Santa Fe Trail: Your Ultimate Guide To The SFT

The correct English pronunciation of “Santa Fe Trail” is: SAN-tuh FAY Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail was a trade route that ran from Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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  • Trail System: National Historic Trails
  • Length: 1203 miles
  • Abbreviation: SFT
  • Pet Friendly?: No.
  • Start Point: Independence, Missouri.
  • End Point: Santa Fe Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Halfway Point: Info not available.
  • Bike?: Yes, you can bike on the Santa Fe Trail.
  • Average Miles Per Day: The average miles a day that a hiker can hike on the Santa Fe Trail can vary, but it is typically around 15-20 miles.
  • Popular Trail Names: Wild Bill, Prairie Rose, Dusty Boots
  • Hunting Allowed? No.
  • Dams On Trail: None
  • Wifi?: No.

  • Created / Founded By: William Becknell
  • States It Runs Through: Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico
  • Highest Peak: Pikes Peak
  • Markings: Historical route markers.
  • Trail Conditions: Rugged, diverse, historic
  • Estimated Completion Time: The estimated completion time of the Santa Fe Trail is approximately 6-8 weeks.
  • Fastest Known Time (FKT): Info not available.
  • How Many Completed: Unknown.
  • Oldest Person To Thru Hike It: Info not available.
  • Deaths Per Year: No official record

Essential Info On The Santa Fe Trail

Difficulty Level

The Santa Fe Trail was a challenging and arduous route that connected Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico during the 19th century. The difficulty level of the trail was primarily due to the harsh and unpredictable terrain, extreme weather conditions, and the constant threat of attacks from Native American tribes. The trail traversed vast stretches of prairies, deserts, and mountains, making it a demanding journey for both people and livestock. Additionally, the lack of reliable water sources and the need to carry sufficient supplies added to the difficulty of the trail.

Elevation Gain

The Santa Fe Trail has an elevation gain of approximately 2,500 feet.

Weather Conditions

The weather conditions on the Santa Fe Trail can vary greatly depending on the season and location.

Safety Tips & Potential Dangers

When hiking the Santa Fe Trail, it is crucial to prioritize safety. Always carry sufficient water and stay hydrated throughout the journey. Familiarize yourself with the trail map and inform someone about your hiking plans. Additionally, wear appropriate footwear and clothing, and be prepared for sudden weather changes. Stay on marked trails, be cautious of wildlife encounters, and avoid hiking alone whenever possible.

Can You Hike It Alone?

Hiking alone on the Santa Fe Trail is generally not recommended due to safety concerns. It is advisable to hike with a partner or in a group to ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Crime Info

The crime rate on the Santa Fe Trail varies depending on the specific location and time period, but overall, it has historically been relatively low due to the presence of law enforcement and the vigilance of travelers.

Permits and Fees

Permits and fees may be required for hiking the Santa Fe Trail. It is recommended to check with the relevant authorities or park management for the most up-to-date information on permits and fees.

Directions to Trailhead

There are multiple trailheads for the Santa Fe Trail. Here are the directions to some of the main trailheads:

1. Santa Fe Trail Ruts Trailhead (Kansas):
– From Kansas City, take I-35 South.
– Continue on I-35 South until you reach Exit 182 for US-56 West towards Gardner.
– Take US-56 West and continue for approximately 40 miles.
– Look for signs indicating the Santa Fe Trail Ruts Trailhead on the right side of the road.

2. Santa Fe Trail Park Trailhead (Colorado):
– From Denver, take I-25 South.
– Continue on I-25 South until you reach Exit 94 for US-50 West towards Pueblo.
– Take US-50 West and continue for approximately 40 miles.
– Look for signs indicating the Santa Fe Trail Park Trailhead on the right side of the road.

3. Santa Fe Trailhead (New Mexico):
– From Albuquerque, take I-25 North.
– Continue on I-25 North until you reach Exit 278 for NM-14 North towards Santa Fe.
– Take NM-14 North and continue for approximately 15 miles.
– Look for signs indicating the Santa Fe Trailhead on the left side of the road.

