New Mexico Scenic Drive: Santa Fe Trail

Highlights of the Santa Fe Trail

As you cross New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail, enjoy the many beautiful sights, including sunsets like this one.
As you cross New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail, enjoy the many beautiful sights, including sunsets like this one.

The Santa Fe Trail has some spectacular and rugged scenery. For example, amid the surrounding Fort Union Ranch at Fort Union National Monument, wagon ruts can be seen in the distance. Nearby, travelers visit Fort La Junta (built in 1851) and the 1863 fort and supply depot.

There are also many different plants found along the Santa Fe Trail. For example, the flowering plants along the trail are the result of volcanic activity from long ago. Also, six miles of the Santa Fe National Forest embrace the trail between the villages of Glorieta (atop the 7,432-foot-high Glorieta Pass) and Canoncito. Ponderosa pine, golden aspen, auburn scrub oak, pinon pine, and juniper are all found here.

This Santa Fe Trail tour begins in Santa Fe and heads east to Clayton. With a little backtracking, the trail goes north and enters Colorado over the Raton Pass.

Pecos National Historic Park: Your first stop will be at Pecos National Historic Park, where you'll want to spend some time learning about the ruins of a 14th-century American Indian pueblo and two 17th-century Franciscan missions.

Las Vegas: Your next stop should be in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It has a great wildlife refuge.

Fort Union National Monument: Going north, still on I-25, you'll pass Buena Vista and come into Fort Union National Monument. The remains of this star-shaped fort are a fantastic sight.

: The Santa Fe Trail Museum should be your next stop as you approach the town of Springer and the major highway junction. Enjoy the Kiowa National Grassland as you drive east to the border and the town of Clayton. While here, don't forget to stop and enjoy Clayton Lake State Park, a great place to camp.

Raton: Next, leaving the byway for a few miles, take Highway 64 up to Raton for a fun experience at the Sugarite Canyon State Park. Then, back on the byway, hop on Highway 64 going south through Cimarron. This drive is fantastic and takes you through the Cimarron Canyon State Park. At this point, you may choose to head over to Taos or back to Santa Fe.

Take a step back in time as you travel down the Santa Fe Trail -- the first international trade route in America.

Find more useful information related to New Mexico's Santa Fe Trail:

  • New Mexico Scenic Drives: The Santa Fe Trail is just one of the scenic byways in New Mexico. Check out the others.
  • Cimarron, Clayton, Las Vegas, Santa Fe: Find out what there is to do in these cities along the Santa Fe Trail.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond New Mexico? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.