Early in March A and I traveled over to La Junta to visit Bent’s Old Fort. We went, honestly, to get another stamp in our passport book. It was really cool! You know how sometimes you go to museums and while inside there are panels describing life there? And the panels ask you to picture yourself living in that time period but it’s hard to because the whole museum is full of displays etc?
This museum is life-like. It is a life sized building with real live animals walking around (a few horses and longhorn cows) and every room within the fort is set up as though it was still functioning in the late 1800’s. There was an interpretive guide present, dressed in the period clothing and acting like a Mexican. I say Mexican because just across the river near the fort (when it was still an active fort) was Mexico’s Territory.
I loved that I could walk into the store room and ‘buy’ flour or rifles or woven blankets. I could walk into the kitchen and ‘see’ a meal being made. There were replicas of maps, pottery, dried chiles hanging from beams, examples of letters being written, half used bars of soap etc. This place was so well set up and made me believe that this could still be a functioning fort.
Know before you go:
The drive from Colorado Springs (through Pueblo) is about 1.5 hours. If you take 94 West and go that way, it will take you about 2.5 hours. This place is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. There are a few houses around, some farms etc but not much else. There is a cool train display in La Junta that we stopped at on the way back through, but it is gated and there isn’t an easy way to get up close. It is best to park in the lot behind the electric/utility company and walk the dirt road to the gate to get a closer look.
The bathrooms at the fort are at the parking lot; there are no bathrooms once you are at the fort. The fort itself is about a half mile walk along a paved/dirt path from the parking lot. This year (National Parks 100th birthday) the entry fee is waived so I am not sure how much it normally is to get in. This might be the year to go since it is free!
We spent about 1.5 hours there, exploring and walking around before driving back to Colorado Springs. It was hot and sunny so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. There is a gift shop tucked in the back of the fort that sells all sort of trinkets and ‘old fashioned’ candies like those Necco Wafers. They do accept credit cards but would appreciate it if you paid cash instead.
Overall it was a fun half day trip and it would be a lot of fun to bring your family!