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Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Six

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→Note: this post is the sixth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Six

Destination: Badlands National Park

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  • Website link: Badlands National Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car
  • Accommodations: Cedar Pass Lodge and campground, and one additional primitive campground. Backcountry camping is permitted. See the website for details.

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Take I-90 east toward Wall, South Dakota. Drive time: 1 hour.

Bonus stop: Wall Drug Store. The ultimate tourist trap! You can’t miss the exit because there is a sign every few hundred feet (it seems) along I-90. This place has everything imaginable, including their famous free ice water. Definitely worth a stop for food, gasoline, shopping, and more.

From Wall, take Highway 240 south to the Pinnacles Entrance of Badlands National Park.

Look for bison and prairie dogs near the entrance station. Notice the pristine prairie of Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Listen for the wind rustling the grasses. The rattling sound the grass makes is enchanting.

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After entering the park, turn right (west) on to Sage Creek Rim Road (unpaved) for spectacular views and sightings of bighorn sheep. Stop at each of the overlooks on this road for major photo ops of the Badlands Wilderness. Remember not to approach or feed wildlife.

Turn around and head east toward the paved road, which is Badlands Loop Road. Follow this road through the park, stopping at the overlooks for different perspectives and information on the park. Photos do not do justice to the beautiful scenery in this park. We believe it needs be seen in person.

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Badlands Wilderness
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Panoramic view from Badlands Loop Road

It is approximately 25 miles from the Pinnacles Entrance to the park headquarters, Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Just before reaching the visitor center, stretch your legs at the short, easy Fossil Exhibit Trail, then drive on to the visitor center for the exhibits, more gorgeous scenery, and additional park information.

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Stunning colors!
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Yes, it really is this pretty!
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Ancient Seabed

Take Highway 240 north out of the park toward I-90.

IMG_1586Bonus stop: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Just north of I-90 when exiting Badlands National Park. View the exhibits in the visitor center and check in for your guided tour of the park’s Delta-01 site. During the tour, you will go underground to see how minuteman missiles were used to protect the United States during the Cold War. Advance reservations are required for the tour, and there is a nominal fee. Check the park’s website for details. Here’s a link: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

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This is a very interesting site and a great learning experience! We highly recommend a tour of the Delta-01 site.

Return to Rapid City via I-90 west.

That’s day six, folks, and what a full day it was! We hope you enjoyed traveling with us to Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Wall Drug Store. Our mission is to share our knowledge to help you plan your own great vacations. Log in to our site next week for the final day, Day Seven, of our Black Hills vacation itinerary. Better yet, become a follower so you get an e-mail notification every time we post a new trip. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Five

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→Note: this post is the fifth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Five

Destination: Theodore Roosevelt National Park – South Unit (North Dakota)

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Travel tip: Day five will be a long day of driving. We recommend getting an early start. Take along plenty of water, road snacks, and a picnic lunch. Comfortable clothes and walking/hiking shoes are a must.

Take I-90 west from Rapid City to Sturgis. At Sturgis take Highway 79 north to Castle Rock. At Castle Rock take Highway 168 west to US Highway 85 north. Stay on US Highway 85 across the North Dakota state line to I-94. Drive time between Rapid City and Theodore Roosevelt National Park: 4 hours.

IMG_1386This part of the country is beautiful rolling hills and grasslands, with an interesting rock formation or butte every once in a while. We imagine this is where the deer and the antelope play. And speaking of antelope, look for herds of pronghorns along this road. We didn’t see buffalo, or rather bison, until we got to the park, but we thought this road sign was great! Which one is it?

Take I-94 west. At Exit 32, stop at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center for incredible views of the park! Continue west on I-94. Take Exit 27 to Medora, North Dakota and the South Unit Visitor Center. Here you will see Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin (pictured below)  from his Maltese Cross Ranch, which was located near where the park is today.

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View from Painted Canyon Visitor Center
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Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin

At the South Unit Visitor Center, you will be able to pay for your park pass, pick up your park brochure/map, view the exhibits, and watch a short movie about the park. Enjoy a picnic lunch before you head out to Scenic Loop Drive. The best of the park can be seen on this ninety minute drive. Take some of the short, easy hiking trails to stretch your legs and to get up close and personal with the park. Click the park’s link above for details.

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Sweet little doe! Isn’t she pretty?

