Bent's Old Fort:
A Castle on the Plains

History literally comes alive at Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River near La Junta. Painstakingly reconstructed, this impressive, two-story adobe fort gives real time experience of 1840s life at this famous trading post on the Santa Fe Trail. Visitors are free to roam from room to room while interpretive guides provide details, demonstrations and memorable stories about the extraordinary people who lived and traded at this amazing place. Bent's Fort is a national historic site operated by the National Park Service.

Described as a castle or a "merchant ship on the High Plains," Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site features a remarkable, large two story adobe fort reconstructed from drawings, letters, surveys of the historic site and other extensive methods, all compiled to recreate the famous 1840s fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail. For the years it was in operation, Bent's Fort was a flourishing trade center and gathering place where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade. It was years ahead of its time, not only in the integrity of its architecture and location as the tallest building between Missouri and the Pacific Ocean but also in the cultural diversity and enrichment promoted on a daily basis.

Bent's Old Fort was built in 1833 and stands in Otero County, Colorado.
The front wall of Bent's Old Fort faces east. Sherri Mabe
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Today, living historians recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the past with guided tours, demonstrations and special events like the "Living Encampment" where visitors can learn from site interpreters about trading sessions, Indian sign language, freighting with oxen, carpentry, and blacksmithing, making of adobe bricks, cooking over an open hearth, historic gardening, bullet making, or hide skinning. Visitors are also invited to browse from room to room as they get a feel, first hand, of life at the fort in the 1840s. A store is also on site where books, common products, and goods appropriate to the time are sold to the public.

The fort, which is managed and operated by the National Park Service, is open 7 days a week. Winter hours are 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM from September 1 through May 31. Summer hours are 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM from June 1 through August 31.

Bent's Fort will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Hours

Winter: September 1 through May 31, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Summer: June 1 through August 31, 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day

Entry Fee

$3 for 12 years old and older
$2 for children 6 to 12 years old
Free to children under 6 years old

Website

nps.gov

Contact

Phone

(719) 383-5010

Mailing Address

35110 State Highway 194 E.
La Junta, CO 81050

Physical Address

35110 State Highway 194 E.
La Junta, Colorado

Directions and Transportation

By Car

Bent's Fort is accessed via U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 194.

  • From La Junta, Colorado on U.S. Highway 50, take Highway 109 north 1 mile to Highway 194, then east on Highway 194 six miles to the fort.
  • From Las Animas, Colorado, on U.S. Highway 50, take Highway 194 west 13 miles.

Set your GPS to 35110 State Highway 194 E., La Junta, CO.

By Train

Amtrak trains have a stop in La Junta. Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is located eight miles east of La Junta and 15 miles west of Las Animas on Colorado State Highway 194 in Southeast Colorado.

Mileage

Denver 190
Colorado Springs 110
Pueblo 70
Santa Fe, New Mexico 280
Mesa Verde National Park 340
Great Sand Dunes National Park 160
Capulin Volcano National Monument 135
Rocky Mountain National Park 240

Further Reading
  • Santa Fe Trail: Scenic and Historic Byway - Colorado's Mountain Branch
    Bent's Fort was a trading post for mountain trappers and Indians dealing in furs and buffalo robes. It became a point of supply, a social center, a place of refuge and safety, a rest and relaxation point for every white man and many Indian...
  • National Park Service
    Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site features a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade. Today, living historians recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the past with guided tours, demonstrations and special events...
  • History Colorado
    In 1849, William Bent packed up his goods and abandoned the fort. After the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, a number of catastrophes hit the region all at once...