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.

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park/Glorieta Pass Battlefield

If you like to travel to sites where crowds won't be a problem, but the history is at a height where it should be, then a trip from Albuquerque or Santa Fe to Pecos National Historical Site in New Mexico may just be what you're looking for. It contains the history of the only Grade 1, Class A Civil War Battlefield in the mountain west, Glorieta Pass, as well as Indian and mission culture at every turn of the Santa Fe trail. Now don't expect Gettysburg or the Grand Canyon, this place is remote and less interpreted than it deserves, but a true gem.

  • When we say less interpreted, don't mistake that for criticism. It needs better attendance and is just at the relative beginning of telling the Civil War story, with opening the units about Glorieta Pass in 2012 on the 150th anniversary of the battle with more land being preserved to tell that story at regular intervals. There are a variety of guided tours in the summer months, with some covering the varying topics of the park on weekends at other times of the year. Some of these are van tours and should be booked in advance of your stay.

    The visitor center includes a variety of exhibits and a good film about the history here, which is replendent with the culture of the southwest, from Indian heritage to the Santa Fe Trail and the mission churches.

    As far as that battle of the Civil War that most don't know a lot about, but is important enough to be one of only fourteen listed as a Class A site. Yes, it was small compared to those major campaigns in the other theatres, with just over 1,000 combatants on both sides. It would occur on March 26-28, 1862.

    There had been a plan by Jefferson Davis to take control of New Mexico for the Confederacy. He wanted to gain supplies from Union forts, recruit residents, and gain access to California and west coast mineral wealth and trade. There was an invasion to be had with Texans taking control of the territory.

    However, the Union found out about the plan and had 4,000 troops ready across the state to fight. Even with that, the Texans made it to Santa Fe and captured it. Two weeks later the Battle of Glorieta Pass would begin on March 26, 1862 with the main battle occuring two days later.

    It was, at first, thought to be a Confederate victory until a final Union raid of the Southern supply wagons left the entire mission in jeopardy. After a retreat back to Santa Fe, the Confederates would move back to Texas two weeks later and stay there, thus giving control of New Mexico and important supply routes to the Union.

  • Pecos National Historical Park and Glorieta Pass Battlefield

    What's There

    Hiking trail to pueblo and mission church ruins. The Pecos Pueblo, once home to over one thousand Taos Indians, at one time befriended, then battled the Coronado expedition during its exploration in 1540-1542.

    The Glorieta Pass Battlefield.

    Visitor Center with exhibits, bookstore, and 12 minute movie. Picnic facilities at two locations.

    Weekends guided tours, including van tours to the Arrowhead Ruin, Civil War Sites, and the Forked Lightning Ranch. There are additional daily tours during the summer schedule.

    Self-guided tour maps.

    There are no camping facilities in the park, but some are located in Santa Fe National Forest to its north.

    How Much to Visit

    Free to enter the park. In the past, there have been some additional tour fees.

    Hours Open

    Year round, closed major winter holidays. Visitor center is open 8:30 to 4:00 in winter; 8:00 to 6:00 in the summer.

    Where Is It Located

    Pecos National Historical Park is located 30 miles southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Basically it's I-25 North (Yes, north to go south here) for 20 minutes, then NM63 north to the park. Check a good map, it's a little confusing.

    It's 86 miles from Alburquerque. Take I-25 north toward Santa Fe, continue with directions above.

    Website - Pecos National Historical Park

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