15 Best Things to Do in Los Alamos, NM

Los Alamos, NM
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Los Alamos is a small mountain community in New Mexico that consistently ranks as one of the best small towns in the United States.

It's the seat of Los Alamos County.

During World War II, the Manhattan Project created and developed the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, under the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The town of Los Alamos sits on four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau, a location chosen for its inaccessibility.

Its location helped the Manhattan Project keep its activities a secret.

As the gateway to three national parks, Los Alamos offers many activities and places to visit.

Explore ancient villages, breathtaking scenery, diverse flora and fauna, unusual cultural activities, exciting history, etc.

Here are the best things to do in Los Alamos, NM:

Explore Historical Dwellings at the Bandelier National Monument

A wooden ladder leading up to an alcove house at Bandelier National Monument
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Bandelier National Monument protects more than 33,000 acres of rugged, spectacular steep-walled canyons and broad mesas.

It also contains traces of human presence dating back over 10,000 years ago.

The government designated the area as a national monument in 1916.

Explore the dwellings of Ancestral Pueblo natives, spread and carved across landscapes containing various plant and animal life.

View from an alcove house at Bandelier National Monument
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The national monument boasts roughly 70 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy hikes to more challenging ones.

The main trail in Frijoles Canyon is a 1.2-mile loop that allows easy access to the ruins of the old Pueblo dwellings.

The national monument is also a popular spot for outdoor activities like camping, picnicking, boating, and winter cross-country skiing.

Cliff dwellings of Bandelier National Monument
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Hike at Valles Caldera National Preserve

Marsh along Valles Caldera National Preserve
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The Valles Caldera National Preserve is an 89,000-acre park surrounding a dormant supervolcano.

It also has plenty of nature to see, wildlife to find, and land to explore.

This National Preserve also holds much of the Valles Caldera, a 13-mile-wide volcanic crater created by a volcanic explosion more than one million years ago.

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is home to wildlife such as black bears, prairie dogs, and golden eagles.

It's also a favorite elk and wild turkey hunting destination.

View while hiking the Valles Caldera National Preserve
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There are many trails to choose from at the Valles Caldera National Preserve, ranging from easy, moderate, to difficult.

The Valle Grande Trail is an easy, family and pet-friendly trail.

It's a two-mile loop trail offering panoramic views of the Valles Caldera, vast grasslands, and attractive opportunities for elk watching.

Today, the Valles Caldera National Preserve attracts about 120,000 visitors each year.

You can go hiking, mountain biking, camping, horseback riding, and trout fishing.

In the winter, try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Daytime view of Valles Caldera National Preserve plains
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Explore the Los Alamos Nature Center

The Los Alamos Nature Center is a multi-awarded facility set in a canyon overlooking the Jemez Mountains.

The Los Alamos Nature Center is the perfect place to bring your entire family and begin your exploration of the stunning Pajarito Plateau.

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) operates the center.

It's a non-profit organization that links people to the environment through indoor and outdoor displays and programs.

Opened in 2015, the Los Alamos Nature Center features interactive displays that educate visitors about the natural heritage of northern New Mexico.

You’ll learn about the region at the center through its indoor and outdoor play spaces and exhibits, wildlife observation room, and a full-dome planetarium.

The Los Alamos Nature Center hosts public events such as hikes, outings, classes, and field trips.

These events serve about 40,000 visitors.

Visit the Los Alamos History Museum

Welcome sign of Los Alamos History Museum
Marcin Wichary, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Los Alamos History Museum, located in the middle of downtown, tells the stories of the town’s different eras.

These are the Homestead era, the Los Alamos Ranch School era, the Manhattan Project era, and the Cold War era.

The Los Alamos Historical Society manages the museum, dedicated to exhibiting and promoting the history of the Pajarito Plateau.

Entrance to the Los Alamos History Museum
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The museum is the town’s oldest continually occupied building.

In 1918, the building was an infirmary, becoming a cottage for Los Alamos Ranch School.

