Santa Fe Trail Scenic & Historic Byway
Corridor Management Plan

Section 4

Visitor Needs and Expectations

Table of Contents

lamar welcome center

Visitation Estimates and Trends

Visitation Levels, 1992
Visitation Levels, 1993-1996
Current Visitation
Survey of Colorado Byway Visitors

Visitor Experience Plan

Existing Facilities and Services
Existing Projects
Projects In Progress

Tourism Services and Facilities Plan

General Guidelines

Commerce plan

Existing Conditions
Proposed Projects

Sign and outdoor advertising plan

Existing Regulatory Guidelines
Existing Inventory
Sign Projects In Progress
Proposed Sign and Outdoor Advertising Plan

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Visitation Estimates and Trends

For an update on Visitation Please Refer to the Colorado Report

Visitation Levels 1992

The peak year for the number of visitors and resultant revenues collected statewide was 1992. In the four-county area in which the Santa Fe Scenic and Historic Byway is located, over $53 million in travel expenditures was generated, over $2 million in state tax receipts were collected and $1.3 million in local tax receipts were received.

Tourism and Travel Impact
Santa Fe Trail Region Compared to State, 1992

 Area  Total Travel Expenditures  State Tax Receipts  Local Tax Receipts
 Prowers County  $ 21,852,151  $ 842,474  $ 549,422
 Las Animas County  $ 20,744,906  $ 799,786  $ 521,583
 Otero County  $ 8,132,406  $ 313,532  $ 204,471
 Bent County  $ 2,901,531  $ 111,864  $ 42,653
 Four County  $ 53,630,994  $ 2,067,656  $ 1,318,129
 Total State of Colorado  $6,383,214,600  $ 246,094,393  $ 159,892,081

Source: Southeast Colorado Tourism Board

In 1992, revenue from tourism in southeastern Colorado was at least double that found in the northeastern part of the state. Total travel expenditures generated as well as tax receipts from the four-county region each amounted to roughly 1 % of the total for the state.

Two important events that subsequently impacted visitation in Colorado were:

1. the passage of the Bruce Amendment in 1992, which required a vote of the people on any tax; and
2. rejection by Colorado voters of the tourism tax in November, 1993.

As a result, the State Tourism Office was closed and local tourism in the southeastern part of the state was no longer coordinated through the Southeast Colorado Tourism Board. The Colorado Tourism Office is again up and running strong. Today they have an Officical State Visitors Guide and web site

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Visitation Levels. 1993 - 1996

Tourism Impact - Statewide

Tourism was negatively affected across Colorado by the dissolution of the State Tourism Board. In 1993, Colorado was ranked as the number one summer resort destination among the 50 states. In 1994, Colorado's summer resort ranking fell to 17th. Visitation to winter tourism resorts peaked between 1993 and 1994, fell in 1994 and 1995, then regained some ground in the 1996 season. This information was based on mail and telephone surveys of approximately 150 businesses at nine major ski counties and at Denver and Colorado Springs airports (Colorado Winter Tourism Indicators, The Adams Croup). Overnight pleasure trips in Colorado dropped to 17.5 million in 1995 from a peak in 1992 of 19.9 million, a decrease of 12% (Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority.)

In response to declines in visitation, local and regional efforts to market tourism were initiated. As a result, tourism indicators for both the City of Denver and the state of Colorado as a whole showed an increase in tourism activity in 1996.

As of the end of 1996, the number of visitors in the state rose 11 % from 1995, reaching 19.4 million, a figure close to the all time high level of 19.9 million in 1992.

Overnight Visitors, 1995- 1996

 Area  1995  1996  % Increase
 City of Denver  5.3 million  6.0 million  13%
 State of Colorado  17.5 million  19.4 million  11%

Source: Longwoods International Study for Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau

Increases in visitation were also evident in the City of Denver. In 1996, overnight visitors in Denver increased 13% over 1995 figures. This was the first increase in tourism in the City since 1992. Expenditures by pleasure and business visitors to Denver also rose 19% between 1995 and 1996.

Part of the increased visitation to the City of Denver has been attributed to a $2 million marketing campaign with American Express and Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority implemented in 1995. This was the first major tourism promotional campaign since 1992 and resulted in 1996 being the best year in Denver's history for hotel occupancy and room rate charges.

Tourism Impact - Southeastern Colorado

Records from the Colorado Welcome Centers in Trinidad and Lamar indicate that visitation at the centers fell in 1994 and has rebounded since that time to surpass levels reached in 1992. These general trends appear to mirror those experienced in other parts of Colorado.

From 1992 to 1996, the cumulative increase in the number of visitors at the welcome centers was 11 % in Trinidad and 5% in Lamar.

