Park Stop #7 – Pecos National Historic Park, Pecos, NM
Pecos National Historic Park is a great historical park that preserves the ruins of a 15th-century pueblo and 17th- and 18th-century missions that rise up out of a high meadow. Approximately 2,000 Native Americans farmed in irrigated fields and hunted wild game. Their pueblo had 660 rooms and many kivas. Franciscan monks established a church and convent of which the remains still stand. The first Pecos pueblo was one of two dozen rock-and-mud villages built in the valley around AD 1100. Within 350 years the village had grown to house more than 2,000 people in its five-storied complex. The Spanish mission church was built in 1619. The site was abandoned in 1838, moving to the nearby Jemez Pueblo.
The trail ruts and a stage stop from the Santa Fe Trail, that also served as Union headquarters for the Battle of Glorieta are also contained within the park. In 1862, a Confederate plan was devised to raise a force in Texas, march up the Rio Grande, and take Santa Fe. Turning northeast on the Santa Fe Trail, troops would then capture the stores at Fort Union, head north into Colorado to seize gold mines, and then turn west to take California ports. That plan changed in March 1862 with the three-day Battle of Glorieta Pass, when it became clear that New Mexico would remain under Union control for the duration of the Civil War.
In another part of the park you will find Forked Lightning Ranch, a cattle ranch established in the 1920s by Tex Austin, a famous producer of rodeos. It was headquartered at the stagecoach stop but after several failed attempts to re-purpose the ranch, in 1941 it was purchased by Buddy Fogelson, a Texas oilman who married actress Greer Garson., Garson ultimately sold her share of the park in 1991 to a conservation group, which donated it to the Park Service.
Operating Hours - General Info
Pecos National Historic Park may be visited any time of year, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. It is open differing hours based on season – 8:00am-6:00pm Memorial Day-Labor Day and 8:00am-4:30pm the rest of the year. The visitor center closes ½ hour earlier than the park. There is no entrance fee to the park but guided tours are required for seeing some of the sights. Fees are $8 per person under the age of 16 and are paid at the visitor center. The visitor center has a nice museum and bookstore to explore while you are there, they also offer a short film describing the history of the area.
The park is located about 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe on Route 63. I-25 exit at the Pecos-Glorieta Interchange, then head to the town of Pecos – about 6 miles from the exit. From there turn right onto Route 63 the park is 2 miles down the road.
Pets are allowed in the park and on the trails. They are not allowed along the river where fishing is allowed by permit only.
Location Coordinates: 35°33′00″N 105°41′4″W
Things To Do
Historical sight-seeing, picnicking, self-guided walking tours, ranger led guided tours and fishing. The ruins trail, battlefield trail, picnic area, and visitor center are open for you to explore on your own. Forked Lightning Ranch is available only via ranger guided van tours. (There are van tours for the Battlefield and Ruins as well).
The tours are on a set schedule Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10am, and one tour on Friday at 1:30pm. All the tours leave from the visitor center; reservations are recommended for all but the Ruins tour.
Ruins Tour – a guided walk around the main loop trail where you will to hear about the history and culture of the park area.
Battle of Glorieta Pass Van Tour – a great tour to learn about how New Mexico was involved in the Civil war and see a pivotal battlefield of the war. The Battle of Glorieta Pass tour visits the parts of the park that have significance towards the battle.
Forked Lightning Ranch Tour – Provided insights and information about the Forked Lightning Ranch. Highlights include snippets about the rodeo with Tex Austin, Hollywood actress Greer Garson, and a walk-through of the Ranch House which overlooks the Pecos River.
There is some good fishing to be had in the park along the Pecos river. The fishing program, which allows fishing by permit only, divides a 3-mile section of the river into one mile sections allowing two people to fish for an entire day. The sections are available by permit only and are on first come first serve basis.
There are two trails in the park that allow you to see some of the historic sites that the park has to offer. Other sites can be seen via guided tours – see above in “Things to Do” section.
