The Santa Fe Trail is a tranquil drive through Southeast Colorado, connecting Lamar with Trinidad. It roughly follows the national historic trail by the same name.
The Colorado portion begins east of Lamar on the Kansas border. It follows Highway US-50 until it reaches La Junta. It then travels southwest past La Junta and Trinidad via US-350, and into New Mexico. This historic trade route was heavily used between the 1820s and 1870s.
While you can venture in either direction, it’s probably best driven east to west so you can be in awe of the Rocky Mountains. You’ll have spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Activities near Santa Fe Trail Byway
Biking – Follow the quiet paved Auto Route through Southeast Colorado.
- You can find dispersed camping in the Comanche National Grassland.
- There are also modern campgrounds at John Martin Reservoir and Trinidad Lake.
Ghost Towns – There are a handful of ghost towns near Trinidad and La Junta, CO on the stretch of US-350. Visit Timpas, Delhi, Thatcher, Tyrone, and Model to see abandoned homes and businesses of what were once hopeful up-and-coming towns.
Hiking – Trek the whole national historic trail or just sections around Trinidad or La Junta.
Horseback Riding – Permitted on parts of the Santa Fe Trail.
Landmarks – Both amazing manmade and natural landmarks are found along the Santa Fe Trail Byway.
- Bent’s Old Fort – Located just northeast of La Junta on the way to Lamar, this national historic site features a reconstructed 1840s adobe trading post. It was very popular in its heyday for travelers along the Santa Fe Trail.
- Picketwire Canyonlands – From dinosaur tracks to petroglyphs, this is a stunning place to visit. It’s located
Scenic Drive – The Auto Tour Route traces the original Santa Fe Trail the best it can. The 188-mile Colorado section takes about four hours (one way), and has been designated a national scenic byway.
Season: Year Round
Length: 188 miles / 4 hours
Map: Santa Fe Trail Byway (.png)