Trails and Treasures Home Page  Road Trips  Across America 2004

Santa Fe Trail

I followed the Santa Fe Trail from Santa Fe over the Raton Pass to Bent's Fort in Colorado and then eastward to Council Grove, Kansas.  Before leaving home I had read several books on the trail, including David Dary's The Santa Fe Trail: It's History, Legends, and Lore.  While exploring northwestern New Mexico prior to setting out on the Trail, I read Marc Simmons' New Mexico: An Interpretive History.  The trail guide I used was also by Marc Simmons with updates by Hal Jackson--Following the Santa Fe Trail: A Guide for Modern Travelers.  During my two weeks on the trail, I read the first part of Susan Shelby Magoffin's diary from 1846-47 Down the Santa Fe Trail and into Mexico and then Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail was a commercial trade route, not an immigrant trail.  In 1821 after Spain granted Mexico its independence, William Becknell took a pack train of trade goods to Santa Fe.  Under Spanish rule, trade with the United States had been illegal, and traders who arrived in Santa Fe had been arrested and jailed.  But Becknell's gamble paid off.  He was allowed to sell his goods, and he made a significant profit.  His success led others to follow the trail.  Soon hundreds of wagon loads of goods were traversing the trail annually.

My starting point on the plaza in Santa Fe.


In western Kansas, US 50 follows the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail (and the Santa Fe Railway) on the north side of the Arkansas River, which was the border between U.S. territory and Mexico.  [I note this tidbit of information since I live near US 50 in Maryland and drove a 15-mile stretch of it back and forth to work in DC for 25 years.]

Syracuse, KS

Lakin, KS

Charlie's Ruts, between Lakin and Deerfield

Garden City, KS

Trail ruts west of Dodge City

The Caches

Dodge City

Fort Larned NHS

Santa Fe Trail Center near Larned

Pawnee Rock

Lyons, KS, including Ralph's ruts

Council Grove, KS

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

For the beginning of the Trail, see my 2006 trip.  Searching for Fred Harvey, Fall 2006  Franklin--Start of the Santa Fe Trail