Pecos National Historical Park: Where the Remarkable Past Persists

Just 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe, among serene woodlands of juniper, piñon and ponderosa, lies one of the region’s remarkable treasures, Pecos National Historical Park. This 7,000-acre gem contains a unique and captivating history stretching back 7,000 years.

Explore Pecos National Historical Park

The ruins are more than a thousand years old. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe County)

To start, explore the enchanting ruins of one of the Southwest’s largest pueblos. The ruins are more than a thousand years old, and include the remnants of an 18th century Spanish mission church. View ruts from the Santa Fe Trail, which passed through the park, as did the original alignment of Route 66. Visit the famed Forked Lightning Ranch, where 20th century luminaries such as Will Rogers and Charles Lindbergh were guests before it became the summer residence of Oscar-winning actress Greer Garson and her husband, Texas oil magnate Buddy Fogelson, starting in 1949.

Battle Site of the American Civil War

A cannon is fired on the enemy in a Civil War re-enactment. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe County)

Pecos National Historical Park is equally famous as a major battle site of the American Civil War.  In 1862, Union and Confederate troops fought the Battle of Glorieta Pass over three days (March 26-28), in what was then the northern New Mexico Territory. This was the westernmost battle of “the Great Rebellion” which turned the tide for the victors, decisively ending the Confederacy’s hopes of preventing the Union from controlling the West and all its riches.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass

Fighting took place in a range of terrain at the Glorieta Pass. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe County)

The Battle of Glorieta Pass involved infantrymen and cavalrymen equipped with cannons, field and mountain howitzers and guns, along with a 100-wagon supply and support train serving Confederate troops. Fighting took place in a range of terrain—along canyons and ridges and the Santa Fe Trail, among the trees and rocks of Glorieta Pass and around Pigeon’s Ranch, the site of some of the campaign’s worst combats. The key skirmish of the Civil War in all of New Mexico, the Battle of Glorieta Pass is often referred to as “the Gettysburg of the West” and scores of park visitors are eager to see it.

Take a Journey through America’s Past

See re-enactments of Civil War artillery fighting. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe County)

The best way to tour this compelling Civil War site is along the 2.35 mile Glorieta Battlefield hiking trail. Take an unforgettable journey through America’s past. Stop at the park’s Visitor Center first, to pick up the access code and directions to the trailhead. You can also purchase the visitor map, which provides detailed information about the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Along the trail, you’ll encounter interpretive trail markers indicating significant sites where battle lines were drawn.  This includes Artillery Hill and Pigeon’s Ranch, which served as a field hospital, first for the Union soldiers and then for the wounded Confederate soldiers.

Walk through a Civil War encampment on your guided tour. (Photo courtesy of Santa Fe County)

Time your visit right and you’ll experience a re-enactment of life in New Mexico during the American Civil War, as Pecos National Historical Park commemorates the pivotal Battle of Glorieta Pass with a Civil War Encampment each year. This free event takes place around the anniversary dates of the battle (March 26-28). This annual event provides an authentic glimpse into the West during the Civil War era. This year’s Encampment is being held Saturday, March 24, 2018. During the Encampment, you’ll interact with living history players dressed as soldiers, witness black powder demonstrations and enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides as well as lectures about life in New Mexico during the Civil War years.

Greer Garson Narrates Pecos National Historical Park History Film

Before setting out on your Pecos National Historical Park adventure, view a short film at the Visitor Center.  Greer Garson, herself, narrates the film. Stop in the bookstore/gift shop to see the wide selection of treasures. You’ll want to take home mementos of your visit!  Your bookstore/gift shop visit will further your knowledge about this fascinating place. You’ll find pottery, jewelry, children’s items, an array of books about the area’s history, culture, natural resources and much more.

You’ll enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides and learn captivating Civil War history. (Photo by Stan Ford Copyright 2017)

 To further immerse yourself in the Pecos National Historical Park’s intriguing past. Sign up for a guided tour led by a park ranger. On the 1.25 mile main loop trail tour of Ancestral Sites, you’ll explore the area’s defining history and culture.  You’ll also learn about Southwest archaeology and cultural preservation efforts at the park. Civil War buffs can get a deeper sense of the era’s history as the ranger brings to life the Battle of Glorieta Pass on the Glorieta Battlefield hiking trail. A van tour will also take you to various sites connected to this Civil War battle in New Mexico.

Visiting historical sites will allow you to take in some of the area’s most beautiful scenery and examine the fascinating stories of the area. Plan your Santa Fe getaway now by ordering the 2018 Santa Fe Visitors Guide. There are always Deals and Specials to use during your visit, so make sure to check these out.

This blog was written in partnership with TOURISM Santa Fe and Santa Fe County.

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