Where is Fort Union National Monument Located?
Fort Union is located approximately 30 miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
- 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
- Night sky programs
- 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.
⇒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.
Bonus stop: Pecos National Historical Park. We love this park so much that we have recommended it on our site before. Plan to spend a couple of hours taking the self-guided tour to see the remains of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. The visitor center museum is also very interesting and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a link to the park’s website: Pecos National Historical Park.
⇒Continue northeast on I-25/US 84 toward Las Vegas, New Mexico, then continue north to the town of Watrous. Follow the signs from Watrous to Fort Union. Drive time between Albuquerque and Fort Union: 2.25 hours.
Hotels, restaurants, and RV/tent camping are available 30 minutes away in Las Vegas, New Mexico
Destination: Fort Union National Monument
Establishment of the Fort
The “first” Fort Union was established in 1851 to be a supply depot and living quarters for soldiers serving to protect travelers and traders on the Santa Fe 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. This version, the remains of which we see today, is referred to as the “third” Fort Union.
Fort Union’s hospital was once the largest and finest medical facility between Kansas and California, serving soldiers and civilians alike. 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.
Visiting the Park
The visitor center is the first stop, along with the new museum that opened in August 2022. The trailway through the fort is approximately a mile long, the walking paths are level, and benches can be found along the way. We recommend bringing plenty of water. There is little to no shade, so if you’re visiting during the hot summer months plan to visit early in the day. Pack a lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables outside of the visitor center.
During certain times of the year visitors may find living historians reenacting life at the fort. Check the website’s events calendar for dates. While there, look for the pronghorns and other wildlife that live in and around the park.
For those wanting a little more history, visit the town of Watrous, New Mexico which is just 12 minutes from Fort Union. Watrous (La Junta) is a national historic landmark district located on the Santa Fe Trail. Here is a link to the national park service’s webpage: Watrous (La Junta) National Historic Landmark.
Information about the Santa Fe Trail can be found here: Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
Thank you for joining us on our Fort Union National Monument road trip! Have you been to Fort Union or other historic forts? If so, we would love to hear about your visit. Comments can be left below.
Would you like to visit more national monuments? Click to view these interesting sites:
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.
Mike and Kellye
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.