Please note that these are just a few examples of trailheads along the Santa Fe Trail, and there may be additional access points depending on your specific starting location and desired section of the trail.

Conservation and Etiquette Guidelines

Conservation of the Santa Fe Trail was crucial to its sustainability and preservation. Travelers were expected to minimize their impact on the environment by avoiding unnecessary destruction of vegetation, wildlife, and natural resources. They were encouraged to stay on designated trails, refrain from littering, and avoid starting fires that could potentially cause wildfires. Conservation efforts aimed to maintain the trail’s natural beauty and protect the delicate ecosystem it passed through.

Etiquette requirements on the Santa Fe Trail were essential for maintaining order and ensuring a smooth journey for all travelers. It was expected that individuals would show respect and consideration towards fellow travelers, as well as the local communities they encountered along the way. This included practicing good manners, being courteous, and following established rules and regulations. By adhering to proper etiquette, travelers could foster positive interactions, promote harmony, and contribute to a pleasant experience for everyone on the Santa Fe Trail.

Cell Phone Coverage

The cellphone coverage on the Santa Fe Trail can vary depending on the specific location, but generally, major providers like Verizon and AT&T offer good coverage in the area.

Photos And Images From Along The Santa Fe Trail

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Hiking The Santa Fe Trail

Section Hikes

1. Cimarron Route
2. Mountain Route
3. Wet Route
4. Dry Route
5. Cutoff Route

Day Hikes

The Santa Fe Trail, a historic trade route connecting Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, offers several well-known day hiking routes that showcase the natural beauty and historical significance of the region. Here are a few concise paragraphs about some of these popular day hikes:

1. Pecos National Historical Park: Located just east of Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park offers a variety of day hiking options. The most popular trail is the Pecos River Overlook Trail, which provides stunning views of the Pecos River Valley and the remains of the ancient Pecos Pueblo. This easy-to-moderate hike is approximately 2 miles round trip and offers a glimpse into the rich cultural and historical heritage of the area.

2. Glorieta Battlefield Trail: Situated in Glorieta Pass, this trail takes hikers through the site of the Battle of Glorieta Pass, a significant Civil War engagement. The trail is approximately 2 miles long and offers interpretive signs that provide insights into the battle’s history. Hikers can explore the rugged terrain and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains while learning about the clash between Union and Confederate forces.

3. Cerrillos Hills State Park: Located south of Santa Fe, Cerrillos Hills State Park offers a network of trails that wind through a unique landscape of colorful hills and historic mining sites. The park features several well-marked trails of varying lengths and difficulties, allowing hikers to choose routes that suit their preferences and abilities. The 1.5-mile Main Loop Trail is a popular choice, offering a moderate hike with beautiful vistas of the surrounding area.

4. Diablo Canyon: Situated northwest of Santa Fe, Diablo Canyon offers a stunning hiking experience through a dramatic, narrow canyon carved by the Rio Grande. The trailhead is accessible from the Santa Fe National Forest, and the hike is approximately 4 miles round trip. Hikers will be treated to towering cliffs, unique rock formations, and the opportunity to spot wildlife such as eagles and bighorn sheep. The trail can be challenging in some sections, but the breathtaking scenery makes it well worth the effort.

These are just a few examples of the well-known day hiking routes along the Santa Fe Trail. Each of these hikes offers a distinct experience, combining natural beauty with historical significance, making them popular choices for both locals and visitors looking to explore the region’s rich heritage and stunning landscapes.

