Raton Pass

Raton Pass

Raton Pass (7834 feet or 2388 meters elevation) is a mountain pass on the Santa Fe Trail along the Colorado-New Mexico border in the United States. Raton Pass is a federally designated National Historic Landmark. Ratón is Spanish for "mouse."

The pass is located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico, approximately 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Santa Fe. The pass furnishes the most direct land route between the valley of Arkansas River to the north and the valley of the Cimarron River to the south.


In 1821, Captain William Becknell laid the path of the Santa Fe Trail through the pass. It was later developed into a road by Richens Lacey Wootton. In 1846 during the Mexican–American War, Stephen W. Kearny and his troops passed through the pass en route to New Mexico. During the Civil War, it was the primary path into New Mexico since it avoided Confederate raiders.

Later in the late 1800s, it was used by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway as the railroad's primary route through the mountains. Along with the Royal Gorge in Colorado the pass was one of the focal points for the 1878-1879 Railroad Wars between the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe and the smaller Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In the 20th century it became the route of Interstate 25 between Denver and Albuquerque.


The pass is not particularly high but is sporadically subject to difficult driving during heavy winter snowfalls.

The pass was part of a Townes Van Zandt song "Snowin' on Raton". During a live performance, Townes commented how he liked playing a show in Colorado because he didn't have to explain what Raton was. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

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