The infamous route established by Lewis and Clark in the 19th century known as the Oregon Trail is still a wondrous journey to impart on today. From Missouri to Oregon, the nearly 2,000-mile trail leads you through mountains, valleys, and wild prairie on the historical route of the first settlers. History buffs, nature lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts will be captivated by the trail’s incredible landscape and once-in-a-lifetime adventures.
Before you go
Before hitting the road, check The Oregon National Historic Trail Interactive Map to personalize your road trip and make sure that you don’t miss out on any memorable moments. Although we’ve rounded up the top spots that you absolutely cannot miss, there are many hidden gems along the trail to stop and explore. From historical houses to natural monuments and wild, expansive parks – there is something for everyone to enjoy. Take a look at the map and plan your pit stops along the way!
Start your trip in Independence, Missouri just as the settlers did. Load up on snacks for your adventure at the local Farmer’s Market and imagine you are loading up your wagon for the arduous trek across the country. Head over to the National Frontier Trails Museum to find out the history of the pioneers and settlers who forged this historic trail. To really get in the spirit, you might enjoy a covered wagon ride as you tour throughout the city’s historical landmarks. Now you should be ready to roll, time to hit the road!
By the time you’ve entered Kansas, you will be ready to stop and stretch your legs. Stop to explore the Prairie Village Santa Fe Trails Park to see the remains of the paths – known as swales – initially forged by the early settlers. Then head on to Alcove Springs where you can admire the Big Blue River and search its banks for rock carvings of bored settlers. After a long day of adventure, spend an evening picnicking and relaxing at Lone Elm Campground.
Once you’ve entered Nebraska there is plenty to see and do. As you make your way up to historic Scott’s Bluff, stop to admire the Chimney Rock National Historic Site. The unique rock formation is a hotbed for history and the museum is full of interesting artifacts and information about the challenges of early pioneer life. Then carry on to Scotts Bluff National Monument to see the immense 800 ft landmark and hike the surrounding nature trails.
Detour to South Dakota
Since you’re in the neighborhood, why not take a quick detour up to South Dakota to see the infamous Mount Rushmore? The majestic sculpture was once a sacred place for the area’s Native American tribes and is now home to the intricate carvings of America’s most beloved presidents. Spend a night in Custer and enjoy the Black Hills’ many outdoor activities from rock climbing to kayaking.
Beautiful Wyoming is bound to get you out of the car and active with its stunning national & state parks, historic sites, and incredible landmarks. As you head into the state your first must-see stop is Fort Laramie National Historic Site. This fort and fur-trading post was once the largest and most infamous military post on the Northern Plains. Just down the road near Guernsey, you will find the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site & National Historic Landmark. These incredible ruts still mark the path of the settlers along their painstaking journey West. For a chance to stretch and enjoy the breathtaking Wyoming wildlife head North toward the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone.
Idaho offers all kinds of unique experiences and adventurous expeditions. Driving West from Jackson Hole, Wyoming you will find yourself near the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Created by volcanic upwellings, this eerie, surreal landscape is unlike anything else you will see along the way. Take your time to hike the volcanic cones and explore the system of underground lava tubes. The next stop along the way is Shoshone Falls, known as the “Niagara of the West” for its stunning size and force. This is a must-see stop and a great location to take some photos. Then make your way along the banks of the Snake River to Bruneau Dunes State Park. Camp out overnight amid the sand dunes and rent a sandboard from the Visitor’s Center to test your bravery on the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America.
As you near the end of the trail, make your way through the rugged Blue Mountains and stop to admire the wagon ruts and scarred ponderosa pines of the Oregon trail interpretive park. Take the time to pause at Multnomah Falls and appreciate how different your adventure has been from that of the early pioneers. Finish your journey in Oregon city with a visit to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com