Today, it is an award-winning history museum that depicts Los Alamos’ rich and world-changing history.

Find exciting and comprehensive artifacts, documents, photographs, and audio and video records of experiences from diverse perspectives.

Skate at the Los Alamos County Ice Rink

Glide along the ice at a beautiful outdoor ice rink with a canyon backdrop.

The Los Alamos County Ice Rink opened in 1936, the only outdoor refrigerated rink in the state overseen by the National Hockey League (NHL).

From mid-November through February, the rink is open for public skating, skating lessons, and hockey.

It also hosts events and hockey competitions and accommodates birthday parties, group rentals, and other special events!

Skate under a beautiful winter sky adorned with fluffy clouds or under night skies filled with dazzling stars.

Join the Los Alamos Historical Walking Tour

Exterior of the Fuller Lodge
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Travel back in time on this walking tour.  

Stop by a homesteader’s cabin to historic pueblo dwellings to the exact location where the Manhattan Project assembled the first atomic bomb.

The Los Alamos Historical Walking Tour will take you to 13 stops.

The tour includes the Fuller Lodge, a 1928 building that served as the Ranch School dining hall, and the Romero Cabin, a homestead cabin built in 1913.

Walkway leading to the Fuller Lodge
Mark Pellegrini, CC BY-SA 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Likewise, you'll visit the Bathtub Row, a housing development constructed initially for the Ranch School as faculty housing.

It also had the only bathtubs in town.

Then, go to the Ice House Memorial, where the Manhattan Project scientists assembled the nuclear core of the atomic bomb “Gadget.”

Follow the Los Alamos Historical Walking Tour at your own pace.

Don't forget to take the time to see and enjoy the many shops, restaurants, and cafes along the way.

Exterior of the Romero cabin
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Watch the Sunset at Anderson Overlook

Los Alamos is full of breathtaking landscapes, from mountains to valleys and everything.

Anderson Overlook is atop a cliff band in the mid-section of the Bandelier Tuff.

This overlook provides an underrated vantage point that allows you to see the mountains and valleys from another vantage.

Drive right off Highway 502 in Los Alamos, and immerse yourself in the otherworldly views of the Sangre de Cristos and the Rio Grande valley.

This must-see overlook is easily accessible to anyone, even only for a quick stop.

For more impressive views, witness the beautiful sunset that bursts orange and see the moon rising above the sky.

Start Your Journey at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Banner post of Manhattan Project National Historical Park
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Visit the Los Alamos Visitor Center to begin your Manhattan Project National Historical Park adventure.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park, a facility commemorating the Manhattan Project, has three locations.

They are in Hanford, Washington; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Plaque marker on the grounds of Manhattan Project National Historical Park
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Pick up a ranger book, talk with the park rangers, or view a short film about the Manhattan Project at the Visitor Center.

Don’t forget to have your passport book stamped after your trip.

The Visitor Center has one-third of the unique three-section stamp commemorating the Manhattan Project.

The visitor centers in Hanford, Los Alamos, and Oak Ridge each hold a third of the stamp.

View of ashley pond at Manhattan Project National Historical Park
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See Art at the Fuller Lodge Art Center

The Fuller Lodge Art Center is the home of artists in north New Mexico.

Nestled in downtown Los Alamos, the Fuller Lodge Art Center is a hub for artists in the community.

In 1977, the Fuller Lodge Art Center parted ways with the Pajarito Art League and the Los Alamos Arts Council.

In 2021, Maria Crane took over the combined directorship of both the Art Center and the Arts Council, aiming to create an involved community.

Besides exhibits and art classes for everyone, the Fuller Lodge Art Center also features a Clay Club and a gift shop supporting more than 100 small businesses in the state.

Tour the Bradbury Science Museum

Exterior of Bradbury Science Museum
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Learn more about the Manhattan Project of Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Bradbury Science Museum.

The first Laboratory museum opened in 1954, an old ice house located on the bank of Ashley Pond opposite Fuller Lodge.

In 1993, the Museum relocated to its current location in downtown Los Alamos.