Visitation at Colorado Welcome Centers, 1992 and 1996

Trinidad Lamar
Sources: Colorado Welcome Center - Trinidad (calendar year), Colorado Welcome Center - Lamar (July fiscal year)


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Current Visitation

For an update on Visitation Please Refer to the Colorado Report

Tourism activity in 1997 appears to be down for both the state and southeastern Colorado when compared to 1996. Retail spending in Colorado for March 1997, both visitor and local activity, in restaurant and consumer spending declined by 2.1 % and 1.2% respectively from 1996 (Colorado Winter Tourism Indicators, The Adams Croup.) In addition, visitor numbers at welcome centers in southeast Colorado are down in 1997 as compared to 1996. Visitor numbers from January through August, 1997 in Trinidad show visitation was down .1% (162 persons) while in Lamar from January to July visitor numbers fell by 2% (421 persons) from the same period the previous year. Bent's Old Fort reported its current annual visitation of 37,000 is down from their 10 year average of 45,000 persons per year.

Current Visitor Estimates, 1997

Tourist Facility  Total Annual Visitors
Trinidad Lake State Park  200,000
Colorado Welcome Center - Trinidad  163,961
Comanche National Grassland  40,000 - 65,000
Bent's Old Fort  37,000
 Colorado Welcome Center - Lamar  32,661
Big Timbers Museum  12,600
Trinidad History Museum  7,000
Source: Interviews with facility managers

Overall, the peak visitation period for southeastern Colorado is from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Lamar Welcome Center has the strongest activity during that time, with July as the peak month for visitors. The number of visitors at the Lamar Welcome Center ranges from 800 to 6,900 per month. Peak tourism period for the Trinidad Welcome Center is more concentrated between June and August when 50% to 60% of the annual visitation occurs. The number of visitors at the Trinidad Welcome Center varies from 4,300 per month to over 34,000 per month.

General tourism trends that Longwoods International discovered in their 1996 study for the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau are that:

1. there is a growing trend towards shorter vacations;
2. the amount of visitors staying with friends and relatives has increased; and
3. the biggest expenditure by pleasure travelers was food, followed by
accommodations, local transportation, retail sales, recreation and sightseeing.

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Survey of Colorado Byway Visitors

During the summer and fall of 1995, the Colorado Center for Community Development at the University of Denver at Colorado conducted a survey of visitors to twenty-one Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways. Surveys were administered by volunteers at 16 different sites, typically welcome centers. The La Junta Chamber of Commerce and Lamar Welcome Center were the survey sites selected to ascertain information about visitors along the Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway. The purpose of the survey was to learn about visitor demographics, trip profiles, visitor expenditures and visitor motivations so that byways can market and develop programs for those most likely to travel the byways. The results presented are derived from 418 completed visitor surveys from byways across the state.

Visitor Demographics

Of those responding to the survey, the majority of visitors can be characterized by the following:

Trip Profile

Respondents visiting byways were either on vacation (80%), visiting friends/relatives (7%), stopping at a rest stop (4.7%), on business (3%) or on other types of trips. The length of trips varied, however, the majority of respondents (66%) stayed for three nights or less.

Duration of Byway Trip

Source: Byway Visitor Survey, Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways

Most visitors who were surveyed indicated that this was the first time they had visited this byway.

Number of Times Visited This Byway

 Number of Times  %
 First time  73.6%
2-3 times per year   12.9%
 4-5 times per year  3.0%
 More than 5 times  10.4%

Source: Byway Visitor Survey, Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways Commission

The average size of parties visiting a byway was 3.4 persons. The majority of persons were traveling with spouses or a family member (85.2%). Roughly 60% of those visiting byways did not have children traveling with them.

The three most frequent places persons stayed on their trip were:

The following activities were most often participated in by survey respondents:

When respondents were asked to rate the importance of reasons for visiting a byway, the top three average responses were to: view scenery, get away from demands of life and experience new things.

Visitor Motivation

1 = Not important; 2=Somewhat important; 3 = Important; 4 = Very important
Source: Byway Visitor Survey, Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways

All the choices for visiting byways received a rating of at least "somewhat important" with a numerical rating of over 2.0.

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Visitor Experience Plan

Existing Facilities and Services

The roadway passes through four counties and six municipalities along the Byway's 184-mile route. The total population within the counties is less than 56,000 persons. The remainder of the route consists of open rangeland, large rural properties and smaller communities which provide respite for the traveler. Hospitality services including rest areas, campgrounds, motels, restaurants and information centers are accessible along the roadway. A summary of these facilities and services is provided below.

The number of rest areas is limited despite the expansive 184-mile length of the Byway. There are three formal rest areas along the Byway, two of which are currently closed. There are no rest areas on Highway 350 or that portion of the route along Interstate 25 at this time. The following is a description of existing rest areas and imminent improvement projects.

