Just a few hours from Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado’s forts are worth the trip.
Colorado’s historic forts offer insight into the life of early settlers who came to the state. With both trade outposts and military forts on the list, you don’t have to travel far to find 1800s history in the modern day. So, gear up and take a road trip to Colorado’s past.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, La Junta
Designated as a national park, this 1833 fort was built as a trading post for those living in the region and served as a center for interaction between white settlers, Hispanic settlers, and Plains Indians.
Today, you can stroll through the reconstructed Adobe Fort, which was originally large enough to house 200 people. Learn more about the fort’s builders, the Bent Brothers and Ceran St. Vrain, as well as their efforts to foster relationships with all inhabitants of the plains. Staff on site also dress in period clothing and can answer any historical question you may have.
Because this fort is a National Park, it is free to visit on any designated Free National Park Day.
Summer hours (June 1 through August 31): 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Winter hours (September 1 through May 31): 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
El Pueblo History Museum, Pueblo
Learn more about the history of white settlers and American Indians in the Pueblo area from the mid- to late-1800s. The fort served as a trading post for settlers who made a living trading with the Ute and Apache tribes in the area, and it was abandoned after those same tribes resisted encroachment.
You can learn about the history of the fort and see replicated sections of the original structure. The museum also showcases the region’s many cultural and ethnic groups through innovative exhibits.
Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Fort Lancaster, Fort Lupton
This fort was originally in operation from 1836-1844. It was built by Lancaster Lupton, a former Lieutenant in the U.S. Dragoons as a trading fort that would compete with the Bent and St Vrain Fur Company (founders of Bent’s Fort) for the fur and hide trade with the plains tribes. Reconstruction of the fort was finished in 2011 by the South Platte Valley Historical Society, and you can now walk through the inner plaza to visit the blacksmith and carpenter shops, living quarters, kitchen and food preparation rooms, trade rooms, cantina, and storage room with historic artifacts.
By Private Reservations, Nov. 1-May 1. Open weekends during summer months.
Fort Vasquez, Platteville
Courtesy of History Colorado.
Take a trip to Platteville to learn more about one of the more successful tales of the fur-trading history of Colorado. The reconstructed Fort Vasquez was originally a fur-trading post named after 1880s trapper Louis Vasquez who traded furs from the Cheyenne and Arapaho. It eventually folded due to a decline in demand for beaver pelts. In addition to the fort replica, there is also a museum and visitor center to explore.
Summer hours (April 1 through September 30): Daily, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Winter hours (October 1 through March 31): Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Fort Garland, Fort Garland
At the base of La Veta Pass sits the 1858-founded Fort Garland. Once home to about 200 soldiers, it was built to protect San Luis Valley settlers from the Ute tribe, the original and longtime inhabitants of the area who naturally resisted encroachment into their lands.
Today, this living museum takes you back in time to learn more about the military fort. You can also learn about former celebrity inhabitants, such as the Buffalo Soldiers, as well as tour a replica of Kit Carson’s Commandant’s Quarters.
Summer hours (March 1 through October 31): Daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Winter hours (November 1 through December 31): Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Have you been to any of the above trading and military forts? If so, tell us about your adventure in the comments below.