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. You can download Trail Brochures or email us to request one. In addition, many museums and visitor centers along the trail distribute our free brochures. Places To Go provides a sample of some of the sites along the trail that may carry our publications.
How do I visit or follow the Trail?
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail is not a clearly marked nor continuous hiking trail. Instead it is a corridor that passes through communities as well as wild areas and through different states and land ownership. Places To Go will help you 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.
What do I need to know about trail 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. Unless clearly marked, there is no public trail access across private property and reserves. Before entering those lands, you must locate the owners and ask their permission.
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. Email us with your contact information, mailing address, and the quantity of guides you need for your class.
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 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.
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 included Jedediah Smith, Christopher "Kit" Carson, John Charles Fremont, William and Charles Bent, Manuel Armijo, Miguel Otero, and Susan Shelby Magoffin.
What year was the Trail established?
Congress established the trail in May 1987.
Who owns the Trail?
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail is administered by the National Park Service (National Trails office), but the actual route on the ground is owned or managed by public, private, nonprofit, state, county, and local landowners. National Trails works with these landowners to identify the historic trail resources, provide site planning and design, map the trail, and develop educational opportunities. National Trails does not own any land on the 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 Trail and take part in trail-related activities?
The nonprofit organization that helps research, tour, sign, interpret, and protect the Santa Fe NHT is the Santa Fe Trail Association.
Last updated: January 28, 2020
National Trails Office Regions 6|7|8
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
1100 Old Santa Fe Trail