Holly rest area - located approximately 0.5 mile west of the Kansas/Colorado border. Contains one information kiosk. Repairs were required at this site due to difficulties with sewage treatment. Improvements are being made at the present time and the rest area is expected to be open by December, 1997. Two wayside exhibits are planned for completion in 1998 at this rest area.
Hadley rest area - positioned between Las Animas and La Junta on the south side of Highway 50 at the Bent/Otero County line. This rest area is situated near the site of the proposed direct route to Bent's Old Fort. This rest area is well-marked, provides an adequate merge lane for eastbound traffic exiting the site and has sufficient parking for all vehicle types. Handicapped parking and picnic facilities are provided with five covered shelters that house two picnic tables each. There are two information kiosks at this rest area, one of which provides information on Bent's Old Fort and the Santa Fe Trail. Two wayside exhibits are planned for completion in 1998 at this rest area.
Raton Pass rest area - entry point into Colorado from New Mexico on I-25. Has an informational kiosk and a small pullout. This rest area is closed and plans are under consideration to relocate the rest area to a site north of Trinidad.
El Moro rest area - The newest rest area on our byway is located South of Trinidad on I-25 at the El Moro Exit. It is well marked and includes Information kiosks, bathrooms, covered picnic tables, handicapped parking and facilities. Additional visitor enhancements both outdoor and indoor are underway.

Pullouts are gravel or paved short distance detours off the shoulder of the main highway; existing pullouts do not contain amenities. Six pullouts are located along the Byway, with the largest concentration on the southwest portion of the route. There are no pullouts from Las Animas east to the Colorado/Kansas border. On I-25 northbound to Trinidad one mile north of the state line, a scenic overlook is located on the east side of the highway. This is a narrow, drive-through overlook with no parking spaces. In addition, an non-designated pullout is nearby on the west side of the highway, 1.75 miles north of the state line, overlooking the historic Dick Wootton Ranch. There are three unofficial pullouts between La Junta and Trinidad (20 miles west of La Junta; east side Highway 350 at County Rd 801; and east side Highway 350, 12 miles south of Otero/Las Animas County line). In Lamar, there is one designated pullout at 0.1 mile north of the Arkansas River bridge on the east side of the road.

Eight sites in the Byway corridor offer picnic facilities. Persons directly in contact with visitors were surveyed to assess which areas were most frequently requested. Of the 1 7 choices, the top three places that were most asked about by visitors were camping areas, picnic areas and museums. The majority of picnic areas along the Byway are found west of Las Animas. The following seven sites contain designated picnic areas/facilities:

Picnic Area Locations and Features

 Name  Location  Amenities
 Clarence Couch Park (a.k.a. CAVI)  Las Animas  6 picnic tables/ 2 pit toilets
 Trinidad Lake State Park  Trinidad  3 group picnic areas/pavilions for 60 people
 John Martin Reservoir  Hasty Extensive, scattered amenities
 Timpas Picnic Area  Highway 350  6 picnic tables, 3 pavilions, grills
 Kit Carson Park  Trinidad  1 picnic table, pavilion
 Hadley Rest Area  La Junta/Lamar  10 sheltered picnic tables
 Santa Fe Plaza  La Junta  Pavilion, 1 picnic table
 Vogel Canyon Picnic Area  South of La Junta  3 picnic tables, grills

With the exception of Trinidad Lake State Park and John Martin Reservoir, amenities are relatively limited at existing picnic sites.

Nineteen camping areas are located along the Byway. These are:

KOA Private Campground - Lamar. Situated directly on the Santa Fe Trail route. Offers 43 camping sites and one cabin (tent), a swimming pool, pizza, miniature golf, dump station, electricity, bath/shower facility. Fully occupied on major holidays such as Labor Day, Memorial Day and most of July while at other times there are vacancies. Accepts reservations.
HDD's Private Campground - Lamar. Small private campground with minimal facilities.
Hud's Campground, 29995 US Hwy. 50, McClave CO
Country Acres RV & Motel, 29151 US Hwy 287/385, Lamar CO
Lamar Sportsman Campground, & Horse Motel, 5383 US Hwy. 50
Lucky's Marina & RV Park, 31230 County Rd 24, Hasty CO
John Martin Reservoir - Hasty. Provides 65 sites for tents and RVs. Cabins are not available. Electricity, water, baths and showers are available until October 15 then facility closes until spring. Does not accept reservations so occupancy is difficult to track. Summer use is high. Visitors may have difficulty distinguishing the information office from residences or business offices. Information center is closed on weekends. Promotion of the campground is poor; the brochure does not sell the amenities available and or list phone number for the facility. Improvements were made in 1997 when electricity capacity was extended to 29 additional campsites.
KOA Campground, 26680 W. US Hwy. 50, La Junta, CO
Camping at Comanche National Grassland sites is permitted in parking areas only. No designated campgrounds or facilities are available.
Trinidad Lake State Park - Trinidad. Contains 62 camp sites for large recreation vehicles or tents. Forty-nine sites have electricity. Water is available at communal spots. Shower house and laundry facility are provided. Carpios Ridge Campground operates fully from April 15th through October 15th. After October 15th, only 24 sites are open. Group camping for up to 60 persons is available at Piedmont Campground. Additional amenities available to camper's include: a fishing lake; boat ramps; ten miles of trails; Long's Canyon Watchable Wildlife Area; and interpretive programs on weekends and holidays. Reservations are accepted.
Cawthorn Campgrounds - Trinidad. A private RV park offering 41 pull through spaces with water, sewer, electricity, and cable TV. It is located on the south side of Trinidad, exit 13A, and open year round.
Derrick RV Park-Trinidad. A private RV park with 20 spaces. It offers water, sewer, electricity, cable TV, a hot tub, showers and laundry facility. It is open year round and is reached via exit 11.
Cedar Rail Campground, I-25 Raton Pass Exit 460, Raton, NM
Stonewall Inn, RV Park, Restaurant, 6689 Hwy. 12, Weston CO
Camp Salvation, Weston, CO
Budget Host Inn and RV Park, 10301 Sante Fe Trail Drive, Trinidad
Costa Stonewall Ranch, 719-868-2281, 6889 Highway 12, Stonewall, CO. Cabins for rent at a working cattle and buffalo ranch, guided horseback rides,wagon rides, fishing, group picnics, lots of wildlife. Open year round. Guided hunts, in season.
Summit RV Park, I-25 Exit 11, Trinidad CO
Monument Lake Park, 4789 Highway 12, Weston, CO. Lodge rooms, cabins, campground, RV's, tent sites, bath house, laundry, store, restaurant, bar w/live entertainment.
Fifty two motels are located along the Byway to serve visitors. New motels have been built in Lamar and Trinidad in the last three years. Motels are well dispersed along the route as shown by the following chart.

