This site funded in part by the Colorado Tourism Office, National Scenic Byway Organization of the
Federal Highway Administration & the Colorado Scenic Byway Program
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Colorado's Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail served as a trade route between Missouri and the Mexican frontiers from 1821 to 1880. The Mountain Branch was traveled by caravans of traders, often with four horses abreast. Although the Mountain Branch was 100 miles longer than the Cimarron Route, and the climb over Raton Pass was difficult, the Mountain Route was preferred since water was more accessible and it was less vulnerable to Indian attacks. In 1987 the Santa Fe Trail was designated by Congress as a National Historic Trail. Heritage travelers visit today to discover the magic and retrace authentic steps taken by merchants and traders on the way to Santa Fe. Recreate life along the Trail by visiting Colorado's historic trading posts like Bent's Old Fort and Boggsville; stage coach stops, visible wagon ruts, graves, ruins of Trail-era ranches, statues and monuments commemorating famous characters of the west. Get started at the Byway Visitors Center at the Trinidad History Museum and tour a Vicotrian Mansion and the Santa Fe Trail Museum.
Comanche National Grassland is home to North Americas largest dinosaur tracksite and Historic Rourke Ranch can be explored on self guided tours or guided four wheel drive tours. The region was home to native Americans, Spanish explorers, pioneer traders, miners and Victorian merchants. Today's travelers can explore the trail's history on the auto tour of the Santa Fe Trail. The trail follows the shores of the Arkansas and Purgatoire Rivers of Southeast Colorado. Look closely on a clear day and you can see wide bands of wagon tracks across the prairie. Especially during the spring when the vegetation in the ruts are a different color than the surrounding prairie.
Our rich heritage and culture can be seen in the historic architecture of the Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District . The Santa Fe Trail goes through the brick streets of Trinidad, through quaint rural farm towns and the cities of Lamar, La Junta, and Las Animas, all of which have wonderful historic buildings which tell the stories of merchants, cattlemen, railroad developers and miners. Men and women built empires from the Santa Fe Trail; historic figures like Kit Carson, the Bent brothers, Bat Masterson and Billy the kid - add to it's wild west charm. History is plentiful and provides a romantic backdrop along this 184 mile corridor of culture and beauty of Colorado's Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail beckons you to explore the wide variety of adventure and recreational opportunities in water sports, hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife viewing and hunting. Some our nations most treasured secrets still lie here on the Mountain Branch.
All Rights Reserved. Santa Fe Trail Scenic & Historic Byway - Mountain
Some Photographs ©; Richard Smith Permission granted to Santa Fe Trail Scenic & Historic Byway for website use only.
Some photographs ©; Roberta Cordova, DAG Industries; Byway historical sites; & Colorado Historical Society. All other rights reserved.
Many thanks to the The Federal Highway Administration, Colorado Scenic Byways Program, the National Scenic Byways Program, Colorado Tourism Office, Trinidad Historical Society, Colorado Historical Society, Byway Economic Development Inc.'s, Trinidad State Junior College, National & State Parks & Forestry Services, US Forest Service, Division of Wildlife, The Federal & Colorado Department of Transportation, Byway Community Chambers of Commerce and Tourism Boards, Byway Cities & Counties, National Long Distance Trails, The Santa Fe Trail Association, Byway Welcome Centers, Byway Site Directors and Volunteers, photo and text contributions, and the countless who contributed to the development of our Website and the creation of our Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway "The Mountain Branch"!