Points Of Interest

1. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site – Located in La Junta, Colorado, this reconstructed 19th-century trading post was a vital stop along the Santa Fe Trail.
2. Fort Larned National Historic Site – Situated near Larned, Kansas, this preserved fort served as a key military outpost and supply point along the trail.
3. Santa Fe Plaza – Located in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, this historic square is the endpoint of the Santa Fe Trail and is surrounded by adobe buildings and shops.
4. Fort Union National Monument – Situated near Watrous, New Mexico, this former military fort played a significant role in protecting the Santa Fe Trail and served as a supply depot.
5. Council Grove Historic District – Located in Council Grove, Kansas, this district features several historic buildings and landmarks that were important to travelers along the Santa Fe Trail.
6. Pawnee Rock State Historic Site – Situated near Pawnee Rock, Kansas, this landmark served as a prominent landmark and lookout point for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.
7. Old Cowtown Museum – Located in Wichita, Kansas, this living history museum showcases the life and culture of the Old West, including the Santa Fe Trail era.
8. Fort Leavenworth – Situated in Leavenworth, Kansas, this historic military fort played a role in protecting the Santa Fe Trail and served as a supply base.
9. El Quartelejo Ruins – Located near Scott City, Kansas, these ruins are the remains of a 17th-century Native American pueblo and are associated with the Santa Fe Trail.
10. Cimarron National Grassland – Situated in Elkhart, Kansas, this vast grassland area was crossed by the Santa Fe Trail and offers scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.

Stopping Points

1. Independence, Missouri: Known as the starting point of the Santa Fe Trail, Independence was a bustling frontier town where traders would gather supplies and form caravans before embarking on the journey westward.

2. Council Grove, Kansas: Located in the Flint Hills region, Council Grove served as a vital stopping point for traders to rest, replenish supplies, and negotiate treaties with Native American tribes. It was also a significant crossing point on the Neosho River.

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico: The ultimate destination of the Santa Fe Trail, this historic city was a major trading hub and the capital of the Mexican province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México. Traders would arrive here to sell their goods and acquire new merchandise for the return journey.

4. Bent’s Old Fort, Colorado: Situated along the Arkansas River, Bent’s Old Fort was a trading post and a key stopping point for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. It provided a safe haven, supplies, and a place to rest before continuing the arduous journey.

5. Fort Larned, Kansas: Built to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Larned was an important military outpost. It provided security, supplies, and medical assistance to traders and travelers passing through the area. Today, it is a well-preserved historic site.

Scariest Part Of The Trail

The one scariest part of the Santa Fe Trail was undoubtedly the treacherous crossing of the Raton Pass. This mountainous section, located between New Mexico and Colorado, posed numerous dangers to travelers. The steep and narrow path, coupled with unpredictable weather conditions, made it a perilous journey. The pass was notorious for its sudden snowstorms, avalanches, and rockslides, which could easily trap or injure those attempting to traverse it. The fear of being stranded or crushed by falling debris heightened the sense of danger, making the Raton Pass the most terrifying segment of the Santa Fe Trail.

Hardest Part Of The Trail

The Raton Pass, located in the southern Rocky Mountains, is widely regarded as the most challenging section of the Santa Fe Trail. This treacherous mountain pass posed significant obstacles to travelers, including steep inclines, rugged terrain, and unpredictable weather conditions, making it the hardest part of the trail to navigate.

Water Sources

1. Natural Springs: Along the Santa Fe Trail, natural springs were a common and reliable source of drinking water for travelers. These springs were often marked on maps and were known for their clean and refreshing water.

2. Rivers and Streams: The Santa Fe Trail crossed several rivers and streams, such as the Arkansas River and the Cimarron River. Travelers would often stop by these water bodies to refill their water supplies.

3. Wells: Wells were dug along the Santa Fe Trail to provide drinking water for travelers. These wells were typically located at regular intervals and were maintained by local communities or ranchers.

4. Ponds and Lakes: There were various ponds and small lakes along the Santa Fe Trail, which served as drinking water sources for both humans and animals. These water bodies were often found near camping sites or settlements.

5. Rainwater: During the rainy season, travelers on the Santa Fe Trail would collect rainwater in barrels or other containers. This water would be used for drinking and cooking purposes when other sources were scarce or unavailable.

