The Santa Fe Trail #2


NPS map of the Santa Fe Trail “Mountain Route” (click to zoom; more maps here)

The American Solar Challenge is on again in 2021, and includes a road race along the Santa Fe Trail on 4–7 August, from Independence, MO to Santa Fe, NM (exact route still to be decided).

To get myself in the mood, I’ve been reading Land of Enchantment, the memoirs of Marion Sloan Russell, who travelled the Santa Fe Trail multiple times. Her third trip was in 1860, at the age of 15, travelling from Fort Leavenworth along the “Mountain Route” or “Upper Crossing.” This route avoided Indian raids along the Cimarron Cut-Off. The Mountain Route crosses the 7,840 ft (2,390 m) Raton Pass:

Breaking camp while it was still early, our cavalcade began the steep and tortuous ascent of the Raton Pass. Today we glide easily over hairpin curves that in 1860 meant broken axles and crippled horses. The trail was a faint wheel mark winding in and out over fallen trees and huge boulders.

If the American Solar Challenge follows the Mountain Route, solar cars will hopefully have an easier time on the modern road. The “big climb” at the 2018 American Solar Challenge (following the Oregon Trail) was 902 m in 35 km (2.6%). Starting from Trinidad, CO, the Raton Pass has a similar climb of 558 m in 22 km (2.5%), with a maximum grade of 6% on the steepest sections.


Raton Pass in October 2009 (credit: Chris Light; click to zoom)

Other posts in this series: Santa Fe Trail #1, Santa Fe Trail #2, Santa Fe Trail #3, Santa Fe Trail #4.


3 thoughts on “The Santa Fe Trail #2

  1. Pingback: The Santa Fe Trail #3 | Scientific Gems

  2. Pingback: The Santa Fe Trail #4 | Scientific Gems

  3. Pingback: The Santa Fe Trail #1 | Scientific Gems

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