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paddling the green river

Exploring the
Old Spanish Trail

Preserving our Western Heritage

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail helps preserve our western heritage and today's travelers along the trail will experience a dramatic western landscape and a region rich in adventure, history and lore.

Access along the trail is best accomplished by automobile. Currently, there are very few officially designated hiking trails along the trail corridor but hiking opportunities do exist since much of the general route lies along federal lands.

As you travel the route, please respect "No Trespassing Signs" and local jurisdictions as they are encountered. It is important to practice good trail ethics and leave no trace of your visit. Artifacts are protected by federal law.

Be sure to take advantage of the varied interpretive actives offered by our many Trail Partners along the route. Trail Partners can provide a wealth of trail information and tips for experiencing cultural activities and local heritage events.

weaving exhibit at ghost ranch
Weaving Exhibit at the Ghost Ranch Piedra Lumbre Education and Visitor Center near
Abiquiu, NM

General Description of the Main Route

The general route of the Old Spanish Trail began at Santa Fe, NM and looped northward through central Utah to avoid the deep river gorges of the Colorado River before descending down across western Utah to the artesian springs located at Las Vegas. This was a significant watering hole before heading off across the dry Mohave Desert and onward to the San Gabriel Mission near Los Angeles.

The main route begins in the Santa Fe plaza. It follows up the Rio Grande Valley then veers in a northwesterly direction through northern New Mexico. It crosses the Continental Divide before reaching the San Juan River in Colorado.

The pack route continues across Colorado, passes near Mesa Verde, and enters Utah east of Monticello.

From the Utah border, the trail passes near Canyonlands and Arches national parks and crosses the Colorado and Green rivers. It then cuts across the southern part of the Great Basin to Mountain Meadows.

From the rim of the basin, the trail reenters the drainage of the Colorado River. It crosses the northwestern corner of Arizona and then continues to Las Vegas.

Beyond Las Vegas, the trail crosses the Mojave Desert to the California coast, by way of Cajon Pass. Mission San Gabriel, nine miles from Los Angeles, was a supply point for early travelers and the destination for the first trade caravan led by Antonio Armijo in 1829.

The plaza in Los Angeles is the end of the trail for many of the California-bound parties. Be sure to visit the Old Spanish Trail interpretive plaque located there.

Other Route Segments

Armijo Route

The 1829 Armijo Route which first opened the Old Spanish Trail took a more direct path across northern Arizona and southern Utah passing near present day Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Pipe Spring National Monument.

North Branch

The North Branch variant travels from Santa Fe northeastward to Taos, NM and into Colorado near Great Sand Dunes National Park. From there, the trail makes its way across the Continental Divide and the Gunnison National Forest. River crossings were made at Grand Junction, CO and at Green River, UT.

Interactive Travel and Adventure Map

Our interactive map can help you plan your next travel adventure and enjoy a sampling of sites along the trail.

Interactive Map Demo

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OSTA Members receive
3 issues of Spanish Traces per year and other membership benefits.

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