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Adorable little prairie dog!

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We we were able to see deer, bison, prairie dogs, and wild horses in the park, all from Scenic Loop Drive. The park is scenic, peaceful, and uncrowded.

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The Little Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
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Tranquility and beauty all wrapped up in one!
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Interesting Landscape

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Take I-94 east to US Highway 85 south to return to Rapid City.

Bonus stop: Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Belle Fourche claims to be the geographic center of the United States. Stop to see the monument, although, the actual marker is located twenty miles north of the town and is (was) virtually unmarked. The Belle Fourche River runs next to the park.

Continue south on US Highway 85 to Spearfish, then take I-90 east to Rapid City.

We’re going to close this post with one final picture, simply because you never know what you’re going to see along the road. (And, you never know what you’re missing, such as this…ah, sculpture? in Bowman, North Dakota!) So get out there! As we like to say, “Just get in the car.”

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Come back to our site next week for day six of our Black Hills of South Dakota vacation itinerary. It’s going to be a good one! Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Four

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→Note: this post is the fourth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Four

Destination: Mount Rushmore

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  • Website: Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Cost: Free, but there is a $10.00 parking fee per car. Park passes are not accepted for parking fees.
  • Restaurant in the park.
  • Hotels and camping available in Keystone, South Dakota.
  • Great photo ops here. Plan to spend several hours.

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(Short route) Take US Highway 16 from Rapid City to US Highway 16A, and Keystone, South Dakota, then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. Look for Big Horn Sheep along this road. Drive time: 30 minutes.

Recommended alternate route: (Long route) Take Highway 79 south from Rapid City to Highway 36 and Custer State Park. Just before entering the park, turn right (north) on to the Iron Mountain Road (Highway 16A). This is a scenic route full of twists, turns, and tunnels. Large vehicles and RVs will not be able to navigate this road. Drive time on Iron Mountain Road: 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drive time to Mount Rushmore from Rapid City via Iron Mountain Road: 1.5 to 2 hours.

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View from the final tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. (Our apologies for the camera lens smudge.)

The musuem at the visitor center is spectacular! Plan to spend an hour in the museum alone. Learn about the sculptors, the workers, and how the monument came to be. Find out why Gutzon Borglum chose to memorialize the four presidents who are depicted at Mount Rushmore. Also visit the Sculptor’s Studio (reopening after renovations are completed in May, 2019) where Borglum worked and designed the memorial. Walk/hike the presidential trail and the nature trail then go back to the visitor center for ice cream. Watch for mountain goats in the meadows surrounding Grandview Terrace and the amphitheater. Pay a visit to the gift shop for souvenirs. Finally, stay to see the sculpture illuminated at night (year-round). An evening lighting ceremony is held during the summer months. Check the website for seasonal hours.

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Avenue of Flags
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View from the parking lot
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Black Hills as seen from Mount Rushmore

From Mount Rushmore, take Highway 16A via Keystone to Highway 16 to Rapid City. Drive time: 30 minutes.

Bonus stop: Keystone, South Dakota. Entertainment venues for the entire family from mini golf to museums to shopping to zip lines. Restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds available. Here’s a link: Keystone.

*Recommended hotel in Keystone: Holiday Inn Express.

We hope our overview of Mount Rushmore National Memorial has left you wanting to see it for yourself. While we can’t guarantee anything, we’re pretty sure you will love it as much as we did.

Visit our site next week for Day Five of our Black Hills of South Dakota vacation. Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Three

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→Note: this post is the third in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Three

Destination: Custer State Parkimg_1266-e1534024838736.jpg

  • Website link: Custer State Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car for one week pass (as of August, 2018).
  • For the best wildlife sightings, arrive early in the morning or early in the evening.
  • This park has everything from biking to hiking to horseback riding to swimming.

Travel tip: this will be a full day trip. Pack road snacks and plenty of water, along with a fully charged camera battery/phone and a picnic lunch. Or, drive (15 minutes) in to the city of Custer and have lunch.

*Recommended restaurant in the city of Custer: Black Hills Burger and Bun Co – 441 Mt Rushmore Rd. Their burgers rank in our top three best ever, and their cheese curds… All we can say is you’ve gotta try ’em!

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View from Custer State Park

From Rapid City take Highway 79 south to Highway 36 west. Continue west on Highway 16A to the park entrance. Drive time: 45 minutes.

