America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Sketch of the Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail, Missouri to New Mexico

Lost in the hubbub of interstate highways and western history now submerged in many places off the interstate, there's a history of commerce and pioneer settlement that stems along the various trails west. And perhaps because of the game that made the Oregon Trail more known, there's a trail that proceeded it, the Santa Fe Trail, with commerce and history, merging the cultures of New Spain, Mexico, and the emerging and expanding United States. It would start in 1821 when William Becknell, a Missouri trader, created the first legal international trade at the agreement of Governor Melgares. It would eventually lead to nearly sixty years of profitable trade and history, including the likes of Kit Carson and the United States Cavalry. Why did the trail only last sixty years as the predominant route in the region? One word, ... railroad. Photo above: Sketch of the Jenks party on the Santa Fe Trail, 1859, Daniel A. Jenks. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Map of the Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail Historic Sites

Today you can follow the trail and pretend you're William Becknell or Kit Carson or another pioneer. The Santa Fe National Historic Trial brought to you by our fantastic National Park Service takes you to thirty historic sites, some national, some state or local. You can visit Arrow Rock, Fort Osage, Cimarron National Grasslands, Fort Larned, Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop, Bent's Old Fort, Boggsville, Comanche National Grasslands, Fort Union, Palace of the Governors, and Pecos National Historic Park. Whew, that's a long sentence and many sites, but there's so much more to the trail than those listed. Altogther, they tell the story of the commerce, the land, and the characters of Spanish, Mexican, Native American, and European American heritage and settlement.

Photo above: Map of the Santa Fe Trail. Courtesy National Park Service.

Where Is It

The Santa Fe Trail, both its historic ground and the NPS Trial stretches for eight hundred and seventy miles or so from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, Mexico. It was used for over sixty years as a commerce highway and pioneer trail, an invasion route for the United States during the Mexican-American War, and now can be visited in whole or part as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

What is There Now

Thirty historic sites stretching along the nearly nine hundred mile route.

How Much to Visit
Various from free to several dollars at each historic site.

Hours Open
The trail is open daily. Various visitor centers, buildings, and tours at the federal, state, local, and private sites have varied hours and some are closed on major holidays or some days of each week.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

History Nearby

You're traveling through five states when you are attempting a Santa Fe Trail vacation, so all the many wonders of those states within and beyond the trail are open to your perusal. Some outside the trail itself, but not far from it, include Great Sand Dunes National Park and Bandelier National Monument.

Photos, History, and More Spotlights

Ringling Circus Museum

January Spotlight

Ringling Circus Museum, Florida.

Prairie Grove Battlefield Park

February Spotlight

Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

Battle of Whitemarsh

December Spotlight