Places To Eat

1. The Shed: A beloved local eatery serving traditional New Mexican cuisine, known for its flavorful red and green chile dishes.
2. The Pantry: A cozy diner offering hearty breakfasts and classic American comfort food, perfect for refueling after a long hike.
3. Tomasita’s: A popular spot for authentic Northern New Mexican cuisine, famous for its delicious enchiladas and sopaipillas.
4. Cowgirl BBQ: A lively restaurant with a Western vibe, serving up mouthwatering barbecue dishes and a wide selection of craft beers.
5. Clafoutis: A charming French bakery and café, known for its delectable pastries, sandwiches, and quiches, ideal for a quick bite during a hike.

Guided Tours?

Yes, guided tours are available on the Santa Fe Trail. There are several organizations and tour companies that offer guided tours along different sections of the trail. Some popular locations for guided tours on the Santa Fe Trail include Santa Fe, New Mexico; Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in Colorado; and Council Grove, Kansas. It is recommended to research and contact specific tour operators or visitor centers in these areas for more information on guided tours.

Gear Packing List

1. Backpack
2. Tent
3. Sleeping bag
4. Sleeping pad
5. Cooking stove
6. Cookware
7. Water filter
8. Water bottles
9. Food
10. Bear bag or bear canister
11. Map and compass
12. First aid kit
13. Headlamp
14. Extra batteries
15. Clothing (appropriate for weather conditions)
16. Hiking boots
17. Rain gear
18. Sunscreen
19. Insect repellent
20. Personal hygiene items
21. Multi-tool or knife
22. Trekking poles (optional)
23. Camera (optional)
24. Cash and identification
25. Cell phone and charger

Camping Things To Know

1. Historical Significance: While camping on the Santa Fe Trail, it is important to note the historical significance of this iconic route. The Santa Fe Trail was a major trade route in the 19th century, connecting Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It played a crucial role in the westward expansion of the United States and the development of trade between the American frontier and Mexico. Understanding the historical context and significance of the trail can enhance your camping experience, allowing you to appreciate the rich history that surrounds you.

2. Wildlife Encounters: Camping on the Santa Fe Trail offers the opportunity to encounter a diverse range of wildlife. While many people may expect to see typical wildlife such as deer or birds, there are some lesser-known species that inhabit the area. Keep an eye out for the swift fox, a small and elusive creature that is native to the grasslands of the Great Plains. Additionally, the Santa Fe Trail is home to various reptiles, including the prairie rattlesnake. Being aware of the potential wildlife encounters can help you appreciate the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area while ensuring your safety and respecting the animals’ habitat.

Advice For Beginners

When hiking the Santa Fe Trail, it’s important to be well-prepared and informed. Here are some beginner tips to make your experience enjoyable and safe.

Firstly, make sure to research and plan your route in advance. The Santa Fe Trail covers a vast area, so decide on the section you want to hike and familiarize yourself with the trail’s conditions, terrain, and any potential hazards. Check weather forecasts and pack accordingly, including appropriate clothing, sturdy footwear, and plenty of water.

Secondly, always let someone know about your hiking plans. Share your itinerary with a friend or family member, including your expected start and end times, as well as any checkpoints along the way. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can alert authorities if needed.

Additionally, it’s crucial to bring essential supplies such as a map, compass, and a first aid kit. Familiarize yourself with basic navigation skills and know how to use your equipment. Stay on the designated trail to avoid getting lost or damaging the surrounding environment.

Lastly, respect the trail and its surroundings. Leave no trace by packing out all your trash and minimizing your impact on the environment. Be mindful of wildlife and avoid disturbing their habitats. Remember to take breaks, pace yourself, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the Santa Fe Trail.

What If Lost?

If you are lost on the Santa Fe Trail, the best course of action is to stay put and wait for help. Avoid wandering further, as it can make it harder for rescuers to find you. Use any available resources, such as a map or compass, to determine your location and communicate it to authorities if possible. If you have a means of communication, such as a cell phone, call for help and provide them with as much information as you can about your situation.

Places To Stay

Types Of Shelters

The types of shelters available on the Santa Fe Trail included covered wagons and tents.