Number of Motels by Location

 Area  Number
 La Junta  12
 Lamar  17
 Las Animas  2
 Trinidad/Las Animas County  21
 Total  52

Sources: La Junta, Lamar, Bent County, Trinidad/Las Animas County Chambers of Commerce

There are no motels between La Junta and Trinidad on Highway 350 since there are no large towns along this portion of the Byway.

Numerous restaurants are situated along the Byway, however, choices in the type of cuisine and quality are generally limited. There is an abundance of fast food and Mexican restaurants.

An updated listing of RV Parks and Accomodations is avaialble on our web site at:

Number of Restaurants by Location

 Area  Number
 La Junta  1
 Lamar  19
 Las Animas  6
 Trinidad/Las Animas County  23
 Total  49

Sources: La Junta, Lamar, Bent County, Trinidad/Las Animas County Chambers of Commerce

An updated listing of Eateries is avaialble on our web site at:

Welcome centers are typically the main sources for information about the Santa Fe National Scenic and Historic Trail. Information on the SFT is provided through a variety of media including brochures, audio tapes and videos which can be obtained at convenience stores, motels, restaurants, and the welcome centers. Three different brochures about the SFT have been produced and each county also has a promotional brochure. Brochures have been distributed through a contract with a state-wide promotional service. As a result, local resources and focus tends to be lost. Of the six existing interactive videos within the corridor, none were operational at the time this CMP was prepared. Descriptive summaries of current information centers and the availability of SFT information at each center are presented below.

Colorado Welcome Center - Trinidad. First welcome center encountered by northbound travelers on 1-25 in Colorado. Welcome Center and Chamber of Commerce are co-located here. Excellent supply of brochures on the region and Colorado in general, and has information on the Santa Fe Trail. New kiosks are being installed at this location. The Byway worked with DOW to install 2 watchable wildlife signs on an outside of the building.
Colorado Welcome Center - Lamar. Welcome Center and Chamber of Commerce are co-located at this converted railroad depot. Provides information on Colorado in general, while focusing on southeast Colorado in particular. Much valuable printed information on the Santa Fe Trail is available. Working with the Colorado Historical Society and the Colorado Department of Highways to install outside information kiosks, one of which will provide information on the Santa Fe Trail. The Byway worked with DOW to install 2 watchable wildlife signs on an outside information kiosk. Additional Santa Fe Trail enhancements include outdoor exhibits and a Santa Fe Trail Byway poster exhibits with childrens activities, maps and sites to visit on Colorado's Santa Fe Trail.
Trinidad History Museum State Byway Visitors Center (a property of Colorado Historical Society). Has an excellent variety of brochures about the Santa Fe Trail from multiple states and brochures about our Colordo Byways. Has a Santa Fe Trail Museum as well. Additional Santa Fe Trail enhancements are being developed for this location.
Comanche National Grassland - La Junta. Santa Fe Trail educational programs and guided tours are conducted for the public. Open year-round, with peak visitation periods occurring during March-June and September-October.
Pinon Canyon Army Maneuvers site - Highway 350. Contains over 16,000 acres. Stage stop sites and information kiosks can be viewed at this site.
La Junta Chamber of Commerce - La Junta. Maintains an abundant supply of regional brochures, including the standard Santa Fe Trail brochures.
Bent County Chamber of Commerce - Las Animas. Excellent supply of brochures, including ones on the Santa Fe Trail.

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Existing Projects

Preserving the quality of the visitor experience along the Byway is of paramount importance to communities along the Byway. Actions have already been initiated by many agencies and organizations to both enhance the visitor experience and mitigate the few areas where intrusions to me visitor experience exist. Some examples are described below.

