The Vast Plains - Like a Green Ocean

Santa Fe National Historic Trail 

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  1. Fort Union National Monument - Fort Union was a miniature city of 2,000 during the height of its existence along the Santa Fe Trail. It was built from the earth and surrounding natural resources. Can you name two?
  2. Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site - Visit this reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the Santa Fe Trail where trappers, travelers, and Plains Indian tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade. Experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the past during guided tours.
  3. Comanche National Grassland - The grassland has many stories to tell, from dinosaurs roaming the ancient shoreline of a vast lake 150 million years ago to Mexican and American traders traveling the Santa Fe National Historic Trail 150 years ago.

The Vast Plains - Like a Green Ocean

oxen pulls a covered green wagon with red wooden wheels, a man with a stick walks beside the wagon
The Santa Fe Trail played a major role in bringing people, goods, and ideas to and from Santa Fe for 59 years. However, the Santa Fe Trail was rarely a static entity, because both the route across the plains and the eastern terminus of the trail was constantly in flux.


You can almost hear the whoops and cries of "All's set!" as trail hands hitched their oxen to freight wagons carrying cargo between western Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Between 1821 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was primarily a highway of commerce. Trail use changed over the years from international trade between Mexicans and Americans to a route used to invade New Mexico during the Mexican-American War to a national road connecting the United States to the new southwest territories.

You can still travel the Santa Fe National Historic Trail today as it crosses five states, covering 900 miles. There are museums, historic sites, trail ruts, and original trail segments located along the length of the trail.

Follow these links to see how you can travel the trail. Plan Your Visit / Places To Go / Multimedia / Travel the Trail - Map Timeline

States:  Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma

Last updated: October 22, 2015