Travel tip: Custer State Park is a place where you could spend an entire week and never have to leave the park. Great vacation destination by itself, and one of our very favorite state parks.

Lodges, cabins, tent and RV camping available in the park. Hotels available in the city of Custer.

*Recommended hotel in the city of Custer: Holiday Inn Express.

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Pronghorn herd

After entering the park, turn south on to Wildlife Loop Road for potential wildlife sightings of all kinds, including herds of bison and pronghorn. Look for prairie dogs, turkeys, and other wildlife along the way, too. Take your time while driving this road, and stop at the visitor centers for information about the park. Check out the lodges or campgrounds while you’re here so you can plan a trip back in the future!

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Along Needles Highway

At Highway 16A turn left to go to the city of Custer or turn right to go east to Highway 87, then turn north on to Highway 87 (Needles Highway).

Travel tip: Needles Highway has low, narrow tunnels. Check with the park before attempting to navigate this road in/with a large vehicle or RV.

Continue on Highway 87 northwest to Sylvan Lake. Drive slowly, and take advantage of the pull outs for the many photo ops along this road. Sylvan Lake is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch and then a hike or walk around the lake. Nice visitor center/store here, too.

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Sylvan Lake
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Panorama along Needles Highway
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Center Lake – good place to fish
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Narrow tunnel
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Needles

Backtrack south on Needles Highway to US Highway 16A. Turn left (east) and take US Highway 16A to Highway 36, and then Highway 79 north to Rapid City. Drive time: 1.5+ hours.

Alternate route: From Sylvan Lake, continue north on Highway 87 to US 385 toward Hill City. Stay on 385 north then take Highway 44 east to Rapid City. Drive time: 1 hour.

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That’s our wrap up of Custer State Park. We hope your trip there is as amazing as we think it will be. Check our site next week for Day Four of our Black Hills itinerary. Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Two

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→Note: this post is the second in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Two:

Destinations: The Mammoth Site and Wind Cave National Park

Travel tip: pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at Wind Cave National Park and wear sturdy walking/hiking shoes with non-slip soles. A light jacket may be needed for cave tours.

The Mammoth Site

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From Rapid City take Highway 79 south to Hot Springs, South Dakota. Drive time between Rapid City and Hot Springs: 1 hour. The Mammoth Site is located at 1800 US 18 Bypass, Hot Springs, South Dakota.

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Replica of a Columbian Mammoth in the visitor center

Website link: Mammoth Site. Take a guided tour of the active indoor dig site and see the bones of mammoths right where they were found. Great learning experience for kids and adults! Tours can be booked ahead of your trip or you can book when you arrive. Plan to spend two hours visiting the site. This is a National Natural Landmark.

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Bones, bones, and more bones!
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Preserved baby mammoth found frozen in Siberia

From Hot Springs take US Highway 385 north to Wind Cave National Park. Drive time between Hot Springs and Wind Cave National Park: 15 minutes.

Wind Cave National Park 

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  • Website link: Wind Cave National Park.
  • Cost: free, although guided cave tours have various prices, depending on the tour. Wheelchair accessible tours are also available. Click the link above for details.
  • Hiking, biking, and horseback riding available in the park.
  • Campground with seasonal restrooms. Backcountry camping allowed with a permit.

Many animals, reptiles, and birds call this park home. See how many you can find. We bet you’ll see one of these ↓

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Natural entrance to the cave
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Boxwork formations inside Wind Cave. This is the only place in the world it has ever been found.
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Another view of the cave ceiling
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Bison grazing on the rolling prairie of Wind Cave National Park

Take US Highway 385 south to Highway 101, then east to Highway 79 north, back to Rapid City. Drive time: 1 hour.

Recommended alternate route: Drive time: 1.5 hours. Take US Highway 385 north to Custer, South Dakota. Bonus stop: Jewel Cave National Monument. Several different cave tours available. Advance reservations recommended for the popular Scenic Tour. Many stair steps in the cave and children cannot be carried. Click here for information about the park: Jewel Cave National Monument.

Stay on 385 to Crazy Horse Memorial. Bonus stop: Crazy Horse Memorial. Click here for information about the site: Crazy Horse Memorial.

Continue on 385 to Highway 44 east to Rapid City.