Trinidad History Museum has signs off Interstate 25 (I-25) and Main Street (The Santa Fe Trail) to attract new visitors and direct them more easily to the museum. In addition, the museum restored the Santa Fe Trail Museum building which has increased its attraction as a destination site.
1996 ISTEA fundswere appropriated to erect three Santa Fe Trail point of interest signs along I-25.
The USFS installed vehicle counters at Vogel Canyon and Picket Wire Canyon in an effort to more accurately measure visitor numbers on an ongoing basis.
A new visitor center was constructed at John Martin Reservoir in August, 1997 by the Army Corps of Engineers. As part of the improvements, a comprehensive multi-dimensional information program on the Santa Fe Trail was implemented.
Streetscape improvements have been constructed in the downtown centers of Lamar, Las Animas, La Junta, and Trinidad.
The City of Las Animas received a historic preservation grant to perform an assessment of its downtown historic district as part of a downtown revitalization program.
The Byway partnered with Comanche National Grasslands to develop eight new low profile signs on trails at the following locations of PIcketwire Canyonlands, Sierra Vista, Iron Springs, Rourke Ranch, Timaps and Crack Cave. All have information which includes the Santa Fe Trail and three are to do with watchable wildlife on the Santa Fe Trail. Additional enhancements and signs are on the trail leading to the dinosaur tracksite.
Six counties have received designation as Preserve America Communities.
Southeast Colorado and the Santa Fe Trail were placed on the National List of Most Endangered Places 2007 and Colorado's Most Endangered Places list in 2007. As a result of these designations Colorado Preservation Inc. is in the process of doing several historic research and survey projects of the region.
Trinidad has a designation for it's El Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District. The Byway has developed the self guided tour of the Purgatoire River Walk with bronze plaques along the trail and the city developed Cimino Park next the riverwalk.
Bent's Old Fort built a new parking lot and a picnic area in efforts to increase accessibility of the picnic area for visitors.
A 17-acre rest area was built on I-25, by Exit 18 (El Moro).
Several Surveys have been conducted by CDOT Scenic Byway program, America's Byways, and the Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway- Mountain Branch.

In addition to improvements at specific sites, local communities have adopted planning ordinances that impact the overall general quality of visitor experiences. Specific tools included in these ordinances are:
regulation of land use and density of development;
detailed land and site planning;
control of outdoor advertising; and
county roadside weed removal.

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Projects Completed

The following is a selection of projects proceeding at this time that will enhance the quality of visitor services.

John Martin Reservoir is planning a new trail and the Byway partnered for interpretive enhancements for the trail about the wagon ruts which are visible and watchable wildlife at the viewing blind.
Amache National Historic Site is reconsted some of the historic buildings on the site, put in a walking trail and the Byway partnered for interpretive enhancements for the driving trail.
Boggsville Historic Site (a Pioneer Historical Society Property) developed it's trail system and the Byway partnered for interpretive enhancements for the trail which relate to the Santa Fe Trail and watchable wildlife for the nature trail.
Sand Creek National Historic Site has a trail and NPS enhanced the site with a kiosk and overlook for the trail.
El Moro rest area will recieve interpretive enhancements by the Byway.
Trinidad History Museum will received Byway enhancements in partnership with the Colorado Historic Society including an movable Byway display and a light box which features the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail Scenic Byway.
El Pueblo History Museum's Byway Visitor Center will receive a light box which showcases our Byway.
The Byway has created a visitors guide for Colorado's Santa Fe Trail.
The Byway maintains two websites: and
We created a children's activity book made available at the Trinidad CO Welcome Center.
The Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway Mountain Branch provided FHWA funding for low profiles (36"x 24") at numerous sites of interest at the following locations between 2008 and 2016/17:

The Byway also provided 12 bike racks to encourage biking the byway as follows:

Tourism Services and Facilities Plan

The following guidelines and priorities were adopted by participants in the development of the CMP as recommendations for tourism services and facilities. The focus of these priorities is to improve existing facilities. Future commercial growth, however, could be accommodated with infill of existing commercially zoned areas while not affecting the intrinsic qualities of the Byway. Specific strategies are listed in the subsequent table.

General Guidelines

1. Efforts should be focused on improving existing facilities.
2. Better links should be created between visitors and existing facilities.
3. Utilization of existing services and facilities should be increased.
4. Diversity should be provided in the type and location of services for visitors.

