Top 5 Places to Experience The Oregon Trail

  • GUEST BLOGGER
  • UPDATED Jan 23, 2018
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The Oregon Trail is a National Historic Trail that starts in Missouri and ends in Oregon. Beginning in 1843, and going until the late 1860s, settlers left the east to make their way over 2000 miles to the west coast. Today, there are many great places to experience the trail, whether you want to hike, explore unique geological formations, visit living history museums, or enjoy the scenery. The 175th Anniversary of the Oregon Trail will be celebrated in 2018. 

Devil’s Gate in the Rattlesnake Mountain in Wyoming was an important landmark on the Oregon Trail. 

National Frontier Trails Museum – Independence, Missouri 

The Oregon Trail started in Independence, Missouri, where settlers fitted out their wagons and joined the groups heading west. Start your visit to the museum by exploring the ¼ mile walk following trail swales – or wheel depressions – made by the thousands of wagons. You can even take a covered wagon tour once you explore all of the artifacts and stories inside the museum. 

Scotts Bluff National Monument – Nebraska

Conestoga wagon at the base of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Scotts Bluff is one of many sites on the Oregon National Historic Trail that was a landmark for the early settlers. It’s one of the best to visit, since it provides not only costumed interpreters at the Visitor Center to share information about life on the trail, but also a great hiking opportunity. The hiking trail that winds up Scotts Bluff is about a mile-and-a-half long. On a clear day you can see 100 miles away – all the way to Laramie Peak – from the top.  

Mormon Handcart Historic Site – Wyoming

A family pulling a Mormon handcart, as they would have on the trail. 

The emigrant trails of the 1800s often crossed one another, and here, at Devil’s Gate, the Oregon Trail criss-crossed with the California Trail, Pony Express, and Mormon Trail. The Mormon Handcart Historic site has a number of buildings displaying artifacts, as well as providing families with an opportunity to try a handcart. Handcarts were used by these hardy pioneers who didn’t have oxen or horses to move them across the country. 

Craters of the Moon National Monument – Idaho 

Visitors hiking through formations at Craters of the Moon.

Nothing really prepares you for the lumpy, black landscape you see when you visit Craters of the Moon. Here, you’ll find over 600 sq. miles of lava spit out by more than 25 volcanic cones over the past 15,000 years. From lava tubes you can walk through, to trees petrified by the hot flow centuries ago, this park is a geological wonder to hike through. Settlers on the Oregon Trail wound through its northern part.

End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and Historic Site - Portland, Oregon

This Interpretive Center marks the end of the Oregon Trail at Oregon City, just outside Portland. The center has something for everyone, from a walking trail, to genealogy research resources, to pioneer crafts and games to play. Costumed staff at the extensive facility provide you with an in-depth story of the Oregon Trail and the settlers who made it all the way from Missouri. You’ll know you’ve found the center when you see the giant “wagon” frames that house the museum collections. 

About the Author/Photographer: Linda Aksomitis decided she wanted to do everything in life at least once when she was a teenager, and has found many adventures around the world since then. She’s the author of 30+ books, as well as writer and photographer for her travel blog, https://guide2travel.ca. Find her on Twitter @guide2travel

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