The Crookedest Most Arduous Pack Mule Route

Old Spanish National Historic Trail 

The Crookedest Most Arduous Pack Mule Route

desert scrub in the foreground, spiky mountain range in the background with white clouds
Mule pack trains were the preferred mode of transportation over the Old Spanish Trail's rocky and mountainous terrain. Sierra Blanca, in the Sangre de Cristo Range along San Luis Valley on Highway 17 (Colorado) is one of many landmarks that helped Old Spanish travelers find the trail.


What do vibrant blankets of the Southwest and mules have to do with each other? In 1829, they met on one of the crookedest, most arduous trails in history. The Old Spanish Trail was the first route to connect the Mexican provinces of New Mexico and California. Warm, colorful serapes, blankets, and ponchos were coveted in Los Angeles while Santa Fe citizens waited for the pack mule trains to bring back horses and mules. The first caravan to the West took 60 men and 100 mules across more than 1,000 miles of rocky terrain and mountain passes, alluring and treacherous. It took them 12 weeks. Go to History & Culture to find out more!

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail extends 2,700 miles across New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. Visit museums, historic sites, landmarks, and trail routes to experience the lure of the trail in the early 1800s.

Follow these links to see how you can travel the trail. Plan Your Visit / Passport Program  / Multimedia

States: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California

Last updated: December 10, 2015