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Proposed Tourism Services and Facilities

 Project  Priority
 Rest Areas/Pullouts/Picnic Areas  
 Open Raton Pass rest area - Strong support shown for improving existing rest areas. Important to re-open since it has facilities and is an entry point into Colorado from the south. High
 Open Holly rest area - Provides access for visitors who enter Colorado from the east.  High
 Add rest areas along State Highway 350 - Extensive length of the Byway requires additional rest stops for visitors.  High
 Improve amenities/signs-Clarence Couch Park (CAVI) -Add active areas such as barbeque pits and a volleyball court to increase usage. Park is frequently overlooked since there is no advance notice along the highway.  High
 Provide bottled water at visitor sites - Access to water is difficult for travelers at most points along the SFT and is an  important  amenity to provide.  High
 Add picnic area-Bloom Hill town site - Addition of a picnic table would increase appreciation for the old foundations  immediately adjacent to existing pullout.  Medium
 Expand John Martin Reservoir campgrounds - Improvements to access existing visitor service facilities as well as more camping sites.  High
 Designate camping sites - Comanche National Grassland - Given the popularity of camping, design appropriate areas for  camping in lieu of camping in parking lots. Consider fire danger in development of camping areas.  High
 Add beach and camp sites -Trinidad Lake State Park - Demand for additional sites if more water becomes available.  High
 Add other campgrounds - Less desirable to provide new campgrounds. Highest priority to better utilization of existing  resources. More sites may be needed in the future.  Medium
 Increase number - Existing quantity appears adequate with recent renovations and two new motels.  Low
 Diversify type and quality - Travelers need wider range of cuisine and better quality of restaurant options. Provide training  programs for existing businesses to sensitize them toward quality issues.  High
 Geographic dispersal - Adequate restaurant locations along segments of the Byway. Low
 Information/Welcome Centers  
 Hospitality and training on Santa Fe Trail - Provide additional training to capture a higher percentage of existing travelers.  Availability of information on the Santa Fe Trail has been inconsistent. Local service providers were generally not  knowledgeable about the Trail and its resources.  High
 Dedicated display racks - Dedicated information on the Santa Fe Trail ensures information is seen more easily and promotes complimentary services.  High
 Distribution of brochures - Service providers who were surveyed indicated that a better distribution of brochures was one of the  top two ways to improve visitation to the SFT.  High
 Survey visitors regularly - Replicate survey system for welcome centers or other visitor facilities. Infrastructure for surveying  visitors is in place since the University of Colorado conducted a Byway survey in 1995. Colorado Byways continues to partner for similar surveys of all of our Colorado Byways.  Medium

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Commerce Plan

Existing Conditions

As described in Section 3, Physical Description of the Roadway, the Byway travels four highways: a 13-mile stretch of Interstate 25 that provides passage in a north/south direction; State Highways 350 and 160, secondary highways that run northeast/southwest for roughly 82 miles; and State Highway 50, a primary highway running east-west for about 89 miles. These are the main roads which handle commerce-related traffic in southeastern Colorado. Commercial businesses and visitor services are conveniently located immediately along the Byway. Rural areas between municipalities along State Highways 350, 160 and 50 often have local agricultural traffic, however, there are few areas where uses conflict.

Opportunities to retrace the SFT route by hiking, bicycle or horse have been very limited to date. The narrowness of the road shoulder, high traffic speed and occasional steeply sloped right-of-way make State Highways 350 and 50 unsuitable for families with children on bicycles and/or horseback. Experienced touring bicyclists would find the ride only moderately challenging and safe relative to other touring areas around the state. Opportunities for hiking are more limited given the sheer distances between sites.

A variety of trails, therefore, are desired to encourage diversity and to accommodate alternative multiple uses. Since the SFT was fairly wide and discernible trail rut sites are limited, ample land is available for horseback riding, mountain biking or hiking near or along the Santa Fe Trail. Resources are capable of withstanding this type of use in the near term.

Each highway is described in more detail below.

Interstate 25

Interstate 25 is the major north-south highway along the front range of the Rocky Mountains; it is also the only north-south interstate highway in Colorado. This segment of 1-25 extends between Trinidad and the Colorado/New Mexico border at Raton Pass.

Interstate 25 access to Colorado via Raton Pass is the second busiest access to the state, with an estimated 270,981 vehicles per month as of July, 1997. Its high traffic volume includes all types of commercial and recreational vehicles. The right-of way is very narrow over much of this segment. Pedestrians and horses are prohibited on the highway yet bicycles are allowed since there are no alternative routes over Raton Pass. The highway is occasionally closed to vehicle traffic at Raton Pass due to severe winter weather.

Highways 350 and 160 between Trinidad and La Junta

This two-lane rural roadway was recently re-surfaced and has a posted speed of 65 miles an hour. Traffic volume along this roadway is light. Even though a narrow shoulder exists over most of this segment of road, the sight line is good and stopping on the roadside is possible. Although there are no designated pullouts, several informal pullouts can be found. This road can accommodate increased vehicle traffic with little difficulty. The roadway connects with downtown Trinidad, which may result in occasional traffic congestion.

Highway 50 - La Junta to eastern Colorado Border

Highways 350 and 50 meet at a junction in La Junta. The La Junta commercial district is heavily traveled by a mix of commercial and private vehicles. High traffic volume and the absence of road shoulders makes it virtually impossible to stop on the roadside in La Junta's commercial district. Many travelers from the metro-Denver/Colorado Springs/Pueblo areas gain access to the SFT corridor via Highway 50 at La Junta.

