Fort Union National Monument
Guide

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Introduction

The Fort Union National Monument was established in 1954 to preserve the 19th century Fort Union in Mora County, New Mexico. It is administered by the National Park Service, and while there is no camping at the monument, there are nearby government run campgrounds to the west in the Santa Fe National Forest, and a KOA a short drive south with full amenities.

Historically were three forts in the park area constructed in 1851. The Fort Union National Monument has the remains of the second fort and the ruins of the third fort, as well as traces of the Mountain and Cimarron branches of the old Santa Fe Trail.

The park is situated in a windswept valley with prairie grass stretching out around it.

The site occupies over 700 acres and has a visitor center set at an altitude of 6760 feet with a 1.2 mile trail winding through the ruins of the old adobe forts. The visitor center has restrooms, a large exhibit area, and a short movie providing information on the historic fort and surrounding natural areas. Discover the cultural and military history of the fort and Santa Fe Trail by touring the preserved remnants of the structures, and the remaining wagon trail ruts of the Santa Fe trail while taking in the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. Mountains soar above the horizon to the west. Pets are allowed on a leash at this national monument.

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RV Rentals in Fort Union National Monument

Transportation in Fort Union National Monument

Driving

Just eight miles down state highway NM 161, off Interstate 25, it is easy to reach the Fort Union National Monument visitor center and other attractions on fully paved roads that are appropriate for RV travel. A large parking lot at the visitor center can accommodate larger RVs. Campgrounds at the local KOA, about a 30 minute drive south, or at the state campgrounds, about 1 hour west can accommodate RVs.

Traveling from Albuquerque or Santa Fe, New Mexico, take the I-25 north to exit 366 at the town of Watrous and travel eight miles north on Highway NM 161 to reach the park. From Santa Fe it is 94 miles and from Albuquerque it is 150 miles to the monument.

Traveling from Denver or Colorado Springs, Colorado or Raton, New Mexico take the I-25 south to exit 366 and head up NM 161 for eight miles. From Denver it is a 313 mile trip to the monument.

RV campers should be aware that there are no services or amenities located near the monument. The nearest service stations, restaurants, and grocery stores are located at Wagon Mound, 31 miles north or at Las Vegas, New Mexico which is 28 miles to the south, where the KOA campground is also situated.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Fort Union National Monument

Campsites in Fort Union National Monument

Reservations camping

Las Vegas New Mexico KOA

Just a 33 minute drive to the south, a 35 mile journey, RV campers can stay at the Las Vegas, New Mexico, KOA which has full hook up sites including 50, 30 and 20 amp electrical hookups, sewer, and water, and can accommodate RVs up to 110 feet in length.

The campground is situated in the foothills of the nearby mountains and is well treed and shady with pinion and juniper trees, and a view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Amenities include a swimming pool, playground, WiFi, and satellite tv. For further entertainment, there are bike rentals, a snack bar, a game room and a pavilion.

Firewood is available on site. Fire truck rides are a favorite activity at this KOA and make for a memorable trip. Both young and old enjoy this unique feature of the campground. Enjoy all the usual amenities available at a KOA campground with lots of room and services for RV campers. Pets are allowed, but should remain leashed in the campground.

First-come first-served

El Porvenir Campground

Also situated in the mountains west of Fort Union, the El Porvenir Campground has 13 single sites, and 1 double site, that accommodate RV campers. The campground is situated next to Beaver Creek at the base of Hermit’s Peak, just 44 miles from the historic attractions at Fort Union National Monument.

Hiking trails are nearby for adventurous campers looking to enjoy the wilderness area and views from the trail lookouts. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, grills, bear proof garbage bins, and two vault toilets.

There are no electric hookups, dump stations, or showers available at this campground. Local fishing in the stream is a popular activity in the area. Dogs are permitted, but must remain on a leash in the campground. Sites are well shaded with mixed conifer forest in and around the campground.

E.V. Long Campground

For more rustic camping, check out this USDA Forest Service run campground in the mountains west of Fort Union. The campground is situated on the Gallinas Creek and campsites are nestled among large ponderosa pines and conifers. It is a 44 mile trip to Fort Union to explore the historic forts.

RV campsites are available, but there are no serviced sites, and no water. RV sites can accommodate vehicles up to 26 feet in length. Camping is on a first come first served basis and there are only 14 sites available so get there early during busy times of the year.

There are three vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and grills, and garbage bins. Users are encouraged to recycle and pack out trash. Pets are allowed, but should remain on a leash. Many excellent hiking trails are nearby and there are also local fishing sites on the stream.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Fort Union National Monument

Spring

Cycling

Many of the hiking trails in the nearby canyons, mesas, and mountains can be used by cyclists. Mountain bikes outfitted to handle the terrain and rough ground in these natural areas are required. Remember to ensure you have appropriate safety equipment including a helmet.

On multi use trails, use caution and watch for foot traffic. The numerous trails in the area provide excellent views and beautiful scenery to enjoy while cycling in the area but also involve elevation changes so ensure they are appropriate for your ability level before setting out.

Summer

Stargazing

With an excellent view of the night sky, and minimal light noise from surrounding civilization, many stargazers enjoy the natural setting and the historic fort to engage in a little amateur astronomy.

Throughout the year, several presentations are held to learn about the night skies over Fort Union, and tour the fort by moonlight. For some presentations telescopes are provided, or you can bring your own, and a star chart, to discover the night sky from this beautiful location. Cellular service is spotty, so don't rely on cellular phone apps, bring printed star maps. Check the monument website for dates of organized stargazing presentations.

Historical Tours

The Fort Union National monument has a 1.2 mile self guided interpretive trail for visitors to use while exploring the historic fort. A shorter 0.5 mile walk will take visitors through a portion of the old fort, and is ideal for those who find the longer trail too strenuous.

The Fort was used for both military and logistical functions, serving as storage for local installations and operations, and providing escorts for mail stagecoaches and travelers. Rangers provide guided programs and answer questions about the 19th century fort and the wagon trains that once used the historic Santa Fe trail.

Fall

Hiking

Hikers can experience a variety of natural landscapes in the Fort Union area. From grasslands, desert, mesas, and canyons, to the mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest to the west, there is plenty of natural beauty to take in.

The mountains offer miles and miles of trails, and well-marked trailheads, providing access to scenic wilderness areas. The elevations on these mountain trails provide fantastic vistas looking out over the flat desert and prairie grasslands. Treed and forested trails are cool for hiking in warm weather. Fall is a great time to head out on a hike, when bugs are less prevalent, and temperatures are cooler.

Winter

Cross Country Skiing

During the winter months, try cross country skiing on local area trails. The Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area, has a network of trails in the backcountry of the mountains northwest of Fort Union for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Enjoy the scenic mountains and the wilderness area while gliding around set ski tracks. It's a great way to enjoy the wilderness area even during the off season. Be sure to dress in layers you can shed as you warm up with activity and can put back on to stay warm at rest stops. Weather permitting, you can even arrange to rent a yurt in winter months for an overnight stay.

Downhill Skiing

During the winter, couple a trip to Fort Union with a little downhill skiing at one of the many ski resorts to the west, in the Santa Fe National Forest's mountainous areas. About three different ski resorts are just a short drive away.

Winter driving conditions in the mountains from Fort Union can be difficult so check weather forecasts prior to setting out.

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