The Mountain Route is drawn in red on the map. The Scenic Byway stretches all the way from Raton Pass to Ft. Union
The historic Santa Fe Trail (SFT) enters New Mexico at the top of Raton Pass, about ½ mile west of I-25. Then, along side the freeway and the railroad, the SFT descends the canyon into Raton. The Scenic Byway starts at the bottom of Raton Pass at the the first Raton exit from I-25. Much of the modern-day 2nd Street, the main north/south road through town, evolved from the original Santa Fe Trail. After seeing the sites in Raton, follow 2nd Street south and get onto I-25 headed south of Raton. The SFT (indicated in Gold on the map) ran to the west of the freeway. To rejoin the Scenic Byway, Exit I-25 at US Hwy 64 and continue south to Cimarron. The SFT and the old Denver & Santa Fe Stagecoach road traveled parallel to Hwy 64 and are occasionally visible between the highway and the mountains. Along the way you will pass by the location of the old Clifton House, as well as the NRA Whittington Center, Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, and the ghost towns of Dawson, Colfax and Koehler.
The Scenic Byway takes you to the frontier town of Cimarron. Food, shopping and points of interest are located on both sides of the main thoroughfare. Be certain to stop at the Visitor Center for a map of the Historic Walking Tour and directions to historical sites. The Scenic Byway then follows NM Hwy 21 (and the Santa Fe Trail) south through the very interesting Philmont Scout Ranch on its way to the old settlement of Rayado. You will find that the museums operated by the Boy Scouts of America are first class, including the Villa Philmonte, Seton Memorial Library/Philmont Museum and the living museum in Rayado (home of Kit Carson and Lucian Maxwell).
The Scenic Byway continues south along NM 21 and follows along the approximate location of the SFT. A few miles south of Rayado, NM 21 takes a sharp turn to the east. The SFT continues due south cross-country toward Fort Union. The Scenic Byway is forced to detour east through Springer, where you will find good food and the Santa Fe Trail Museum. In Springer you will be joining up with the Cimarron Cutoff Scenic Byway for the trip south to Fort Union. From Springer, the Scenic Byway heads south on old US Hwy 85 (the frontage road to the freeway) all the way to the town of Wagon Mound. Along the way you will pass by the ghost town of Colmor. At the Rock Crossing of the Canadian River, one branch of the SFT split off from the older Trail and headed directly toward Fort Union. That segment of the Santa Fe Trail followed the river next to Colmor and crossed the Scenic Byway just up the hill to the south of Colmor. As you continue south on US Hwy 85, you are situated right between the Cimarron Cutoff to the east, and Mountain Route to the west, as they both angle toward Watrous.
The Scenic Byway passes through the historic town of Wagon Mound, where you join up with the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. The Mountain Route is still several miles to the east, working its way southward toward Fort Union. As you pass through Wagon Mound, the frontage road changes from US Hwy 85 and becomes NM Hwy 120. Continue south on NM Hwy 120 to the town of Watrous. Keep your eyes open for wagon ruts. Some of the best-preserved Santa Fe Trail ruts can be seen winding along this highway between Wagon Mound and Watrous. Refer to the map for its location.
Just up the hill from the village of Watrous, you intersect NM 161. Turn right (west) along NM 161 for 8 miles to the historic Fort Union National Monument, where you are reunited with the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail. At Fort Union, you can actually walk across the Santa Fe Trail.
The Mora River Valley portion of the Scenic Byway is drawn in red on the map, and stretches from Las Vegas to Fort Union
This portion of the Scenic Byway takes you along a lesser-known section of the Santa Fe Trail, through the historic Mora River Valley. Along this route you will be able to see some dramatic wagon trail ruts, swales and even ravines. These ruts were occasionally traveled by wagon trains crossing the Santa Fe Trail, although it wasn't used frequently enough for most historians to consider this route a main branch of the Trail. They are nonetheless a part of the Santa Fe Trail and they are some of the best examples of ruts you will see anywhere.
The Mora River Valley portion of the Santa Fe Trail Scenic Byway departs Las Vegas by heading north on State Hwy NM 518 past the Storrie Lake State Park toward the village of Sapello. About 5 miles north of Storrie Lake you can begin to make out the faint impressions (ruts and swales) of the old wagon trails that occasionally parallel the highway. For the next ten miles or so, in places the ruts become increasingly visible.
