Historic Pioneer Trails
Photo: Historic Trail Near Fort Bridger State Park
Historic Pioneer Trails Travel Trails into the Past
Sweetwater County, Wyoming is criss-crossed by several historic pioneer trails which helped transport goods, wagon trains, American Indians, mail service and more, eventually settling the West in the 1800s.
No other place in the United States has more miles of still-visible pioneer trails than Sweetwater County. On your next road trip, make sure to take a detour and see one or all of these historic trails. You’ll feel an indescribable sense of wonder and excitement as you experience the area’s rugged history.
View the National Historic Trails Guide (PDF)
The Oregon Trail
Easily one of the most famous pioneer trails in the United States, the Oregon Trail was a major thoroughfare that guided about 400,000 people across the vast expanse of the west from 1846 to 1869. The 2,000-mile trail helped expand the California Gold Rush, and connected the Missouri River Valley with the Oregon Coast. The stretch through Sweetwater County is one of the most intact in America.
How to Access It: Fort Bridger State Historic Park, Pilot Buttes Trail Site or South Pass State Historic Site.
Pony Express Route
In the early 1860s, the Pony Express passed through Sweetwater County during the height of its service. As the main source of information from coast to coast, riders accessed a series of relay stations along a central trail in the area. The terrain offered mail carriers expanses where they could ride a horse at full gallop, and then change horses at the next station, which cut mail delivery times by 10 days.
How to Access It: Fort Bridger State Historic Park and South Pass State Historic Park
Also known as the Trappers Trail, the Cherokee Trail was primarily used by cattlemen driving herds north and south and by droves of hopefuls seeking their fortunes in gold.
The area’s economic growth and the settlement of the West owes much to this north-south pioneer trail that ran from Oklahoma through Kansas and Colorado into Wyoming. It’s well worth the extra effort to experience it today.
How to Access It: Take a four-wheel-drive vehicle just north of Baggs to the old Emigrant Trail, east of U.S. 191. It eventually crosses Dans Creek, Little Bitter Creek and Sage Creek (twice) before arriving at the Green River just above the Blacks Fork River Confluence.
Famously used by the Overland Stage Company in the mid-1800s, the Overland Trail was used frequently as a mail route to Salt Lake City. The Overland Stage Company had purchased the bankrupt assets of the Pony Express in 1861, which offered easy expansion of the alternate route to Oregon and California. Today, the Overland Trail is one of the most accessible pioneer trails to view in Sweetwater County.
How to Access It: Point of Rocks and Granger along I-80.
Taking a leap of faith, thousands of Latter Day Saints made their way west in the mid-1800s to get to the heart of their church in Salt Lake City. The Mormon Trail, as it became known, passed through a substantial portion of Sweetwater County, following roughly the same route of the Oregon Trail as well as the California and Pony Express Trails.
How to Access It: Fort Bridger State Historic Park or South Pass State Historic Park.
It’s only natural for those who break the law to want to avoid any chance of crossing paths with those that enforce the laws. So, in their days of lawlessness, outlaws such as Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and Jesse James made a trail of their own through southern Wyoming. But today, they’re not around to hold you up on the trail.
How to Access It: Take Hwy 191 south to the Utah border, just east of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Stop by the old hideout, Minnie’s Gap, while you’re there.
Pilot Butte Overlook
In the middle of the 19th century, the Pilot Butte landmark marked a convergence of Indian-Emigrant relations and the Transcontinental Telegraph. As you read the interpretive signs along the ruts of the trails here including the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, Pony Express Route and the California National Historic Trail, it’s not hard to imagine caravans of wagons passing by.
How to Access It: About 12 miles west of Farson on Hwy 28.
Old Emigrant Trail
During the mid-1800s, migrants from the eastern United States made a long journey westward seeking better lives, freedom from religion and even the prosperity of gold. The Old Emigrant Trail is an overlap of the Oregon Trail, California Trail and Mormon Trail that passes through Sweetwater County and still carries the marks of the migrants who chased new opportunities of the west.
How to Access It: Take the Overland Trail to Fort LeClede, and turn southwest until it meets up with the Cherokee Trail on the Little Bitter Creek. Follow the trail to Lone Tree Station and on to Fort Bridger, then go northwest through the Bridger Antelope Trap.
7 Reasons Why Sweetwater County Is Rich in American History
Can’t get enough of history of the American West? Sweetwater County delivers historic sites in spades. Learn about other sites worth a visit with this insider’s guide.