Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Santa Fe National Historic Trail? The trail stretches from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The trail is 1,203 miles long (1,936 km) and passes through the following five states: New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.
Where can I obtain the official map and guide brochure? Trail brochures may be obtained from a number of locations. Many museums and visitor centers along the trail distribute our free brochures. The Places To Go page provides a sample of some of the sites along the trail that may carry our publications. See our publications page to download brochures directly, or email us to request one.
How do I visit or follow the Santa Fe National Historic Trail? The Santa Fe National Historic Trail is not a clearly marked hiking trail. Instead it is a corridor that passes through communities as well as wild areas and through different states and land ownership. We encourage you to go to the Places To Go web pages to discover the many sites you can visit. Your travels on the trail are rich with cultural history: museums, trail ruts, hikes, and landmarks. Sites in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are listed east to west.
ACCESS: Visitors can follow parts of the original trail on public lands and approximate other parts by following the trail's Mobile App (include when live) and by driving the paved highways that travel near the historical route. However, many parts of the original trail are privately owned, have been destroyed by development, are under plow, or cross military or American Indian tribal reserves. There is no public trail access across private property and reserves. Before entering those lands, you must locate the owners and ask their permission.
Where can I get my Passport stamped? Go to the Passport for Your National Parks pages on this website for stamp locations.
Do you have educational materials for teachers? We do not currently have any teacher or student specific products. We would be happy to mail you our official map and guide brochure for your classroom. Send an email to: e-mail us with your contact information, mailing address, and the quantity of guides you need for your class.
Do you have a Junior Ranger program? Yes. Check out the program at http://www.nps.gov/safe/learn/kidsyouth/index.htm For junior ranger books and patches contact the Santa Fe Trail Association and for badges contact National Trails Intermountain Region by emailing: e-mail us
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. 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? 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 with little water. 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. Use the View Park Map link on our main page to view these trail routes.
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. 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 also travelled the trail.
What year was the Santa Fe National Historic Trail established? Congress established the trail in May 1987.
Who owns the Santa Fe National Historic Trail? The Santa Fe National Historic Trail is administered by the National Park Service (National Trails Intermountain Region), but the actual route on the ground is owned or managed by public, private, nonprofit, state, county, and local landowners. National Trails Intermountain Region works with these landowners to identify the historic trail resources, provide site planning and design, map the trail, and develop educational opportunities. National Trails Intermountain Region does not own any land on the trail.
What is a national historic trail? Much like a national park, a national historic trail is created by an act of Congress. National historic trails are congressionally designated official routes that reflect the research, review, and recommendation of many trail experts. National historic trails commemorate historic trade, migration, and other routes important to American culture.
How can I learn more about the Santa Fe National Historic Trail (NHT) and take part in organized activities along the trail? The nonprofit organization that helps research, tour, sign, interpret, and protect the Santa Fe NHT is the Santa Fe Trail Association. Visit their website at http://www.santafetrail.org/