Popular Hostels

1. Santa Fe International Hostel
2. El Rey Court
3. Old Santa Fe Inn
4. The Santa Fe Sage Inn
5. The Inn of the Governors

Other Amenities

The Santa Fe Trail offers a range of amenities to enhance visitors’ experiences. Some of the top amenities include well-maintained hiking and biking trails, picnic areas with scenic views, interpretive signs providing historical and cultural information, and restroom facilities. Additionally, the trail may offer camping sites, visitor centers with educational exhibits, and opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation. These amenities aim to provide a comfortable and enjoyable environment for individuals and families to explore and appreciate the natural beauty and historical significance of the Santa Fe Trail.

Hot Springs Locations

Here is a list of hot springs along the Santa Fe Trail and their locations:

1. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs – Located in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico.
2. Montezuma Hot Springs – Located near Las Vegas, New Mexico.
3. Stagecoach Hot Springs – Located near Cimarron, New Mexico.
4. Manitou Springs – Located near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
5. Glenwood Hot Springs – Located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
6. Hot Sulphur Springs – Located in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado.
7. Steamboat Springs – Located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
8. Saratoga Hot Springs – Located in Saratoga, Wyoming.
9. Thermopolis Hot Springs – Located in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
10. Medicine Bow Hot Springs – Located near Medicine Bow, Wyoming.

Please note that the Santa Fe Trail spans multiple states, so these hot springs are located along the trail in different regions.

Trail Magic

Trail magic on the Santa Fe Trail refers to the unexpected acts of kindness and support that hikers may encounter during their journey. While the Santa Fe Trail is not as well-known for trail magic as some other long-distance trails, there are still opportunities for hikers to experience these uplifting moments.

Trail angels, who are individuals or groups of people who provide assistance to hikers, may occasionally be found along the Santa Fe Trail. They may offer water, snacks, or even a place to rest and recharge. However, it is important to note that trail magic on the Santa Fe Trail is less common and less organized compared to other popular long-distance trails like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail.

Hikers on the Santa Fe Trail should not rely solely on trail magic for their needs, as it is not guaranteed. It is advisable to carry enough food, water, and supplies to sustain oneself throughout the journey. However, if you do encounter trail magic on the Santa Fe Trail, it can be a delightful surprise and a welcome boost to your hiking experience.

Best Lookouts, Viewpoints, And Scenic Views

The Santa Fe Trail, a historic trade route connecting Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, offers numerous scenic views along its path. While the entire trail is known for its natural beauty and diverse landscapes, there are a few standout locations that are particularly renowned for their scenic views.

One such location is the Great Plains, which stretches across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Here, travelers can witness vast expanses of rolling grasslands, dotted with wildflowers and occasional herds of bison. The sweeping vistas of the Great Plains provide a sense of openness and tranquility, allowing visitors to appreciate the untouched beauty of the American heartland.

As the trail progresses westward, it passes through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. These majestic peaks offer breathtaking views of rugged cliffs, deep canyons, and snow-capped summits. The contrast between the arid desert landscapes and the towering mountains creates a dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery that captivates travelers.

Another notable scenic spot along the Santa Fe Trail is the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas. This vast expanse of prairie land showcases the beauty of the American Midwest, with its undulating hills, vibrant wildflowers, and abundant wildlife. The Cimarron National Grassland provides a serene and picturesque setting, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature.

In addition to these specific locations, the Santa Fe Trail as a whole offers a variety of scenic views throughout its length. From the rolling hills of Missouri to the rugged canyons of New Mexico, the trail showcases the diverse landscapes of the American West. Travelers can expect to encounter breathtaking sunsets, expansive vistas, and a sense of connection with the natural world as they journey along this historic route.