The Pecos Pueblo & Mission Church – can be seen via a 1.25-mile self-guided trail. As the name suggests this trail leads you to both the Pueblo ruins and the famed church. The visitor center provides a written interpretive guide explains the sights along the trail. If you prefer, this trail is also offered as a guided ranger tour.
The Civil War Battlefield Trail – is a 2.3-mile interpretive foot trail that takes you to Glorieta battlefield overlooks. This trail also has interpretive signs and trail guide information. You must sign in at the Visitor Center get a gate code for access to the trail. A self-guided trail map is available for $2.00.
Camping & Lodging
There is no camping available at the park but campgrounds are located in the Santa Fe National Forest just north of the park on NM highway 63. Santa Fe, about a half hour west of the park, providing all kinds of options for lodging and camping.
Santa Fe KOA Campground – March-November
Located 25 miles west of the park this campground is just a mile off exit 294 on I-25 on highway 300. This campground has 100 sites for all varieties of camping including tent camping and cabins. They have large full-hookup pull-thru sites with 30/50 amp service that can accommodate up to 65’ rigs. They also have some camping cabins available for rent.
The campground has Wi-Fi, cable TV, laundry facilities, restrooms, showers, water fill and dump station. They also offer a dog park, horseshoes, and a game room. Santa Fe is a bustling artsy town that has many attractions, restaurants and activities available.
Santa Fe National Forest Camping – Open All Year
Operated by the US Forest Service, is located just north of the park on route 63. The Santa Fe National Forest offers camping areas that range from low to high elevation, high desert to forested and primitive to developed. Developed campgrounds offer amenities ranging from electrical hookups for RV or trailer camping, to only a toilet.
Primitive camping is allowed almost anywhere on the Santa Fe National Forest unless otherwise posted. These areas generally do not offer any amenities although occasionally you will find a toilet building or a picnic table and grill.
The campgrounds in the Pecos USDAFS district are: Cowles Campground, E.V. Long Campground, El Porvenir Campground, Field Tract Campground, Holy Ghost Campground, Iron Gate Campground, Jacks Creek Campground, Johnson Mesa Campground, Links Tract Campground, and Panchuela Campground
Food & Gas
Other than water fountains the park doesn’t have any gas or food services. Santa Fe, 25 miles west, however is a thriving city with and abundance of food, lodging, shopping and service choices.
Best Time To Visit
Late spring to early fall.
Each season offers a different experience: budding springs, moderate summers, the golden colors of fall, and powder snow winters. The busy season is area runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The climate is usually dry year-round, with July and August as the rainiest months (monsoon season) with a possibility of short but intense rain each day in the mid to late afternoon. Winters can be very snowy, and quite cold at night. During the summer daytime highs average in the 80s (F) while nighttime lows can reach into the 50s (F). During the winter daytime highs can be in the 50s (F), while nighttime lows can reach well below the teens.
Drives & Scenic Overlooks
There are no scenic drives for this historic site.
Have you been to Pecos National Historic Park? Did I leave any must-dos or must-see sights off the list? Let me know in the comments below.
By The Numbers
We Are The Parks - Get Involved!
We all have the responsibility to help protect and preserve this important legacy. Here are five things you can do to minimize your impact and help protect the parks for future generations:
- Follow the Rules. A new story about bad behavior in our national parks comes out almost every day. With people regularly doing things like walking on geothermal features, getting far too close to wildlife, illegally using drones, and vandalizing priceless natural and cultural treasures, NPS resources are stretched. We can all help the NPS and protect valuable natural resources by following established rules.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles. With visitation to NPS sites at an all-time high, it is even more important for all of us to be good stewards of the places we visit. An easy way to reduce your personal impact in learning about and practicing Leave No Trace principles.
- Petition & Vote. In addition to supporting petitions and sending letters to your congresspeople. Consider the preservation, protection, and adequate funding of public lands when voting for local, state and federal officials consider. If these things are a priority for you as well, check in with your local and national conservation organizations to see how politicians in your community view the protection of public lands before you cast your votes.
- Get Involved. There are many ways to volunteer including artists-in-residence and citizen science programs.
- Support. Consider making a donation to the National Park Foundation. The NPF is the official charitable partner to the National Park System.