Las Animas is the next commercial center visitors encounter while traveling east on Highway 50. Las Animas has essential visitor services. Local traffic is limited given the town's population of roughly 2,800 persons. Lamar, located further east, is a significant junction for commerce with 50% of in-bound traffic consisting of trucks. It is estimated that 1,000 trucks per day proceed from Highway 50 south to Highway 287. Holly is the closest town to the Colorado/Kansas border and it provides some services for travelers.

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Proposed Projects

General Guidelines

Since an overriding goal of the CMP is to adhere to NPS specifications, the following commerce guidelines incorporate NPS requirements as well as recommendations developed through public input.

1. All new development should include provisions for safe routes for visitors.
2. Long range plans for pedestrians, bicycles, and horses should be developed so that uses are compatible.

3. Road maintenance schedules should be established by appropriate agencies, especially for peak visitation seasons.

Proposed Commerce-Related Projects

 Project  Priority
 Add warning signs regarding agricultural traffic/conflicting uses - Provide notice to travelers from outside the area about  potential slow traffic vehicles. Notify persons about safety concerns where the physical roadway or volume of traffic may cause  conflicts.  High
 Add pullouts or passing lanes - Pull off areas on the highway in certain high tourism areas, such as highway 194 near Bent's Old  Fort. High  High
 Promote access to Santa Fe Trail at La Junta Junction of Highways 50 and 350 - Along highly visible areas where traffic  merges near the Santa Fe Trail to increase awareness of the Trail and capture a greater portion of existing traffic.  High
 Provide bicycle racks and horse trailer parking - Encourage alternative modes of travel along the Trail.  High

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Sign and Outdoor Advertising Plan

Creating and maintaining signs to preserve and promote the intrinsic qualities of the Byway and direct travelers to its resources are significant components of the Corridor Management Plan. All regulatory, directional and informational signs are controlled by regulations established by the National Park Service, Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. Additional limitations by local ordinances are permitted. The Byway will conduct collaborative planning meetings  in the near future to create a new signing plan for our Scenic and Historic Corridor. Much has changed since the original plan was created and all agree that it is time to make much needed changes to dirrectional and site signage on Colorado's Santa Fe Trail.

Existing Regulatory Guidelines

National Park Service


The use of markers is restricted based on the ownership of the land. In the event the trail crosses land administered by federal agencies, markers are erected and maintained by the managing agency in accordance with standards established by the Secretary of the Interior. When the trail crosses non-federal land, agencies and private land owners who cooperate receive uniform markers under cooperative agreements. Markers are maintained according to those agreements. No markers would be installed on privately owned land without the consent of the owners. In instances where the trail extends across cultivated or other developed land, markers should be located at the edges of these areas or in a way that will not interfere with the established uses of the property.

The National Park Service is authorized to accept the donation of trail markers manufactured to its standards and to accept funds to manufacture these signs. The recommended trail marker symbol or logo must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration and will be consistent with that used by the National Park Service.

The Santa Fe Trail Association has a new program regarding marking non-certified sites on the SFT. This organization has an agreement with the National Park Service that ensures there is no infringement with the designated logo.


Auto tour route signs are manufactured, installed and maintained according to Colorado Department of Transportation specifications. Directional signs must be provided by state or local highway departments.

Colorado Department of Transportation

Roadside advertising on state highways and/or scenic byways in Colorado is governed by state statutes. In general, no new billboards or off-premise signs which are visible from the highway are permitted along Scenic Byways. Only official signs installed by cities or counties are exceptions to the new sign rule (Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) 43-1-403 (4), (13) and (14)).

Only the Department of Transportation is permitted, without written approval, to erect or maintain any advertising device located within the right-of-way of any state highway including streets within cities, counties and incorporated towns. The most pertinent state statute related to advertising along scenic byways is C.R.S. 43-1-419. The department may issue permits, rules, regulations pertaining to the erection, administration and maintenance of tourist-oriented directional signs which would also be compatible with federal requirements. Specific informational signs may be combined with private business signs contingent on the department's approval of the business signs and that businesses pay for the construction and installation of signs.


Local municipalities and counties have zoning powers to establish more strict limitations or controls on signs and billboards within their jurisdiction as long as those regulations do not jeopardize the state's receipt of its portion of federal highway funds. Often, coordination for sign production, installation and maintenance is needed between federal, state and local agencies. Volunteer sign and marker committee members of the Bent's Fort Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association have been active supporters of sign enforcement and opportunities for quality promotion of the Trail.

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Existing Inventory

Currently, standard Santa Fe Trail signs along the Byway consist of a metal pole with two signs: the Auto Tour Route sign with the National Park Service's Santa Fe Trail logo with the ox and prairie schooner and the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway sign. Limestone markers are placed along the actual trail route. There are few commercial signs along the route. Most signs are on the premises of existing businesses for identification. Signs are permitted in commercially zoned areas at the place of business.

