Established in 1851 to defend the Santa Fe Trail this fort was expanded in 1861 anticipating a Confederate invasion, which was subsequently thwarted at Glorieta Pass, 20 miles southeast of Santa Fe.  Fort Union's location on the Santa Fe Trail made it a welcome way station for travelers, but when the railroad replaced the trail in 1879, the fort was on it's decline.  It was abandoned in 1891.  Now, Ft. Union, the largest military installation in the 19th centruey Southwest, is in ruins.  Adobe walls and chimneys remain to be seen, but its scope is impressive.  The wagon trail ruts are still visible nearby.  Follow the self guided trail that wanders through the ruins, and imagine yourself stopping for rest and supplies at a remote post.  

The monument has a small visitor center and museum with exhibits and books on the fort's history.  Allow 2 hours to tour the ruins.

To get there: drive 18 miles north on I-25 to the Watrous exit and then another 8 miles northwest on NM 161.  There is a small admission fee.  They are open Memorial Day to Labor Day 8am to6pm.  During the rest of the year, it is open daily from 8am to 4pm.  Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

A gift shop carries a wide selction of New Mexico history items.  No camping, but Las Vegas, NM has campgrounds.

505 425 8025  www.nps.gov/foun

Excerpted from Chapter 10 THE BEST OF NORTHERN NEW MEXICO Frommer's American Southwest 2nd edition