Photograph of Colorado Mountain Range
Mesa Autumn Wild Horses oil_rig_OG Boaters Photograph of Ruin
BLM>Colorado>Programs>National Conservation Lands>National Scenic and Historic Trails
Print Page
Old Spanish National Historic Trail

Old Spanish National Historic TrailOld Spanish National Historic Trail (A BLM archaeologist surveys portions of the Northern Branch of the Old Spanish Trail in western Colorado.)
The Old Spanish National Historic Trail recognizes the land route traveled by traders from 19th-century Mexico - today's New Mexico - and California. From 1829 to 1848, this trail was the shortest-known route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, through red-rock mesas, below snow-capped peaks, and fording untamed rivers, following a loose network of Native American footpaths across the Colorado Plateau and Mojave Desert.

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail is composed of three main routes: the Main Route, the Armijo Route, and the North Branch. Use would depend on peril, weather, or simple opportunistic stops.

Mules were the highest-valued pack animals, as they had incredible strength and endurance, fared better than horses where water was scarce and forage poor, and recovered more rapidly after periods of hardship.

Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail Logo

Total Length:
2,700 miles
Colorado BLM Management: 85 miles
Designated: 2002 (National Trails System Act; congressionally designated)


The Old Spanish National Historic Trail runs through New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. In Colorado, various branches of the Trail pass through San Luis, Gunnison, Grand Junction, and Durango.

Recreation: As the Old Spanish Trail was a route of commerce suited for moving livestock, it's not surprising that there are a number of cultural and scenic sites located in close proximity to the Trail, including the Anasazi Heritage Center/Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, and more. For more information, visit the Recreation page. Please note that though recreation is encouraged on National Scenic and Historic Trails, specific types of recreation may be barred from a specific area or trail to prevent degradation of resource conditions.

National Historic Trails commemorate historic and prehistoric routes of travel that are of significance to the entire Nation, and have as their purpose the identification and protection of the historic route and its historic remnants and artifacts for public use and enjoyment. Such trails are established by an Act of Congress.

The two federal agencies that administer this trail - the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service - manage the resources in cooperation with the Old Spanish Trail Association, American Indian tribes, state, county, and municipal governmental agencies, private landowners, nonprofit groups, and many others.

Click here for additional information about the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

< Back to main National Scenic and Historic Trails page

BLM Colorado State Office  |  (303) 239-3600  |  2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215

National Landscape Conservation System Program Lead  |  (303) 239-3752