Old Spanish National Historic Trail runs through six states, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. The National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management jointly protect sites of the Old Spanish Trail, a multi-branched trail which joined New Mexico and California via pack mule trains in the mid-1800s.
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ILNP Park Review
Our Visit We’ve never gone looking for it, but we’ve interacted with the Old Spanish National Historic Trail several times while visiting other national parks and monuments.
Overall Impression The Old Spanish Trail isn’t flashy or even well marked, and it’s probably something only few set out to actually see. In fact, it’s not really a trail you can follow for its entire distance like you can the Appalachian Trail (parts of it are under Lake Mead). Rather, this national park unit protects and commemorates the trail via a series of sites and preserved portions throughout the southwest.
Visiting Old Spanish Trail actually refers to a series of routes, the oldest being the Armijo Route through the four corners area. Later, routes were opened to the north through Colorado and Utah to take advantage of better pasture land and passes. The western portions of the northern route roughly follow I-70 and I-15 between Grand Junction, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada.
My biggest critique of this national park unit is even in parks where the trail is visible, it’s not necessarily well marked or advertised, so you’ll have to do a little research before you visit if you want to actually find pieces of the old trail. Even if you don’t actually find the trail, just take a look at the rugged, dry scenery the trail once ran through and imagine a mule train running 700 miles across this inhospitable land. These were tough people who risked their lives every trip to keep trade open between the southwest and ever-growing California.
Suggestions I don’t recommend making the Old Spanish NHT the focus of a visit. Rather, make it part of your visit to other national park sites near where the trail once ran. These include Great Sand Dunes NP, Curecanti NRA and Colorado NM in Colorado, Arches NP and Glen Canyon NRA in Utah, Lake Mead NRA in Nevada, and Mojave NPres in California.
Nearby Towns Santa Fe (NM), Cortez, Gunnison, Montrose, Grand Junction (CO), Moab, Cedar City, St. George (UT), Las Vegas (NV), Barstow, San Bernardino, Los Angeles (CA)
Other Nearby Attractions Bandelier NM, Great Sand Dunes NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Curecanti NRA, Colorado NM, Mesa Verde NP, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Glen Canyon NRA, Lake Mead NRA, Mojave NPres
Official NPS Website Old Spanish National Historic Trail
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