As NM 518 continues north, you reach the settlement of Buena Vista, where the Scenic Byway turns east on State Hwy NM 161. By the time you have followed NM 161 for two miles, you begin to parallel some dramatic old wagon trail swales and ravines; some of them three and four abreast. Ruts and swales continue to be evident on the north side of the road almost all the way to Watrous; the most dramatic examples occurring around mile marker 17. Some of these ruts and swales are so deep and wide that people assume the ground has been shaped by earth-moving equipment. Not so. These are the remnants of very old and very well worn wagon tracks. Hwy161 leads you along the lower portion of the Mora River Valley through the town of Golondrinas, past Loma Parda and Tiptonville.
Halfway between mile markers 14 and 15 you will pass the unmarked county road leading north to the old ghost town of Loma Parda. You can read about Loma Parda on the back side of this map. The road is open to the public, but only the roadway. The land on both sides is private land. If you decide to visit Loma Parda, please respect the rights of property owners and stay on the road.
On NM 161, at about mile marker 19, you are due south of the ghost town of Tiptonville and are just a few hundred yards southwest of the site of Fort Barclay, originally built where the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Mora River. As Hwy 161 turns back toward the south, you are crossing the plain where the Mountain Route and the Cimarron Cutoff joined back into a single Santa Fe Trail. From this stretch of road you will be able to see many wagon trail ruts. The oldest and most visible ruts are visible uphill from the highway, but several very dramatic sets of trail ravines can be seen crossing the highway. (Look for sets of arroyos or washes running parallel to one another.)
One half mile before you reach the freeway (exit 364 on the south end of Watrous), you can see the old Sapello Stagecoach Station (built by the Barlow-Sanderson Stagecoach Company) which has been used as a private residence for nearly a hundred years now. The long narrow house you see south on Dogie Jones Road is the actual stagecoach building. (Sorry, it is not open to the public). The two trails merged just before reaching this building.
From here, NM 161 continues east and then back north to the town of Watrous, a thriving village in Santa Fe Trail days. As it passes through Watrous, NM 161 curiously enough turns back toward the west once again. The Scenic Byway follows NM 161 west over the freeway and heads to the expansive Fort Union National Monument.
The Santa Fe-Las Vegas Corridor is drawn in red on the map. Except for a small portion of freeway, the Scenic Byway stretches all the way from from Santa Fe to Las Vegas
New Mexico is fortunate to have the most beautiful and the most intriguing portions of the entire Santa Fe Trail, and that of course includes the one-of-a-kind city of Santa Fe.
After seeing the sights of Santa Fe, you can head out to explore the Santa Fe Trail for yourself and by traveling the Scenic Byway follow very close to the route of the Santa Fe Trail (SFT) as it wound through this enchanted land.
This portion of the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway begins where the Santa Fe Trail officially ended, at the Historic Santa Fe Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. Wagon trains arrived in the Plaza on the street appropriately named the Old Santa Fe Trail. The final block of the Old Santa Fe Trail is a one-way street, though, so you will have to go around the block before heading south along the Old Santa Fe Trail, (County Road 67).
About a mile south of the Plaza, the road forks. The Old Santa Fe Trail veers off to the left and to the right is the beginning of the street named the Old Pecos Trail. Take the Old Santa Fe Trail as it turns left and starts its climb toward Museum Hill. For the final few miles of the 7.5 mile journey along the Old Santa Fe Trail, the actual Santa Fe Trail meanders along side your path. At Two Trails Rd (County Road 67c), the Scenic Byway turns right (south) toward I-25. Just as you turn south onto CO 67c, you immediately cross the path of the actual SFT.
Less than a mile south on CO 67c, before reaching the freeway, turn east onto US Hwy 85, the Old Las Vegas Highway. The Scenic Byway follows Hwy 85 east for 7 miles to the community of Cañoncito. Cañoncito was once the location of Johnson's Ranch, a historic stop on the Santa Fe Trail and a famous Civil War site. To jump to the next leg of the Scenic Byway, get onto northbound I-25 at Cañoncito, and follow the freeway for the five mile journey through Glorieta Pass. The historic Santa Fe Trail winds along the bottom of the canyon below the freeway. To understand Apache Canyon & Glorieta Pass, see the back side of this map, the History of the Santa Fe-Las Vegas Corridor. The SFT is shown in gold on the map.
Exit I-25 at the first opportunity (Glorieta Exit 299) and you are back on the Scenic Byway. Proceed west along State Road NM 50. Within half a mile you will enter another Civil War battlefield. After another half mile you will pass Pigeon Ranch, now a nondescript adobe building sitting adjacent to the road on the left (north) side. This building was once part of a much larger complex that saw a lot of wagon traffic on the Santa Fe Trail and a lot of bloodshed during the Civil War. The building served as a temporary hospital and in one room the bodies of those who died in battle were stacked from floor to ceiling.