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Hopefully, the second day of your Black Hills vacation has been interesting and fun. We will cover Day Three next week, so stay tuned! Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Magical, misty mountain with rainbow at Grand Canyon National Park

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Vicksburg National Military Park

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Where in the world is it?

Vicksburg National Military Park is located in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

For forty-seven days in 1863, Union and Confederate troops battled for control of Vicksburg, a stronghold on the Mississippi River, but the Union forces persevered and forced the Confederates to surrender on July 4. It was a turning point of the Civil War, as the Confederates lost control of the Mississippi River. Today, the national park is a beautiful memorial to the sacrifices made there. Two of the many monuments that are located in the park and the Vicksburg National Cemetery are pictured below.

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Missouri Memorial
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Texas Memorial
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Vicksburg National Cemetery

Second Stop: Terlingua Ghost Town

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Where in the world is it?

It’s in Southwest Texas near Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande River. Cinnabar, from which mercury (aka quicksilver) is derived, was mined at the Chisos Mine (Chisos Mining Company) in Terlingua from about 1905 to 1943. During the height of the mine’s operation, Terlingua reportedly had a population of 2,000.

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Terlingua Cemetery

The Terlingua Cemetery, established in the early 1900s, is still in use today. Terlingua Historic District, which includes the ghost town, the remains of the mine, and the cemetery, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s a fact, Jack!

Approximately 17,000 Union soldiers are buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery. Confederate soldiers are buried in the Soldier’s Rest section of Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg. The Terlingua Cemetery is the final resting place of miners, citizens of the town, and victims of an influenza epidemic back in the early 1900s. One Civil War veteran, John M. Southard aka Tomas Southard White, who died in 1910 and was a member of the 47th Kentucky Artillery, is buried in Terlingua Cemetery. And now you know…

That does it for this week. Thank you for joining us! Come back next week for another exciting post. You never know where we are going to take you! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go To Fort Union National Monument

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  • Website link: Fort Union
  • Cost: free
  • Hours vary seasonally
  • Short film in the visitor center about the history of the fort
  • Self-guided or ranger-led tours of the grounds
  • When to go: anytime

Fort Union National Monument is:

150 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and since Albuquerque has a major airport, we will start our adventure from there. Let’s go!

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

Campgrounds and RV parks are also available in Albuquerque.

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Prairie near Fort Union. Imagine a wagon train ambling along the Santa Fe Trail here. Aside from the barbwire fences, this scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years.

Getting There

From Albuquerque take I-25 north toward Santa Fe. At Santa Fe continue on I-25/US 84 east toward Glorietta and Pecos, New Mexico.

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Bonus stop: Pecos National Historical Park. We love this park so much that we have recommended it on our site before. Take the self-guided tour to see the remains of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Plan to spend a couple of hours here. The visitor center is very interesting and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a link: Pecos National Historic Park.

Continue northeast on I-25/US 84 toward Las Vegas, New Mexico, then continue north to the town of Waltrous. Follow the signs from Waltrous to Fort Union. Drive time between Albuquerque and Fort Union: 2.25 hours.

Hotels, restaurants, and RV/tent camping available 30 minutes away in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Destination: Fort Union National Monument

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Fort Union’s Officer’s Row

Fort Union was an important outpost on the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was originally established in 1851 to be a supply depot and living quarters for soldiers serving to protect travelers and traders on the trail. With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, better living conditions were needed, and the fort’s original wooden buildings were refurbished or rebuilt with adobe and brick. Larger supply warehouses were added at that time, and Fort Union began providing supplies to all the forts in the region.

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Mechanic’s Corral. This is where they worked on the vehicles of the day.
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Post Commander’s Quarters
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Detail of the Hospital Walls

Fort Union’s hospital was once the largest and finest medical facility between Kansas and California, serving soldiers and civilians alike. Even after the Civil War, the post continued to operate with soldiers in place to protect the Santa Fe Trail. The hospital continued to operate during this time, too. However, with the advent of the railroad, the Santa Fe Trail became less traveled, and the fort was abandoned in 1891. Some wheel ruts on the trail can still be seen at Fort Union.

Below are additional shots of the buildings.

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This concludes our Fort Union National Monument post. Thank you for joining us on our journey. We hope you will return every week as we post more great road trips. Please leave us note below and tell us about your journeys. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018