Visiting the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico

Visiting the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico

The Trinity Test Site at the White Sands Missile Range marks the site of the very first atomic bomb test.

Ever since I moved to New Mexico for college, I’ve wanted to visit the Trinity Test Site. After my visit to Hiroshima, I felt like I needed to go, as a pilgrimage of sorts. This was easier said than done since it’s only open to the public for fifteen hours a year, for seven and a half hours a day on the first Saturdays in October and April.

A view of the whole ground zero site, taken from the perimeter of the site and looking towards the parking lot. The memorial obelisk is visible in the bottom left corner.

For a site that’s only open twice a year, the Trinity Site is structured well for tourists. There are educational materials on the perimeter fence, educational staff on site, a booth where you can look at trinitite and uranium artifacts, and a pop-up gift shop set up by the folks from White Sands National Park.

Before you ask: no, it’s not dangerous to your health to visit. While there is more radiation in this area than average, it’s less of an issue than, say, being a frequent flier.

 

Trinitite. It’s illegal to collect the rock formed from melted desert sand, but there’s plenty around to look at.

There’s also food (cooked fresh, but mostly baseball game sort of fare) and enough portable toilets to easily handle the crowds. BRING WATER. I never go anywhere in New Mexico without a liter of water on my person, and I keep at least a gallon in my car. Bring twice as much water as you think you’ll need, and snacks if you don’t want to eat overpriced sausage dogs. Besides water, the only real issue I had was with parking: due to the bottleneck caused by ID checking, I had to sit in traffic for half an hour to get into Stallion Gate, and I hit some more traffic before I reached the final parking lot.

 

 

Would I recommend checking out the Trinity site? If you’re in town at the right time of year, absolutely. It’s interesting for history and science folks alike. Because of what happened here, our history and science have been forever changed. That, at least to a lot of you, will make it worth the trip.

When to go: The first Saturday of October or April (check ahead of time – it’s possible they’ll go back to a once-a-year schedule). If you want to learn about New Mexico’s nuclear history and you’re not in town when the Trinity site is open, you can check out the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, or visit the memorial near Stallion Gate.

Further reading: The Atlas Obscura article is a useful resource, as is the official Army open house page.

How to get there: Don’t use Google maps. Navigating between cities in New Mexico is easy, and you’ll want to use the Army’s official directions to navigate once you get close to Stallion Gate. There is also an option for joining a convoy from Almagordo.

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Visiting ground zero of the first atomic bomb detonation near Soccorro, NM.

3 thoughts on “Visiting the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico

    1. I believe it’s because it brings you to an entrance inaccessible to civilians. It’s easy to find once you’re nearby. If you wanted to you could use Google maps to get part way, then use the official directions.

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