TwHP Lessons

Glorieta and Raton Passes:
Gateways to the Southwest

[Cover Photo] Santa Fe Trail.
(National Park Service)

[Cover Photo] Wagons on the Santa Fe Trail
(Western History Collection, Denver Public Library, Santa Fe Railway photo)


he snow capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains form a formidable barrier between the eastern United States and what is now New Mexico, Arizona, and California. But Americans moving westward during the early 19th century could not be stopped. At Raton Pass, on the border between Colorado and New Mexico, they found one way through the mountains, but it was narrow and steep, suitable at first only for pack horses. The broader, easier crossing at Glorieta Pass, between the mountains and the red wall of Glorieta Mesa, was another.

These two passes played critical roles in the events that ensured that New Mexico and the Southwest would become, and continue to be, part of the United States. In the 1820s, the first of many traders crossed the mountains on the Santa Fe Trail, hoping to make a fortune selling manufactured goods in the small city of Santa Fe or further south in the city of Chihuahua. In 1846 soldiers followed in the tracks of the traders. Dressed in uniforms of the United States army, they came down through Raton and Glorieta passes to claim the territory of New Mexico for a rapidly expanding American nation. Almost 20 years later, other men tried to take over the Southwest. The country they fought for this time was the Confederate States of America. Their defeat at the small but decisive Battle of Glorieta Pass ensured that New Mexico, Arizona, and California would stay in the Union.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Northern Provinces of New Spain
 2. Geography of the West
 3. Northern New Mexico, 1867

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Traders
 2. The Army of the West
 3. The Confederates

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Wagons on Santa Fe Trail
 2. Raton Pass
 3. Battle of Glorieta Pass
 4. Apache Canyon

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Geography and Manifest Destiny
 2. "Westward the Course of Empire
 Takes Its Way..."

 3. Close to Home

Supplementary Resources

How to Use a TwHP Lesson

Lessons on Related Topics

TwHP Home

National Register Home

About the National Register

How the National Register
Helps Teachers

Contact TwHP

Pecos National Historical Park

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

The lesson is based on Raton Pass and the Glorieta Battlefield, two of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Raton Pass has been designated a National Historic Landmark.



Comments or Questions
Privacy & Disclaimer
Site optimized for V4.0
& above browsers

National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.