The Santa Fe Trail was a route from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mexican traders created the trail in 1821. The 900-mile trail remained in use until 1880, when the expansion of railroads made the trail obsolete.
Although the Santa Fe Trail was established by Mexican traders, Americans were quick to use the route for trade and other purposes. Americans who wanted to claim free land on the frontier sometimes used this trail when traveling west. In 1846, the U.S. Army used the route during the Mexican-American War. As a result of the war, the United States expanded into what is now known as the Southwest, and the Santa Fe Trail helped connect the new territory to the rest of the country.
During the 1860s and 1870s, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built a railroad that ran parallel to part of the Santa Fe Trail. The trail ceased to be major trade route. With the advent of automobiles, the trail was paved. Today, U.S. Routes 24 and 56 include portions of the Santa Fe Trail.
Parts of the Santa Fe Trail are on the National Register for Historic Places while another section is a National Historic Landmark. The Santa Fe Trail Association works to preserve the trail and its landmarks.