One half mile east from Pigeon Ranch, toward the town of Pecos, is a little pullout on the north side of the road where two markers commemorate the battles fought and the lives lost during those battles.
The Scenic Byway continues east to Main Street in the town of Pecos. To the north are the Pecos Wilderness and the Santa Fe National Forest. Both offer many opportunities for outdoor activities. The Scenic Byway turns south on Main Street (NM 63) to the Pecos National Historical Park. The Park is the best place to find out about the Pueblo at Pecos, the Santa Fe Trail and the Civil War battles.
From the Pecos National Historical Park, the Scenic Byway continues south on NM 63 to the town of Rowe where you will cross under the freeway and continue on to NM 34. Take NM 34 toward Las Vegas. NM 34 remains on the south side of I-25 until reaching the village of San Jose and crosses back over the freeway to become US Hwy 84, the Old Las Vegas Highway. Prior to 1938, this stretch of road was a segment of the famed Route 66.
The Scenic Byway passes to the north of San José and San Miguel, both popular places for Santa Fe Trail wagons to cross the Pecos River. The Byway then leads directly through the town of Tecoloté, another Santa Fe Trail river crossing. When reaching Romeroville, US 84 turns south. At this junction, once again cross over I-25 and take the frontage road (US Hwy 85) northbound for the remainder of the trip to Las Vegas. Just before reaching Las Vegas, you will pass to the east of Kearny Gap (now accessed by NM Hwy 283 - Mineral Hill Road) a natural mountain pass where Santa Fe Trail wagons crossed the mountain ridge. The Scenic Byway continues north on US Hwy 85, crosses under the freeway and follows Grand Avenue into the city of Las Vegas. There are four segments to the Scenic Byway. The next portion is the Mora River Valley which begins in Las Vegas and ends at Fort Union.
The Cimarron Cutoff portion of the Scenic Byway is drawn in red on the map, and stretches all the way from Clayton to Springer
The Cimarron Cutoff portion of the Scenic Byway begins where the Santa Fe Trail enters New Mexico north and east of Clayton. NM Hwy 410 is the first leg of the Scenic Byway, beginning at the Oklahoma state line and continuing west to the intersection with State Road NM 406. The Santa Fe Trail (SFT) crosses the road very close to the intersection of NM 406 and NM 410.
The Scenic Byway continues south past the Santa Fe Trail landmark of McNees Crossing. Further south on NM 406 you enter the Kiowa National Grassland. Northwest of Seneca, the National Park Service set up a Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Center and a place where you can walk along a section of the Santa Fe Trail as it crosses the grassland. To reach this site go 3 miles west on Campbell Rd then 1 mile north.
The Byway then continues south until it turns west on US Hwy 56 for the short jaunt in to Clayton. The Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center in Clayton is located in the south part of town on 1st Street, and can provide you with all the information you need to find Clayton Lake State Park, McNees Crossing, and local Santa Fe Trail landmarks like Rabbit Ear Mountain and Round Mound. The food is very good in Clayton and the people are friendly. Take some time to look around. If you have never seen cattle raised in commercial feedlots, you will here.
The Scenic Byway leaves Clayton heading northwest on US Hwy 64/87 and continues on past Mt. Dora to Grenville. At about mile marker 408 a rest stop has been built where the Cimarron Cutoff of the SFT crosses US Hwy 64. A marker is erected on the spot giving the details. From this point the Santa Fe Trail ruts (which are indistinguishable from this location), are heading just to the west of Round Mound (Mt. Clayton). The Scenic Byway will turn south at the town of Grenville onto NM 453. At about mile marker 15 on NM 453, the SFT crosses the road in front of you. Round Mound is directly east of you at this point. The SFT is angling across the prairie on its way to its next landmark, the Point of Rocks. In order for you to join back up with the trail, the Scenic Byway will continue south on NM 453 until you reach US Hwy 56, where you will turn west toward Springer.
The Scenic Byway passes to the south of Point of Rocks and the Dorsey Mansion. The history of this area is recorded on the back side of this map. The Santa Fe Trail actually crosses US Hwy 56 just yards west of mile marker 9. From that point, the Cimarron Cutoff of the SFT heads southwest for the Rock Crossing of the Canadian River which is just about a mile south of where you will cross the Canadian River (mile marker 6). From the Rock Crossing, the SFT turns southward across the prairie, toward Wagon Mound. The Scenic Byway continues on US Hwy 56 all the way to Springer, where the Scenic Byway for both the Mountain Route and the Cimarron Cutoff converge. The driving directions for that portion of the Scenic Byway are given in the description of the Mountain Route section of the Scenic Byway.