Simpson's Rest on the Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway

Trinidad is rightfully referred to as the gateway to the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail. Carefully guarding this passageway, one finds a great sentinel, an historic sandstone bluff, Simpson's Rest, standing proudly at Trinidad's northern limits. The mountain proudly adorns the Trinidad sign which lights up the evening skies and serves as a becon to modern day trail travelers. The bluff, overlooking the town from the north can be reached by way of a road leading from the western end of North Avenue.

 

Visitors may access the top by car to view his Simpson's grave marker and a spectacular view of the city. Open 8:00 AM until sundown daily. Please respect our Cities historic monuments and do not deface this site. We appreciate your respect for one of our most valuable historic treasures. The road is very steep and not maintained. It has very low clearance in some areas, so be very careful.

 

 

Buried atop the Rest is Trinidad pioneer George S. Simpson, one of this areas true "trail blazers." Simpson was a famous scout, trader, and explorer. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1818, Simpson first came to this area in 1848. Years later, the prominent pioneer settled here. While engaging in different enterprises, he was elected in 1861 as this regions first territorial county clerk. There are as many stories about the Simpson Indian attack as there are imaginations. The most common elements of these stories are that in 1867, prior to Trinidad becoming incorporated, Simpson was along the banks of the Purgatoire River when he was confronted by warring Ute Indians. Simpson fled up a nearby butte and hid inside one of the natural vertical crevices that were found in this sandstone bluff.

 

The attacking Indians did not locate Simpson and after three or so days, Simpson emerged from his hiding spot, thankful to the rock for his life. Later in life he wrote a poem about his desire to be buried there. This of course is but part of Simpson's contributions toward settling the West. Added to the 1866 Indian escapade, is the fact that he helped establish the Ft. Pueblo Trading Post and is credited with the first discovery of gold in Colorado, leading to the famous 1859 Rush to the Rockies. Years before his death, Simpson requested burial atop his beloved Rest, and his wish was honored in 1885. In September of 1885 it became his final resting place.

 

 

 

 

The summit of Simpson's Rest offers one of the most spectacular awe-inspiring views to be found in the entire southwest. Not to drive atop the Rest, is not to see Trinidad. The bold magnificent Rest in itself represents a geological Mecca. Time and the forces of nature have combined to reveal centuries of sedimentary deposits that have graciously formed into a sandstone outcroppings defying description.

Here one can observe tenacious layers of strata meticulously placed atop one another long before recorded history. The area abounds with fossilized remains of pre-historic forms of life entrapped within the strata. The artistically hewn sandstone has formed into a great semi-elliptical sheer cliff. From its curved edges, the visitor is afforded an unsurpassable panoramic view of a valley perhaps among the most outstanding of the Southwest. Directly north of the cliff, visitors can stroll through gently carved sandstone cavernous formations, partaking in a visual observation of the giant canvass of the Master artist of the times.

 

 

Once atop Simpson's Rest one is afforded an undisturbed view of the historic Purgatoire Valley. This fertile valley abounds with both natural and man made landmarks. Most prominent of the landmarks is Fisher's Peak, protruding upward to form a great natural southern border nestling the valley far below, this breathtaking mesa is considered as one of the most outstandingly well preserved massive lava flows found on the North American continent. Looking to the southwest of Trinidad, one sees the Purgatoire River dam, retaining the 800 acre Trinidad Lake. This lake allows for the 2300 acre Trinidad State Recreation Area. To the west of the dam, stands the bold, rugged Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range, a portion of the famed Rocky Mountains. The northern most point of the Range features the tops of historic Spanish Peaks.

 

 

An outstanding feature of Colorado's front range is the opportunity to witness the abrupt topographical change. Simpson's Rest, in terms of accessibility and location, is perhaps unsurpassable for allowing visitors the opportunity to perceive the rapid dramatic change from hills and mountains to rolling prairies. Those prairies directly to the east are most notable, for it was here that pioneers and traders traveled across what became known as the Santa Fe Trail. Eventually, this trail wound through the heart of downtown Trinidad before embarking across mountainous Raton Pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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