Location: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon
Distance: 3,500 kilometres
This marathon journey allows you to dig deep into the roots of early America. Since the 1800s, everyone from hopeful gold prospectors to God-fearing missionaries and stoic pioneers took to their wagons and endured hardship on this tough-as-nails trail. Thankfully today it won’t take you six months to make the journey. Start in the aptly named Independence, Missouri and head west towards the blustery yet beautiful wild coast of Oregon. On the way, watch an everchanging landscape evolve from farmland to urban sprawl, plains to wooded forest and roaring sea.
- After you drive through golden cornfields of Nebraska, you’ll reach Bridgeport in the Nebraska Panhandle. Stop to snap photos of the two impressive formations of Courthouse and Jail rocks.
- In Wyoming, first stop is the Fort Laramie trading post founded by fur trappers in 1834. Here you can also check out the contemporary Nicolaysen Art Museum, which houses a great collection of Native American treasure.
- When you reach Route 220, you’ll cross another famous landmark: Independence Rock. Get out and get an up-close look and check out the ‘Register of the Desert’ where 5,000 plus people have etched their names on the rock’s walls.
- Look out for beaten paths: the original trail ruts worn in by wagonloads of travellers are still visible in some places, with Guernsey, Wyoming being a prime area to stretch your legs and trace the carved ruts.
- At Soda Springs on the border between Wyoming and Idaho, see the hourly eruption of a naturally sprouting geyser of carbonated water, which early settlers are said to have used for medicinal purposes.
- While Oregon marks the end of the trail, there’s plenty to see and do in Oregon’s Baker City, including the simulated wagon train at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which will make you feel like a real pioneer.
- Your journey ends when you reach the stunning Oregon coastline. Feel the sense of accomplishment having followed in the footsteps of pioneers.