

261 Panorama Blvd, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 616-5595

Lescombes collaborated with a Master Chef to create a menu that features epicurean food paired with Lescombes Vineyard’s award-winning New Mexico wines.

Nuckleweed Place | La Luz

526 Laborcita Canyon Rd, La Luz, NM 88337
(575) 434-0000

American food, with New Mexico flair. It is a bit of a drive, but well worth it. One of the best options in the area for for breakfast/brunch. Homemade deliciousness.

Our Country Kitchen

1201 N New York Ave, Alamogordo, NM 88310
(575) 434-3431

Great stop for breakfast or lunch in the downtown district on New York Avenue.

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