Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on this site in 1833 to trade with plains Indians and trappers. The adobe fort quickly became the center of the Bent, St.Vrain Company's expanding trade empire that included Fort St.Vrain to the north and Fort Adobe to the south, along with company stores in Mexico at Taos and Santa Fe. The primary trade was with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians for buffalo robes. For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food, water and company, rest and protection in this vast "Great American Desert." During the war with Mexico in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny's "Army of the West". Disasters and disease caused the fort's abandonment in 1849. Archeological excavations and original sketches, paintings and diaries were used in the fort's reconstruction in 1976. Today, living historians recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the past with guided tours, demonstrations, and special events.
Seasonality / Weather
The park is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Summer hours (June 1 through August 31): 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. During the summer guided tours are available throughout the day. Winter hours (September 1 through May 31): 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. During the winter guided tours are available at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Summer daytime temperatures range between 80 to 105° F, nights 50 to 75° F. Winter daytime temperatures range between 0 to 65° F, night -20 to 30° F. Precipitation is minimal. Brief afternoon thunderstorms with lightning, hail, and gusty winds can occur during the summer. Winter snow accumulations are generally light, but heavy snows may occur. Layered clothing appropriate for the season is recommended. Weather can vary greatly throughout the day.
The park is accessed via U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 194. From La Junta, Colorado on U.S. Highway 50, take Highway 109 north 1 mile to Highway 194, then east on Highway 194 six miles to the fort. From Las Animas, Colorado, on U.S. Highway 50, take Highway 194 west 13 miles.
Greyhound bus serves all surrounding communities and Amtrak trains have a stop in La Junta.