The location of existing signs and markers is described according to the five segments of the corridor previously delineated under Section 2, Physical Description. The approximate number of signs and markers over the entire Mountain Route is as follows:

Santa Fe Trail/Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway Signs - 43
Point of interest/miscellaneous signs - 27
Trail marker, plaque or statue - 41

There are essentially no signs that provide advance warnings regarding DAR markers. The number of informational signs which direct auto tour route users to local sites or facilities is limited.

Signs and Markers by Byway Segment

 Highway location  SFT/CSB  signs  Average miles  per SFT/CSB sign  Point of  interest/  misc. sign  Trail marker/  plaque/ statue  Trail crossing or  junction
 Highway 50 between  Kansas/Colorado border and  Lamar




6 DAR markers

Fort Union-Granada Road
 Highway 50 between Lamar  and Las Animas 




Madonna of the Trail,
7 DAR markers

East of Las Animas
 Highway 50 between Las  Animas and La Junta




4 DAR markers 

Highways 350 & 1 60 between La Junta and Trinidad 




Kit Carson, Columbian Hotel plaque, 13 DAR markers, limestone markers

Iron Springs Multiple crossings  
 Interstate Highway 25 between  Trinidad and Colorado/New  Mexico border


3 DAR markers

Multiple crossings






The specific locations of DAR markers are described here-

Highway 50 between the Kansas/Colorado border and Lamar

Highway 50 between Lamar and Las Animas

Highway 50 between Las Animas and La junta

Highway 350 between La junta and Trinidad

Interstate Highway 25 between Trinidad and the Colorado New Mexico border


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Sign Projects In Progress

Funding for 30 interpretive wayside exhibits has been appropriated from ISTEA grants. The following list indicates the location of the exhibits along the Byway. Those projects in Phase 1 will be completed by the end of 1997 while Phase II projects are expected to be finished in 1998.


 Wayside Exhibits


 Colorado Welcome Center: Trinidad  Install 1  1
 Interstate-25, 1 mile north of NM border  Install 3  1
 Holly rest stop  Install 2  2
 Colorado Welcome Center: Lamar  Install 2  2
 John Martin Reservoir  Install 1  2
 Boggsville  Install 2  2
 Connector Road Park  Install 1  2
 Bent's Old Fort  Install 2  2
 Forest Service Office  Install 2  2
 Santa Fe Railroad Plaza (La Junta)  Install 2  2
 Hole-In-The-Rock site  Install 2  2
 Thatcher  Install 2  2
 Hoehne Turnoff (or Model)  Install 2  2
 Exit 18 (El Moro)  Install 5 and audio message repeater  2
 Trinidad Lake State Park  Install 1 and 1 indoor, 3-
dimensional interactive exhibit.



Proposed Sign and Outdoor Advertising Plan

According to the survey conducted of service providers who have direct contact with visitors, the most frequently suggested means of improving visitation and enjoyment of the sites on the Santa Fe Trail was to install additional signs on the highway. Given that there are relatively few directional signs along the auto tour route to historical or certified sites and at times the distance to designated sites from the highway is not indicated, enhancing the sign program should positively impact visitation.

General Guidelines

Signs should keep the overall character, scale and function of the area in which they are erected while also conveying a sense of community and pride in the Santa Fe Trail. The following are general assumptions for the sign plan that were derived from the public process.

1. Design should be clear and legible to the intended visitor.
2. Format of signs should be consistent in terms of color, lettering and logos.
3. Signs should be installed in areas where safety is an issue (narrow roads, shoulders, bridges).
4. Signs should act as a safeguard for and assure visibility of the region's intrinsic resources.
5. Routine maintenance schedules should be adopted by appropriate agencies to repair or replace damaged signs.

Proposed Sign and Outdoor Advertising Plan

 Project  Priority
 Add advance signs - DAR markers  High
 Add advance sign -John Martin Reservoir  High
 Add advance sign - Clarence Couch Park (CAVI)  High
 Add distance sign - Sierra Vista Overlook  High
 Add advance sign - Madonna of Trail  High
 Install on-site sign - Lamar Visitor Center  High
 Add directional signs - Trinidad Welcome Center  High
 Add Trail crossing signs  High
 Add Santa Fe National Historic Trail sign & marker descriptions -Sierra Vista Overlook  High
 Install 20 wayside exhibits and 30 point of interest signs along highway to correlate with day trips.  High
 Add informational signs on I-25  High
 Review and adopt sign codes  High
 Relocate SFT/CSB signs to increase visibility - Las Animas & La Junta commercial areas  Medium
 Review other byway sign programs  Low

In some locations, in particular the commercial areas in Las Animas and La junta, the abundance of business and highway signs make it difficult to locate Santa Fe Trail related signs.

The Byway partnered with NPS, CDOT and SFTA volunteers to mark trail crossings, historic sites and the actual trail routes in Colorado. New NPS Santa Fe Trail auto tour route signs and Colorado Byways colunbine signs were installed throughout the corridor in 2015-16.


Section 5

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