Resupply Points

The Santa Fe Trail was a major trade route that stretched approximately 900 miles from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the 19th century. Along this trail, several resupply points emerged to cater to the needs of travelers and traders. Here are some of the most popular resupply points on the Santa Fe Trail:

1. Council Grove: Located in present-day Kansas, Council Grove was a vital resupply point for travelers heading west. It offered fresh water from the Neosho River, grass for livestock, and ample wood for fuel. Traders and travelers would restock their supplies here, including food, water, and other essentials.

2. Bent’s Fort: Situated in present-day Colorado, Bent’s Fort was a significant trading post and resupply point on the Santa Fe Trail. It was established by brothers Charles and William Bent in 1833 and became a hub for trade between Native American tribes, Mexican traders, and American pioneers. The fort provided a safe haven for travelers, offering supplies, food, and shelter.

3. Santa Fe: The ultimate destination of the Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe itself served as a crucial resupply point. Traders would arrive here to exchange goods and resupply before embarking on the return journey. Santa Fe offered a variety of goods, including Mexican and Native American products, as well as provisions for travelers to restock their supplies.

4. Independence: While not directly on the Santa Fe Trail, Independence, Missouri, served as the starting point for many traders and travelers. It was a bustling frontier town where individuals would gather supplies, form caravans, and begin their journey westward. Independence provided a wide range of goods and services necessary for the arduous trek along the Santa Fe Trail.

These resupply points played a crucial role in supporting the flow of trade and travel along the Santa Fe Trail, ensuring that travelers had access to essential provisions and services during their long and challenging journey.

Bathroom Facilities

The bathroom facilities on the Santa Fe Trail were very basic and limited. As an early 19th-century trade route, there were no modern amenities or dedicated restrooms along the trail. Travelers had to rely on natural surroundings, such as bushes or trees, to find privacy for their bathroom needs. The lack of proper facilities meant that hygiene and sanitation were challenging, and individuals had to adapt to the rugged conditions of the trail.

Historical and Cultural Information

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route that connected Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It played a significant role in the expansion of the United States into the Southwest. Established in 1821, the trail served as a vital trade route for merchants, traders, and settlers, facilitating the exchange of goods between the United States and Mexico. The trail also witnessed the movement of thousands of pioneers seeking new opportunities and a better life in the West. It fostered cultural exchange and interaction between diverse groups, including Native Americans, Mexicans, and Euro-Americans, shaping the development of a unique frontier culture along its path. The Santa Fe Trail holds historical significance as a symbol of westward expansion and the blending of different cultures during the 19th century.

Training Required For Before You Hike

Thru-hiking the Santa Fe Trail requires a combination of physical endurance, mental preparedness, and navigational skills. Prior to embarking on this challenging journey, hikers should engage in regular cardiovascular and strength training exercises to build stamina and muscle strength. Familiarity with long-distance hiking and backpacking is crucial, as well as proficiency in using maps, compasses, and GPS devices for navigation. Additionally, acquiring knowledge about the trail’s terrain, weather conditions, and potential hazards is essential for a safe and successful thru-hike of the Santa Fe Trail.

Careers / Employment On The Trail

The Santa Fe Trail, a historic trade route that connected Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, offers a range of potential career opportunities. One such opportunity is in the field of tourism and hospitality. As the trail attracts numerous visitors each year, there is a demand for tour guides, hotel staff, and restaurant workers who can provide a memorable experience for tourists. Additionally, the trail’s historical significance opens up opportunities for historians and archaeologists to study and preserve the artifacts and stories of the trail, contributing to the field of research and education.

Another potential career opportunity on the Santa Fe Trail lies in the realm of outdoor recreation and adventure. The trail passes through diverse landscapes, including prairies, mountains, and deserts, providing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to engage in activities such as hiking, camping, and horseback riding. This creates a demand for outdoor guides, park rangers, and adventure tour operators who can lead and facilitate these activities. Moreover, the trail’s natural beauty and historical landmarks also attract photographers, artists, and writers who can capture and share the essence of the trail through their creative work.

Flora and Fauna

The specific flora and fauna on the Santa Fe Trail include various grasses, shrubs, and trees, along with animals such as bison, pronghorn, coyotes, and various bird species.


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