Santa Fe Trail

State: Colorado
Length: 565 miles / 904.0 km
Time to Allow: Allow 12 hours.

The Santa Fe Trail goes through parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. Overall the trail spans 565 miles and takes a minimum of 12 hours to go through all of the states. Focusing on the Colorado portion, the trail takes up 188 miles and can be driven in about four hours or take days, depending on how much time you want to spend. The trail offers a cultural legacy where you can still see wagon wheels in the ground.

At the edge of southern central Colorado sits the town of Trinidad at the beginning of the Colorado portion of the trail. The small city offers an archaeological museum with artifacts and a few other museums, including one filled with western art from Arthur Roy Mitchell. Trinidad Lake State Park offers camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and an archery range, making it stand out. Make sure to check out the Comanche National Grasslands to see the home of one of the largest known dinosaur track sites in North America.

Take a detour to the tiny town of La Junta to visit the Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, where you can see an old covered wagon from the 1833’s. Find a museum filled with Native American artifacts collected by the Boys Scouts for decades too, or visit the Otero Museum for more artifacts and railroad history too.

Heading east, following the Arkansas river leads to the town of Lamar before entering Kansas. If you are coming from the states to the east, this is a great entrance to the byway. Find the welcome center for local maps and information, then visit the fully restored 1907 train depot with an engine and a 100-year-old windmill.

People who love bird-watching will love Lamar as well, as they can find a variety, including red-bellied woodpeckers, Inca doves, northern cardinals, giant white snow geese, and more at the John Martin Reservoir State Park and on several local trails. The town even offers the High Plains Snow Goose Festival every February to celebrate the species. History buffs can check out the Camp Amache National Historic Landmark to see a Japanese-American internment camp and a few other monuments along with a golf course.

Find wild west grasslands, plains, and incredible views along the drive. Once you leave Colorado, the byway offers even more to see and opportunities for camping, lodging, or RV parking. Nomadic Native Americans once gravitated to this area, as did early American settlers searching for a homestead close to the river. Bent’s Old Fort makes for a fabulous halfway point and offers a trading post for shopping. A few other smaller towns outfit the byway with local shops, food, and unique landscape.

More Colorado Byways

You can check out additional Byways in Colorado by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the Colorado Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.