National Historic Trail
National Trails Intermountain
PO Box 728
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-0728
Take a journey between western
Missouri and Santa Fe on the Santa Fe National
Historic Trail. You'll find adventure and evidence
of past travelers who made this remarkable trip
The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th
century transportation route through southwestern
North America connecting Missouri with Santa Fe, New
Mexico. First used in 1821 by William Becknell, it
served as a vital commercial and military highway
until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe
At first an international
trade route between the United States and Mexico, it
served as the 1846 U.S. invasion route of New Mexico
during the Mexican-American War.
The route crossed Comancheria,
the territory of the Comanches, who demanded
compensation for granting right-of-ways. Americans
routinely traded with the Comanche along the trail,
sometimes finding the trade in Comancheria more
profitable than that of Santa Fe.
After the U.S. acquisition of
the Southwest, the trail helped open the region to
U.S. economic development and settlement, playing a
vital role in the expansion of the U.S. into the
lands it had acquired. The road route is
commemorated today by the National Park Service as
the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
A highway route that roughly
follows the trail's path through Colorado and
northern New Mexico has been designated the Santa Fe
Trail National Scenic Byway.
Plan Your Visit
The Santa Fe National Historic
Trail crosses the five states of Missouri, Kansas,
Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. You may decide
to travel its entire length, or visit just one or
two sites. Take time to plan your trip to meet your
needs and consult local guides.
Things to Do
Numerous programs and
activities are available at developed sites and in
communities along the Santa Fe National Historic
Trail. Contact individual sites and tourism centers
for more information. Non-federal historic sites,
trail segments, and interpretive facilities become
part of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through
This is a voluntary process in
which an owner or manager agrees to adhere to
National Park Service standards for resource
preservation and visitor use. Look for the official
trail logo at all certified locations. Public lands
and state, county, and city parks along the trail
route preserve trail resources. Although not yet
certified, they may be open for public use.
Other trail sites are on
non-profit or private property and may not be open
to the public.
Between 1821 and 1880, the
Santa Fe Trail was primarily a commercial highway
connecting Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. From
1821 until 1846, it was an international commercial
highway used by Mexican and American traders. In
1846, the Mexican-American War began.
The Army of the West followed
the Santa Fe Trail to invade New Mexico. When the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848,
the Santa Fe Trail became a national road connecting
the United States to the new southwest territories.
Commercial freighting along the trail continued,
including considerable military freight hauling to
supply the southwestern forts.
The trail was also used by
stagecoach lines, thousands of gold seekers heading
to the California and Colorado gold fields,
adventurers, fur trappers, and emigrants. In 1880
the railroad reached Santa Fe and the trail faded
Places to Go
Page 1 of 1