Uncover the area’s captivating history in Pecos National Historical Park, 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe. This 6,500-acre treasure is the perfect place to explore New Mexico’s fascinating history. Start by taking the trail to haunting ancient ruins of one of the largest pueblos in the Southwest and the remnants of an 18th-century Spanish mission church, evidence of the Spanish who once ruled this region for several centuries. The Santa Fe Trail passed through here, and ruts are still visible. Take the tour of a stylish dude ranch visited by Will Rogers and Charles Lindbergh that became Forked Lightning Ranch, owned by Oscar-winning actress Greer Garson and her husband, Texas oil magnate Buddy Fogelson. Opulent parties held here drew Hollywood celebrities and other luminaries of the past.
Not many people know that a pivotal battle in the American Civil War was fought between Union and Confederate soldiers in New Mexico in 1862. The Battle of Glorieta Pass dashed the Confederacy’s hopes of preventing the Union from controlling the West and all its riches. On the 2.35- mile Glorieta Battlefield hiking trail, see where soldiers crouched in winter snow on Artillery Hill, or sought medical assistance at Pigeon’s Ranch, which served as a field hospital. Before you go, get the trail’s access code from the Visitor Center, which is 7.5 miles from the trailhead.
The park’s annual Civil War Encampment, is a free event held around the anniversary dates of the battle (March 26–28). Meet living history players dressed as soldiers and other historical figures, ride in a horse-drawn wagon, see black powder demonstrations and learn about life in New Mexico during the Civil War years.
For a magical experience, visit the park in mid-December for the Farolito Walk. Walk a one-mile trail to the Spanish mission church and pueblo ruins. The whole way, the trail is illuminated by more than 3,500 farolitos, paper bags filled with sand and a glowing candle. It’s a gorgeous sight.