Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site features living historians that recreate what it was like when the fort was part of a trading empire.
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
From the moment you leave the car you are taking a step back in time. The 1/4 mile trail to the fort follows the original Sante Fe Trail.
When you reach the fort a Trapper or another fort inhabitant will greet you. Depending on the day you will encounter living history interpreters in the kitchen, trade room, and carpentry or blacksmith shop.
You truly get the opportunity to experience what the fort may have been like in the 1830s and 1840s when Bent's Fort was called the "Castle of the Plains".
The fort was originally built in 1933 by William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain. The fort was built to trade with plains Indians and trappers.
The fort quickly became the business center of the Bent, St. Vrain's & Company's trade empire which also included Fort St. Vrain and Fort Adobe along with company stores in Taos and Sante Fe.
The fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Sante Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlement for most of its 16-year history.
Explorers, adventurers and the US Army used the fort as a place to get supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food and water, rest, and protection.
The fort was abandoned in 1849 due to disasters and disease.
The fort you visit today was reconstructed in 1976 based on archeological excavations, original sketches, paintings, and diaries.
It is a ¼ mile walk from the parking lot to the fort. There is one tree with a down log in front of it about halfway for shade.
I highly suggest being prepared for the hot sun. Sunscreen, a hat, and water in a bottle with a lid.
If you are unable to walk the ¼ mile to the fort you can use the phone in the parking area to call and request a ride to the entrance.
Don’t be afraid to talk with the interpretive rangers dressed in period costumes. They are honestly one of the highlights of a visit to this great park.
They are a wealth of knowledge about the fort and can tell you what life was like when the fort was active.
Keep an eye out for the cats and chickens that are wandering around the fort. This is the first park we have been to that chickens wander about along with a couple of cute cats.
Things to know when planning a visit to Bent’s Old Fort NHS.
Time Needed – 1 to 2 hours. This really depends on how much time you spend walking through each room, watching the park video, and how quickly you walk the ¼ mile trail to the park.
Restrooms – There is a great clean restroom in the main parking lot of the park.
Cell Service – We had fairly good service at the park.
WiFi - No public WiFi is available at this time.
Lodging – There is no lodging in the park.
Camping – There is no camping in the park.
Park Address - 35110 State Highway 194, La Junta, CO 81050
Directions to Bent's Old Fort - The park is accessed via U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 194. From La Junta, Colorado on U.S. Highway 50, take Colorado Highway 109 north 1 mile to Colorado Highway 194, then east on Colorado Highway 194 six miles to the fort. From Las Animas, Colorado, on U.S. Highway 50, take Colorado Highway 194 west 13 miles.
Set your GPS to 35110 State Highway 194 E., La Junta, CO.
Park Hours -
Summer Hours (Memorial Day Weekend to Indigenous Peoples' Day) The fort is open from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. The gate is open from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Winter Hours (the day after Indigenous Peoples' Day to the day before Memorial Day Weekend) The fort is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
Entrance Fees - $3.00
Fees are accepted by credit card only.
The fee allows visitors to experience the fort and its rooms and meet and visit with period-clothed interpreters. It is a per person charge.
Payment allows the holder to visit the site for one day on the date of purchase.
The park collects a Living History fee of $3 for adults, $2 for 6 to 12-year-olds with children under 6 years age free.
National Park Service Website - https://www.nps.gov/beol/index.htm
National Park Sites near Bent's Old Fort NHS
Rocky Mountain National Park