|Elevation Gain||272 ft|
|My Time||1 hour 1 min|
|Difficulty||Easy to Moderate|
|Food Nearby||El Maria Bonita|
Pecos: Glorieta Pass Battle Loop
The history of New Mexico continues to fascinate. The Pecos: Glorieta Pass Battle Loop is an extension of the Pecos National Historic Monument. A civil war battle field that was considered the “Gettysburg of the West” and changed the tide of the war in the west. All in an unassuming series of hills that are linked in a two mile looping trail.
Getting Started at the Pecos: Glorieta Pass Battle Loop isn’t as easy as most parks. The Battle Loop is about a 10-15 minute drive from the main visitor center at the Pecos National Historic Monument. I visited in February and to get access I needed to go to the visitor center and get a code from the ranger. I then drove to the location and used the code to unlock the gate and open up to a parking area. Then I needed to re-lock the gate. I am not sure if this is the year long procedure or if they have the gate open at other times.
Before heading out I strongly suggest buying a Trail Guide from the visitor center. It is full of a ton of the historical information of the trail and makes the hike better. Plus, it gives you something to remember the trip with!
Once you make it to the trailhead you have the option of heading left, right, or straight ahead. To stay in the proper order of the info graphics it is suggested to head to the left. To the right is running the loop backwards which is fine but the graphics will be reversed. Straight ahead is the shorter version of the loop.
Much like the Pecos National Historic Monument, the Glorieta Pass Battle Loop is more about the history than the hike. The hike is a well defined, less so in the snow, loop trail that has a couple of hills to deal with but is generally not too challenging.
The trail runs just over two and half miles and has a total elevation gain of 272 feet. There are about six hills that are best described as rolling. The highest grade of elevation is 10% and that is for a very short time so it isn’t too challenging. Overhead trees are present on most of the trail providing a lot of shade but also limiting the views. The trees also can’t block out the road noise from nearby I-25.
More importantly than the trail are the 14 markers that signify significant moments in the civil war battle that occurred here on Glorieta Pass. The markers are paired with info boards that explain some of the history of the battle. For history buffs, it is a great story unfolding over two miles. For hikers, the markers are a great spot to take a break and catch your breath. I will talk a little bit of the history but won’t cover all of it here. If you like the story, I really do encourage you to head to Pecos to get the full feeling and story of the battle.
To start, my midwestern education never told me that the Civil War made its way into New Mexico. I was surprised to see the battlefield on the map but it made more sense after some other stops I had taken. The Texan army, looking to take advantage of the Civil War to extend their territory marched west to New Mexico. Along the Santa Fe Trail they were met by Union Troops in what was later dubbed the “Gettysburg of the West”. The goal of the Confederates was to capture the natural resources of Colorado and to eventually make it to California and the access to the Pacific. However, the battle at Glorieta Pass in 1862 essentially ended the Confederates actions in the west.
The Confederates were made up of volunteers from Texas and led by General Shipley, a West Point Grad. The Union force was made up mostly of soldiers from Colorado, New Mexico, and federal soldiers from Fort Union and led by Colonel Canby. The Rebels had already taken Albuquerque and Santa Fe and were working their way through the Santa Fe Trail. At Glorieta Pass, the Confederates and Union found themselves camping on opposite sides of the pass. What resulted was a three day battle of artillery, snipers, and face to face combat.
My favorite story I read on the trail, and the turning point of the battle happened on March 28th, 1862. Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves and Major John Chivington and a force of about 400, soldiers from Fort Union and volunteers from New Mexico and Colorado, made it to the top of the 500 foot tall Glorieta Mesa. From there they could see the wagons of the Confederate supply line. The force ran down the steep side of the mesa, screaming and hollering, and destroyed the Rebel defenders and supplies. With the supplies destroyed the confederate had to retreat.
So Much More
Each side had roughly 1200 soldiers. 51 Union soldiers were killed and 48 Confederates died in the battle. There is so much to the story of the Glorieta Pass Battle. The info I gave you came from the first 3 markers and the trail guide and info graphics. There are 14 in total with more stories of the battles and soldiers who fought here. This, however, is a hiking blog and I would hate to interpret the history for you. I would strongly suggest a visit to the Pecos National Historic Monument and the Glorieta Pass Battle Loop to get all of the amazing information from the decisive moment in American history.
Video of the Pecos: Glorieta Pass Battle Loop
I have put this time-lapse video together of the Pecos Glarieta Pass Battle Loop 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 2.59 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 272 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 7,365 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hour and 1 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.
Overall, I don’t think the trail was too challenging. There are a few up and down hills spread throughout but also plenty of places to stop and catch your breath at info graphics. The snow made it a bit more challenging and the hills became a little slick at times. I would say in good weather this is an easier hike but with snow it stretched it to a moderate hike so I will rank it as in between those two options.
Honestly, I couldn’t really tell the terrain except for a very small area of dirt that looked nice and wide. The whole trail was covered in snow when I hiked in late February so that is all that I saw. I can tell you that there are informational graphics located throughout and bridges that are well built so I am assuming that the trail is really well maintained. I wore hiking boots and gaiters but during good weather I am sure you could get by with a good pair of athletic or hiking shoes.
One other thing that I would like to point out is that there is a bit of shade on the trail but some open areas as well so I would suggest sun protection. The trail is also relatively close to a road and there is a some road noise. The noise isn’t too bad but not as relaxing as some hikes.
Access to the Pecos: Glorieta Pass Battle Loop
To access the Pecos: Glorieta Pass Battle Loop, you first need to stop at the Pecos National Historic Monument visitor center to get the gate code. The visitor center will give you a map to get to the battlefield and the code to enter. There is no fee for the monument. The trailhead has room for about a dozen cars and there is a pit toilet available.
Wrapping up the Pecos Glorieta Pass Battle Loop
I admit it, I am a bit of a history nerd. Because of that I really enjoyed the Glorieta Pass Battle Loop. The hike was nothing special, a small loop near the highway. But the history in those printed words about what happened on these lands was worth every step. Before this trip to New Mexico, I had no idea about Fort Union, The Pecos, or that a civil war battle happened this far west. I loved learning about the history and what shaped the region.
Now if you aren’t a history nerd, this location might not be that special to you and that is ok. There is a still a hike to be had. But it is hard to walk the trail without feeling the weight of the ground you are walking on.
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 email@example.com. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!
I’d love to do that.