Neutron Detector THREX in Bradbury Science Museum
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The museum features 60 interactive exhibits within the Museum’s three galleries on History, Defense, and Research.

Likewise, the museum screens two 16-minute films throughout the day, showing the Manhattan Project racing to create the first atomic bomb and the lab's current projects.

The Bradbury Science Museum’s exhibits and comprehensive educational and community programs attract nearly 80,000 visitors.

Bomb suit displayed in Bradbury Science Museum
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Take the Atomic City Spy Tour

“Where there are secrets, there are spies.”

The unique and self-guided Los Alamos Atomic City Spy Tour will show you another side of Los Alamos.

The Atomic City Spy Tour will guide you through places where four spies of the Manhattan Project lived, worked and played.

The tour reveals the fascinating story of 20th-century espionage, where spies at the Manhattan Project secretly passed intelligence to the Soviets.

Grab a Spy Tour brochure at the Los Alamos Visitors Center, or download the map online.

Drive along the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway

Mountain views along Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
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The Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway is one of the state’s eight recognized byways.

It also abounds with natural treasures, scenic views, and historical sites along the way.

This byway is accessible to most cars and provides an enjoyable way to see the wonders of New Mexico.

Aerial view of Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
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From Los Alamos, travel west through the Bandelier National Monument to Jemez Springs.

See the Jemez Falls Battleship Rock, Soda Dam, and the Gilman Tunnels.

Continue along to the Red Rocks of Jemez Pueblo and take a detour to the vineyards of Ponderosa Valley Vineyard and Winery.

The loop is about 132 miles, and driving time may take at least two hours.

A car along the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
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Swim at the Larry Walkup Aquatic Center

The Larry Walkup Aquatic Center is a public swimming pool on Canyon Road.

It's the highest indoor pool facility in North America regarding altitude.

The Aquatic Center provides safe and inexpensive recreation, fitness, competitive, and therapeutic programs for citizens and visitors.

This high-altitude facility includes a 50-meter pool with 35 laps of short courses, 16 laps of long courses, and a 40-feet by a 20-feet therapy pool.

Los Alamos County runs the Aquatic Center, which has hosted high-altitude training for numerous swimming teams, from US teams to other countries.

The Center also supports the Los Alamos High School Swimming and Diving Team along with private swim teams.

Ski at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area

Summer view of Pajarito Mountain Ski Area
Aaron Zhu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pajarito Mountain is rich in history.

European immigrants and ski enthusiasts transformed this mountain into a ski area.

This group eventually formed the Los Alamos Ski Club, which opened the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in 1957.

Located east of the Jemez Mountains, the Pajarito Mountain offers spectacular views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

It boasts 740 acres of ski terrains plus one of the best bump skiing spots in the state.

The Pajarito Mountain Ski Area has 44 trails with easy, intermediate, and rugged trails.

Skiers and snowboarders of any skill level can ride the five lifts to reach the ski area.

Beginners can ride the Magic Carpet conveyor; there are also two terrain parks.

The Pajarito Mountain is also home to one of the state’s most beautiful biking and hiking trails.

Play at the Los Alamos Golf Course

The Los Alamos Golf Course is a challenging and fun course to play a round of golf.

The Atomic Energy Commission built the golf course in 1947.

It's one of the oldest 18-hole golf courses in New Mexico.

Los Alamos Golf Course is a 72-par, 6,500-yard, 18-hole course.

The sloping fairways and stunning greens challenge players as they wind through ponderosa pines and cottonwood trees.

Beautiful panoramas and clean, fresh mountain air at 7,400 feet elevation give a lovely setting for exciting play.

Final Thoughts

Who would have thought this tiny town in a secluded part of New Mexico had so much to offer?

Los Alamos is one of America’s hidden gems.

The town boasts a spectacular bounty of valleys and mountains, canyons, cliffs, and mesa tops.

It also features unique outdoor experiences and centuries of groundbreaking history.

Los Alamos is a magical place, a fascinating outdoor playground worth exploring.

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