Trailing the Old Spanish Trail

Museum of Moab and CFI partnership program.

The Museum of Moab and Canyonlands Field Institute are excited to announce this falls Member Appreciation Seminar Series focusing on the Spanish Trail. This day program will take us out to numerous known areas along the Old Spanish Trail as it passes through San Juan and Grand Counties. Though the trails visibility has long since disappeared, documentation of the trail has lasted through maps, personal accounts, and dedicated historical research. This day in the field will include lunch, transportation, and interpretation of the areas we visit.

Dr. John Foster – Director of the Museum of Moab – and Dave Vaughn – board member of Museum of Moab and chair of Grand County Historical Preservation Committee – will be our experts for the day and provide insight into the trails uses, its historical context, and what information we can glean from the landscape today. CFI naturalist guides will provide a natural interpretation of the landscapes we visit, drive, and set up lunch.

What is the Old Spanish Trail?

The Old Spanish Trail is a series of routes that led between Sante Fe, New Mexico and Los Angelos, California. The trail travels through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah Arizona, Nevada, and California. A variety of people used the trail for different purposes including traders, trappers, Indians, horse dealers, and slavers.

Unlike the Oregon Trail, the Spanish Trail was not extensively used by wheeled vehicles. Running through rough terrain and across a variety of landscapes the trail was used primarily as a trading route. However, Mormon pioneers did develop some sections of the trail for wagon travel later on. Today, much of U.S. Route 191 lies adjacent or over the top of where the Old Spanish Trail once ran. Similarly, much of the Spanish Trail would have been developed by connecting series of older trails.

Where will we go?

Our journey will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Museum of Moab. After a brief introduction of staff and participants, we will load into a CFI van ready with water, our lunches for the day, and snacks.  As we head South out of town through Spanish Valley we are most likely crossing over or driving on the Spanish Trail – now lost – that gives the Valley its name.

Heading south on U.S. Route 191 we will visit:

  • East Canyon
  • Casa Colorado and the deep pothole, La Tinaja, that was used as an important watering hole on the trail.
  • Looking Glass Rock
  • Hole-in-the-Rock area
  • Blue Hills
  • Old City Park

At each location, we will look, ponder, and discuss the importance of these landmarks on the Spanish Trail and how the travelers might have interacted with this landscape.

  • by ACTIVE Network
  • When: October 07, 2017
  • Time: 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • Group Size: Minimum 4, Maximum 20
  • Age Group: Adults and children 12+
  • Cost per Person: $100 Members (either organization); $130 Non-members (includes membership to the organization of your choice)
  • Deposit: $50 (non-refundable)
  • Notes:
    • For members (become a member of both organizations through our Double Arch program!)
    • Lunch, water, and snacks provided.
    • Transportation by CFI passenger vans.
    • The trip fee supports educational activities of the human and natural history of the region by Museum of Moab and Canyonlands Field Institute.


    Meeting Location