Fort Larned National Historic Site is located in central Kansas. The fort was known as the Guardian of the Sante Fe Trail as their main goal was to escort mail coaches and military supply wagons along the Santa Fe Trail. Their broader mission was to keep peace in the plains.
Today you can enjoy visiting the park which has been maintained to an amazing level. This National Historic Site amazed us with how well it has been maintained and the displays within the buildings.
Fort Larned National Historic Site
- Fort Larned National Historic Site
Fort Larned can be enjoyed in several different ways. You can simply show up and explore the buildings including the Officers Quarters, barracks, shops at the fort at your own leisure. You can also use your cellular phone and listen to the cell phone tour of the Fort and the "History and Nature Trail" tours.
Guided tours are also available and last approximately one hour. Simply check-in at the parks visitor center and see when the next tour is taking place. Large groups and school groups must call ahead and make a reservation for a guided tour.
Fort Larned was a place where numerous cultures mixed. Here you found the Buffalo Soldiers, homesteaders, hide hunters, railroad workers, Hispanic Teamsters, and the Plains Indians. The US Army Regulators also served with paroled Confederates.
A typical company's officers Quarters included two lieutenants, who could each select one room in the officers' quarters, and one captain, who could claim two rooms.
Barracks/ Hospital/ Visitor Center
The barracks were designed to house up to four companies of infantry and cavalry. Next to the barracks was the Hospital.
Today, the visitor center is housed in one of the fort's barracks. You can get your National Parks Passport book stamp here along with learning more about the park.
Shops/ Bakery/ Blacksmith Shop
One of the must-visits spots at Fort Larned NHS is the blacksmith shop! Pete Bethke the Park Blacksmith is amazing!!!
We could have spent hours talking with him and learning about his 40 years working as a blacksmith.
It was amazing to learn that Pete is making sure that the wagons and other items within the park have authentic blacksmith worked metal pieces.
While we were there he showed us a wagon that he was redoing all of the manufactured chains that were currently on the wagon and replacing it with the chain he builds by hand.
Pete is a wealth of knowledge about the park and was able to answer so many of our questions plus teach us so much more about what we were experiencing.
Flag in the marching grounds
Make sure to look at the American Flag in the middle of the parade grounds. You will notice it has 36 stars, the number of states at the time the Army Post was operational in the 1860s and 1870s.
Most travelers saw the flag and felt secure. Unfortunately for the Plains Indians, it became a symbol of losing their freedom.
New Commissary/ Blockhouse
A new commissary was built during the peak of Fort Larned to keep up with demand. Later it was turned into a schoolhouse and library. The Blockhouse served as a prison.
Old Commissary/ Quartermaster Storehouse
The old commissary was a place where supplies were held including food, clothes, and ammunition.
Sante Fe Trail Ruts
The Santa Fe Trail ran right behind the Quartermaster Storehouse and Old Commissary. The American Flag was a welcoming sign for people on the trail.
You can see wagon ruts from the Sante Fe Trail about 5 miles from the Fort. You will need to drive down a few dirt roads and then walk on a grassy lawn to reach the overlook for the wagon ruts.
I would advise wearing closed-toed shoes for walking out to the overlook. There are prairie dog burrows, ants nests, and other bugs along the way.
Once you reach the wooden overlook you can look out and see a small section of Sante Fe Trail ruts.
Definitely keep an eye out for Prairie Dogs while you are looking around.
There is a nice picnic area near the main entrance to the park. There are multiple picnic tables along with restrooms. This is a great place to relax before or after your visit to the Fort.
When driving to Fort Larned NHS be careful driving through small towns. The speed limit changes quickly and you do not want to get pulled over during your Midwest National Park road trip.
Fort Larned National Historic Site is located on KS Hwy 156, six miles west of Larned Kansas.
Fort Larned is on Central Standard Time.
The park is open from 8:30 am-4:30 pm, seven days a week. The park is closed on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Time needed – I would plan at least an hour to two hours to visit the park if not more time. We were amazed at how many buildings there are to walk through and the blacksmith shop is a must-visit.
Restrooms- The only restroom is in the parking lot. There is no bathroom in the actual fort area. You will want to make sure everyone is aware. It is a 5-10 minute walk back to the bathroom from the fort.
Parking – There is a large parking lot near the bridge that heads to the fort.
Cell service – we had hit and miss service with T-mobile. 1 to 2 bars at most
WiFi – There is no public Wifi in the park.
Lodging – There are no lodges in the park.
Camping – There is no camping at the park