Wyoming Historic Trails
Of all the trails that crisscrossed the West, the Oregon Trail was the most important. Fur traders, missionaries, gold seekers, and emigrants traveled its 2,000-mile route. For two decades, beginning in 1841, the Oregon Trail offered the only route to the West Coast that featured fresh water and tall grasses for most of the way—critical for the survival of both pioneers and their animals.
Go to Oregon Trail or call (800) 645-6233.
In Wyoming and Idaho, 60 historic sites are marked along the trail, and Wyoming contains more of the original trail than any other state.
Fort Laramie, in southeast Wyoming, was a trading post, resupply point, and military post. The barracks at the fort, Old Bedlam, have been restored and are the oldest surviving building in Wyoming. The 214-acre fort is now a national historic site.
A self-guided walking tour of Cheyenne’s historic downtown district will take you to the old Union Pacific depot and the beautiful Tivoli Building. Pick up a free brochure at the Depot Visitor Center.
Go to Cheyenne.org or call (800) 426-5009.
Western settlement takes center stage at the Wyoming Pioneer Museum, in an area laced with five historic trails. The museum is located at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas. Don’t miss the one-room schoolhouse on display.
Go to conversecountytourism.com or call (877) 937-4996.
In Casper, the National Historic Trails Center interprets not only the Oregon Trail, but also the story of the Wyoming portions of the Mormon Trail and the Pony Express route.
Go to Casper, Wyoming or call (800) 852-1889.
Fort Bridger, in southwest Wyoming, was established by mountain man Jim Bridger in 1843 as a supply stop along the Oregon Trail. The sprawling old military fort and trading post features an excellent museum.
Sheridan, Wyoming—once the most prized hunting grounds of the Plains Indians—is steeped in our country’s history of Western expansion. The area surrounding Sheridan presents history through museums, historic sites, forts, and battlefields, including Little Bighorn, the Rosebud Battle site, the Bozeman Trail, and Fort Phil Kearny.
Go to Sheridan, Wyoming or call (888) 596-6787.
By the 1860s, more important trails had been established, including the Bridger Trail, the Bozeman Trail, the Overland Trail, and the Texas Trail, which was used to move cattle west from Texas.
Montana and Idaho Historic Trails
When Lewis and Clark traversed Montana and Idaho, they used three routes, one jointly on their way to the West Coast, and the other two individually on their separate trips home. Learn more at The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center and Giant Springs Heritage Park, near Great Falls.
The Nez Perce National Historic Trail covers more than 1,100 miles, and is the route Chief Joseph and five bands of Nez Perce traveled when they fled their Idaho homeland to escape war in 1877. They attempted to head into Wyoming through Yellowstone National Park, but were blocked by the U.S. Cavalry at Laurel, Montana, and took flight to Canada, only to surrender about 50 miles short of the border.
In central-southeast Idaho, visit the National Oregon/California Trail Center at Montpelier, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum at Fort Hall, and the re-creation of historic Fort Hall at Pocatello.
Utah Historic Trails
In 1847, Brigham Young and the first party of Mormon followers reached the Salt Lake Valley, opening the way for more than 60,000 Mormons to come by covered wagon and handcart. Young designated where the temple would be built, and on April 6, 1853, laid the cornerstone. It was finished 40 years later.
Go to Salt Lake Valley, call (801) 534-4900.