Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Santa Fe National Historic Trail? The trail stretches from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico across 1,203 miles (1,936 km).

Where can I obtain the official map and guide brochure? A brochure for the trail is available on this website. Please feel free to download and print or to order one via email.

How can I travel the trail? Today, there are paved highways that travel near the historical trail route, and there are many places along these highways that have visitor centers and interpretive markers that help tell the history of the trail. Much of the trail is on privately-owned farmland and ranchland, Bureau of Land Management land, or on privately-owned land near larger cities. Go to the Places To Go web pages for travel suggestions across Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Sites are listed east to west.

Where can I get my Passport stamped? Go to the Passport for Your National Parks web pages on this website for stamp locations in New Mexico and Texas.

What is the Santa Fe Trail? The Santa Fe Trail was active for almost 60 years, from the 1820s until 1880. Its primary use was to haul commercial freight (and some travelers) back and forth between the Missouri River valley and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Most of this travel took place each spring. During the late 1840s, however, many Gold Rush emigrants used this trail to head toward California, and a decade later, many people headed west over the trail to the Colorado Gold Rush. And after 1850, many military caravans used the trail to supply forts and camps in New Mexico and Arizona. When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad reached Santa Fe, New Mexico in February 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was abandoned as a long-distance route. Use the Map Timeline to travel the trail from 1821 to 1880.

How long did it take to travel the Santa Fe Trail? For most people, it took 8 to 10 weeks to travel by wagon train between Independence or Westport, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Was there more than one route? Yes,there were two main Santa Fe Trail routes. Most people took the Cimarron Route, which headed southwest from Dodge City, Kansas to New Mexico over a long, dry stretch that had just a few reliable springs and other water holes. The Mountain Route, longer but safer and with more water, followed the Arkansas River west through Kansas to La Junta, Colorado, then southwest over Raton Pass into New Mexico.

What kinds of people took the trail? Traders and their employees were the mainstay of the trail, but others who followed the trail included Mexican students headed east to go to school, military men, gold seekers, adventurers, and other opportunists. You'll also find major figures in western history including Jedediah Smith, Christopher "Kit" Carson, John Charles Fremont, William and Charles Bent, Manuel Armijo, Miguel Otero, and Susan Shelby Magoffin.

When did the trail obtain national designation? Congress established the trail in May 1987.

Who administers the trail? The trail is managed by the National Park Service in conjunction with various partners. These include the Santa Fe Trail Association; Indian tribes and puebloan people associated with the trail; federal, state, county, and municipal agencies; private landowners, nonprofits, and interested groups. National Trails Intermountain Region does not own any land on the trail.

What is a national trail? Much like a national park, a national trail is created by an act of Congress. There are currently 30 national scenic and historic trails in the National Trails System. National scenic trails are hike-through trails designated for their natural beauty, environmental importance, and opportunity for outdoor recreation. National historic trails commemorate historic trade, migration, and other routes important to American culture.

Did You Know?