From 1821 until the 1870s, the Santa Fe Trail carried people and goods from New Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, playing a vital roll in opening the American west for exploration, commerce, and ultimately settlement. Traveling on foot, by horseback, and in covered wagons drawn by oxen, traders and settlers faced about 1,200 miles of arid plains, desert and mountains.
There is currently no "official" Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Route in Kansas, but you can follow the approximate route by simply following US-56 highway through the state, which parallels the Santa Fe Trail for much of its distance, and there are numerous "trail ruts" still visible at places along the highway. The Santa Fe Trail splits in the west, following either the "Mountain Route" due west, or the "Cimarron Cutoff", a shorter but drier route running southwest.
The Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek is a bi-annual bicycle tour that follows roughly the same route as the old Santa Fe Trail, beginning in New Mexico and ending in Missouri. The Trek doesn't follow the Santa Fe Trail exactly, because the exact route is either lost or on private land, but follows it as closely as possible while keeping to paved public roads. The Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek takes place every other year, and participation is capped at 50 riders.
The Santa Fe Trail has been designated a National Historic Trail, and the National Park Service provides an excellent web site that provides an interactive map and detailed descriptions of historic sites in eastern and western Kansas.
Communities Along the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas
- Baldwin City
- Council Grove
- Great Bend
- Dodge City
About the Santa Fe Trail
Between 1821 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was primarily a commercial highway connecting Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1821 until 1846, it was an international commercial highway used by Mexican and American traders. In 1846, the Mexican-American War began. The Army of the West followed the Santa Fe Trail to invade New Mexico. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848, the Santa Fe Trail became a national road connecting the United States to the new southwest territories. Commercial freighting along the trail continued, including considerable military freight hauling to supply the southwestern forts. The trail was also used by stagecoach lines, thousands of gold seekers heading to the California and Colorado gold fields, adventurers, fur trappers, and emigrants. In 1880 the railroad reached Santa Fe and the trail faded into history.