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Ghost military town

The next stop on my tour of back roads was also in southeastern Colorado. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is only a two-hour drive from Sand Creek and lies between Las Animas and La Junta.

Here visitors have the opportunity to explore an excellent reconstruction of an important trading post, which operated on the Santa Fe Trail between 1833 and 1849. The post played a significant role in America’s Westward expansion. 

My routing next followed the modern approximation of the famous old trail into New Mexico, where my third park stop was at Fort Union National Monument, between Wagon Mound and Las Vegas. One of the largest military posts in the frontier Southwest, Fort Union was the chief quartermaster depot and primary garrison of troops to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail from 1851 to 1891. 

Today, however, it is a fascinating and somewhat spooky complex of windswept stone and adobe ruins, which nonetheless are still sufficient to reveal the scope of this once very extensive operation.

Old Fort National Historic Site

Old Fort National Historic Site

Fort Union National Monument

Fort Union National Monument


Bob Hoelscher, CTC, CTP, MCC, CTIE, is a longtime travel industry executive who has sold his tour company, bought a motorhome and is traveling the highways and byways of America.He is a former chairman of NTA, and was a founding member of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP).

Well-known in the industry as both a baseball and symphony aficionado, Bob is also one of the country’s biggest fans of our national parks, both large and small.He has already visited more than 325 NPS sites and has several dozen yet to see.He is currently traveling the country to visit as many of those parks as possible.His blog, “Travels with Bob”, appears periodically on The Group Travel Leader’s blogsite, “Are We There Yet”. 

Bob is available for contractual work in the industry and may be reached at or by calling (435) 590-1553.

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