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Pecos National Historic Monument

Distance1.27 mi
Elevation Gain89 ft
My Time30 min
Closest TownSanta Fe
Food NearbyEl Callejon

Pecos National Historic Monument

Pecos National Historic Monument is located just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico and shows some of the amazing history of the region. The history is split between the native Pecos Pueblo people and the Spanish explorers and dates back to the 1500’s. A must stop for those who are interested in the history of the southwest of a country that wasn’t formed for another 200 years.

Getting Started

Once you make it the Pecos National Historic Monument the first stop is at the visitor center. There is no entry fee but visitors have the option of buying a trail guide for the self guided tour of the grounds. There is also a 12 minute video that is available at the visitor center to learn more about the history of the area.

Out of the back door of the visitor center is the start of the path that takes you to the historic grounds. There isn’t anything particularly challenging about the hike around the area so I will focus a bit more on the information and the history available on this page.

The back of the church as seen from the early trail at the Pecos National Historic Monument.
The back of the church as seen from the early trail at the Pecos National Historic Monument.

The Ancestral History

The Pecos people were the first to live on these lands. They not only lived but thrived with estimations of a village as large as 2000 people. The local Pecos Pueblo traded with the surrounding Comanche, Plains Apache, and Navajo who often passed through the area. The Pecos location fit well between a local trade route between farming lands and people to the west and hunting to the east.

A ceremonial Kiva at the Pecos National Historic Monument.
A ceremonial Kiva at the Pecos National Historic Monument.

The Pecos took many of their traditions from the ancestral Puebloan people, including that of the Kiva. Kivas were underground ceremonial rooms that are also common in Mesa Verde National Park and Chimney Rock National Monument. The Pecos acted as intermediaries of trade and were strongly focused on balance and harmony but they weren’t afraid of a fight. Amazing a large army of around 500 warriors and making them the dominant power in the area.

There is so much more information about the civilization than I could write here and if you are interested I strongly suggest that stop by the Pecos site! I was fascinated by how much information was around the paths and in the handouts that were available.

The Spanish

In 1540 the Spanish arrived in the area on a quest for a city full of precious metals. They also began attempting to convert the citizens to Catholicism and convince them to be loyal to the Spanish crown. In 1610, Franciscan friars arrived and started to try to force the Pecos to convert. They destroyed their Kivas and statues and would no longer allow Pecos ceremonies to take place. A decade later the Spanish, under new Fray Andres Juarez, began to acknowledge the culture and beliefs of the Pecos while simultaneously trying to convert them still. It did not go well with Pecos resenting the Spanish and barely tolerating them.

The remains of a Spanish church at Pecos National Historic Monument.
The remains of a Spanish church at Pecos National Historic Monument.

As well as Spanish control and influence, the Pecos also were dealing with a growing number of raids from the Comanche’s. In the 1680 the control, raids, famine and harsh living had taken a toll on the Pecos. Under a Pueblo religious leader, Po’pay, the separate Pueblos of the area gathered together to rise up against the Spanish. On August 10th, 1680 the Pueblos revolted and kicked the Spanish out of their homelands and destroyed the church that had been built on the site.

Ruins next to the church at the Pecos National Historic Monument.
Ruins next to the church at the Pecos National Historic Monument.

History Combines

In 1692 the Spanish returned, this time allowing the Pecos to keep more of their traditions in place. They even worked together to rebuild a smaller church on the grounds where the first one was destroyed. Droughts and raids continued to take their toll. A peace treaty was eventually signed in 1786. By 1838 the last remaining Pecos had moved on.

The Santa Fe Trail would gain popularity as the an important travel route from around 1820-1880. The route would pass by the remains of the once thriving Pecos Pueblo. Hundreds of years after it was an epicenter of trade it had become just a spot of wonder. Travelers would see the ruins and wonder what this place would have been. Never knowing the impact the location had on the history of the very land they traveled.

The path and views from Pecos National Historic Monument.
The path and views from Pecos National Historic Monument.

Again, there is so much more history at this site than I can explain on this page. Hopefully, I have peaked your interest enough to plan a trip or make a stop at the Pecos National Historic Monument. I have seen a few different sites like this in my travels and am always fascinated by the history of the lands that aren’t taught. The history before our country was even a thought. History I hope never disappears. So go check out the Pecos site and explore the history of New Mexico!

Video of the Pecos National Historic Monument Hike

I have put this time-lapse video together of the Pecos National Historic Monument Hike so other hikers can get a feel of what the hike is like. If you enjoy this video make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get the latest outdoor content.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 1.27 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 89 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 6,972 feet. I was also moving for a total of 30 minutes.

I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.


A really simple trail that is more focused on the history and less about hiking. The trail is easy to follow and there are plenty of displays and info graphics to stop at. There is a bit of an incline but it isn’t too severe and I think it should be accessible for most people. I am going to rank this as an easy hike.


Well manicured and wide dirt paths that are easy to follow. This is a national monument so it is very well designed and taken care of. No issues at all with the terrain and any sort of comfortable shoes should be ok. One caveat is that in the winter than can be ice on the paths and you may need to be careful.


Pecos National Historic Monument is located about 35 minutes Southeast of Santa Fe. Head to the visitor center first for parking and access to the historical Native and Spanish locations. The Civil War battlefield is in another part of the park but you need access from the visitor center to get there. There is a good amount of parking and bathrooms at the visitor center. The park is free to enter.

Wrapping up the Pecos National Historic Monument

I absolutely loved my time at the Pecos National Historic Monument. Now I will mention that I am a bit of history lover so it was great to read all of the info graphics and see the historical sites and ruins. I really enjoyed this after visiting Mesa Verde National Monument and Chimney Rock National Monument last summer. Those are both Puebloan sites so combining the history of all three sites was really interesting.

If you don’t like history, or are traveling with small kids it might not be the best site. There are still ruins that are good visually and the surrounding views of the mesas is also really enjoyable but a lot of the ruins are now down to ground level. If you love history, especially in the southwest, I think you will really enjoy this site and will really love the educational opportunities available.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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