Its development…

Between 1821 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was primarily a commercial highway connecting Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico used by both Mexican and American traders until 1846, when the Mexican-American War began. A few months later, America’s Army of the West followed the Santa Fe Trail westward to successfully invade Mexico. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848, the Santa Fe Trail became a national road connecting the more settled parts of the United States to the new southwest territories. Commercial freighting along the trail boomed, 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, missionaries, wealthy New Mexican families, and emigrants.

Map of Santa Fe Trail route stretching from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Santa Fe Trail passed through Trinidad, CO and over the pass into Raton, NM. This section was aptly named the “Mountain Branch.”

The Colorado portion of the Trail was known as the Mountain Branch and extended from the border of eastern Colorado near Lamar, southwesterly into Trinidad and over Raton Pass to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Want to learn more? Check out this article, Six Ways to Travel Back in Time on the Santa Fe Trail in Southeast Colorado. 

*Hero image (top of page) courtesy of Tom Irions

View of the Santa Fe Trail Marker in Kit Carson Park, Trinidad, Colorado, with Fisher's Peak in the background

Large granite marker for the Santa Fe Trail placed by the Daughters of the Revolution in Kit Carson Park in Trinidad, Colorado.

…And its demise

In 1866, one year after the Civil War ended, an unprecedented period of railroad expansion began in the new state of Kansas. Within two years, rails had been laid across central Kansas, and by 1873, two different rail lines reached all the way into Colorado. In the early 1870s, three railroads competed to build rails over Raton Pass to serve the New Mexico market. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad prevailed and reached the top of Raton Pass in late 1878. In February 1880, the railroad reached Santa Fe, and with that, the Santa Fe Trail fell into disuse and slowly began fading into the past.





In September 2021, the communities of Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico will be collaborating on a Commemorative Celebration for the 200th Anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail.  This week-long, once-in-a-lifetime event – Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 2021 – will include historic tours of the trail and the Santa Fe Trail Museum, period reenactments including the Buffalo Soldiers, mountain man rendezvous, fun, historic activities for families, theatre productions, art exhibits, and more.  

 This will be only one of many commemorative events taking place along the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri to Santa Fe New Mexico. The planning committees are currently seeking sponsorships, interested vendors, entertainers, volunteers and ideas!  In line with that, an online auction will be held June 17th-26th to raise funds for the commemoration (more details on accompanying flyer). We hope you will join us in supporting this special event!

If you are interested in climbing aboard this Wagon Train, or would like more information, please contact Marty at

flyer advertising online auction June 17th-26th