Historic Trails Tour
Explore the Pioneer Trails
No other place in the United States has more miles of still-visible pioneer trails than Sweetwater County, Wyoming. These historic trails helped shape the west as we know it today. Feel like a true, 18th century pioneer while visiting all the historic trails in Sweetwater County.
Start your tour at the Pilot Butte Interpretive Site – Take Highway 191 North of Rock Springs, Wyoming to Farson, Wyoming, then go west on State Highway 28 for 12 miles to get to the historic sites.
The Overland Trail was an alternative route to Oregon and California and was famously used by the Overland Stage Company. The Overland Stage Company purchased the bankrupt assets of the Pony Express in 1861 and used the trail to run mail to Salt Lake City, Utah. Explorers and trappers used portions of the route since the 1820s. The Overland Trail was most heavily used in the 1860s as an alternative route to the Oregon, California and Mormon trails through central Wyoming.
Overland Trail Access Point: The Overland Trail is one of the most accessible pioneer routes to view, as it passes by along I-80 at Point of Rocks, Wyoming. (41.67913,-108.782343).
The Oregon Trail is easily one of the most famous pioneer trails in the United States and not just because it inspired a popular video game. From 1846 to 1869, the 2,000-mile trail was a major thoroughfare, guiding roughly 500,000 – 600,000 people across the vast expanse of the west. It 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 sections.
Oregon Trail Access Point: Access through Fort Bridger State Park. (I-80, Exit 34 Fort Bridger, WY 82933)
During its height of service in the early 1860s, the Pony Express was the main conduit of information from coast to coast. Connected by a series of relay stations along a central trail, the mail carriers would ride a horse at full gallop, and then — just as their horse was tiring — change horses at the next station. This process cut mail delivery times to the west coast by 10 days. Pony Express stations and trails were littered across Wyoming.
Pony Express Access Point: Access through Fort Bridger State Park. (I-80, Exit 34 Fort Bridger, WY 82933)
The Mormon Trail brought followers of the Church of Latter Day Saints west to Salt Lake City, Utah, and it passed right through much of Sweetwater County, following roughly the same route as the Oregon, California and Pony Express Trails. Seeking freedom of religion, Mormons traveled west on the Mormon Trail which extends from Nauvoo, Illinois through Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Fort Bridger in Wyoming and finally ending in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Mormon, Oregon and California Trail are collectively known as the Old Emigrant Trail.
Mormon Trail Access Point: Access through Fort Bridger State Historic Park (I-80, Exit 34 Fort Bridger, WY 82933)
Old Emigrant Trail
The Emigrant Trail was the northern networks of overland wagon trails throughout the American West. The trail was used by migrants from the eastern United States to settle lands west of the Interior Plains during the overland migrations of the mid-19th century. The term specifically applies to the overlap of three interrelated routes: the Oregon Trail (from the 1830s), Mormon Trail (from 1846) and California Trail (from 1841). Historians have estimated at least 500,000 emigrants used these three trails from 1843–1869. Trace the steps of early western settlers along the Old Emigrant Trail.
Old Emigrant Trail Access Point: Access through Fort Bridger State Historic Park. (I-80, Exit 34 Fort Bridger, WY 82933)
The north-south Cherokee Trail, which helped foster economic growth and settlement of the west, runs from Oklahoma through Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Also known as the Trappers Trail, the route was primarily used by cattlemen and those seeking gold. The Cherokee Trail is the only goldseeker and emigrant trail named for Native Americans. Segments of the Cherokee Trail are visible and plentiful today in Southwest Wyoming. Also, the Cherokee Trail is now considered the only major emigrant trail to the west that was and remained disease-free throughout its history.
Cherokee Trail Access Point: See the Cherokee Trail at Granger Stage Station – 3 rd Street Drive, Granger, Wyoming 82934.
It may seem hard to believe that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as Frank and Jesse James and a slew of other outlaws, had their own “trail,” but an informal path of getaway routes through Southeast Wyoming has come to be known as the Outlaw Trail. This trail connects the famous bandit hideouts. These were Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming, Brown's Park on the Colorado-Utah border and Robbers Roost in Southeast Utah.
Outlaw Trail Access Point: Get a sense for the rugged terrain where outlaws evaded capture by driving Highway 191 south towards the Utah border to Minnie’s Gap, a frequent hideout for outlaws. Minnie’s Gap is located at 41.0063491, -109.426803, just east of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
Learn more about Sweetwater County's historic trails.