There are too many trails, cutoffs,
short cuts, stage routes, and military roads out here
in the west to list them all. We will however endeavor to list and describe the main
westward trails with our focus being on the early emigrant trails and roads. Some of
these trails carry more than one name. All state lines shown are modern.
The Northern Trails
Three brothers, Lindsay, Jesse,
and Charles Applegate and their families traveled
the Oregon Trail in 1843. On the last leg of their journey, they rafted down the
Columbia River where one of their rafts capsized in the rapids (near Dalles). Three
children were drown. The families settled in Oregons Willamette Valley. In 1846,
determined to find a better route to the Willamette Valley, two Applegate brothers,
Lindsay and Jesse, along with Levi Scott and ten others left La Creole Creek near Dallas,
Oregon, 20 June 1846, They traveled south the Willamette Valley through what is now
Corvallis, Eugene, and Ashland, then turned eastward toward what is now northwest
Nevada. They then turned northeast to Fort Hall. Their efforts found the what some
folk call the southern route of the Oregon Trail. The Applegate Trail runs
from Humboldt, Nevada to Dallas (near Salem), Oregon. It connects with the California
Trail at Humboldt Nevada.
Council Bluffs, Iowa, and from St. Joseph,
Missouri, via the Platte River to Sacramento California.
More Coming Soon!
Cherokee Trail, a.k.a. Evans Northern
Named after and promoted by Lansford W.
Hastings as the best and most direct route to the Salt Lake Valley and California.
Three weeks shorter than the Fort Hall route to California. He first convinced the
Donner Party to try it in 1846. The Donner party were considerably delayed by this
unimproved trail. That delay later proved fatal for some members of the Donner party.
In 1847 the Mormons followed the route the Donners had been forced to improve. The
Mormons experienced little trouble. The Hastings Cutoff joined the main branch of the
California Trail near Gravelly Ford from the south fork of the Humboldt River in
Hensley-Salt Lake Cutoff
Lassen Emigrant Trail, the Pit River Canyon
This rough and perilous canyon was one of
the last major river crossings for travelers on the Lassen Emigrant Trail.
Emigrant diaries recounted the torturous multiple crossings required through this
3 mile canyon, where wagons spent much of the passing in the rocky-bottomed Pit River.
The trail, blazed by Peter Lassen while leading a wagon train of pioneers to California
in 1848, was used by thousands of goldseekers and emigrants for nearly a decade.
Mormon Trail, a.k.a. Mormon Pioneer Trail,
and also North Bank Trail
We show the Mormon Trail starting at Nauvoo
Illinois. To alleviate increased
persecution that erupted in Nauvoo during the summer of 1845, Brigham Young
announced in September 1845 that Latter-day Saints would leave Nauvoo and vicinity
in the spring of 1846. This initiated one of the largest organized movements of a
religious group in world history. More than 10,000 people who lived in or near Nauvoo
migrated more than 1,300 miles to the Great Salt Lake Valley. On 4 February 1846, the
first wagons left Nauvoo. Approximately 70,0000 Mormons traveled along the Mormon
Pioneer Trail from 1846 to 1869.
After leaving Iowa, the Latter-day Saints
generally traveled along the north side
of the Platte River. There they faced fewer chances for unpleasant encounters with
westbound emigrants from the states of Missouri or Illinois, all potentially former
detractors and enemies. The Latter-day Saints believed that the north side of the river
was healthier than the south side. Along the way, feed for stock sometimes became
scarce. They would switch to the other side if feed was in short supply. 1849, 1850, and
1852, traffic was so heavy along the Platte that frequently all available feed was stripped
from both sides of the river.
Mormon Trail to California
Oregon Trail, a.k.a. Emigrant
Road and the Oregon ~ California Trail
According to an act of Congress, the Oregon
trail begins in Independence,
Missouri, and ends in Oregon City, Oregon. Unofficially, the starting point could be
Council Bluffs, St. Joseph, Saint Louis, or possibly other places. The first major
migration via the Oregon Trail to Oregon Country occurred in 1843. In
the 1840s the vast majority of emigrants who used the Oregon trail were farmers
bound for Oregon. The gold strike in California in 1848 brought many Argonauts over
the eastern part of the trail, then they turned southwest after passing Fort Hall.
That part of the Oregon Trail that starts in Missouri and just passes Fort Hall is
sometimes called the Oregon ~ California Trail.
East to West, Landmarks and Towns Along the
Far Out West
El Camino Real (The Kings
Junction with the Santa Fe Trail
Court House Rock
>Lander Cutoff a.k.a. the Lander Trail
This shortcut between South Pass
and the Snake River
country was surveyed and built in 1857-58 by pioneer engineer Frederick W.
Lander for the Department of the Interior. It is the only stretch of the
Oregon Trail system to ever be subsidized and constructed by the federal
government. More than 13,000 emigrants traveled it in 1859, its first year of
> Sublette Cutoff
One of the earliest shortcuts, this
trail made an almost
due-east-west connection between South Pass and the Bear River, avoiding a
southern loop to Fort Bridger. It required a 50-mile waterless drive across a
barren sagebrush desert between the Big Sandy and Green Rivers, followed
by the necessity to climb several mountainous ridges west of the Green.
Most of the normal emigrants avoided it. The Forty-Niners loved it. It saved
70 miles, or about three days travel time. Well marked, much public land.
< Sublette Cutoff
> Hudspeth Cutoff
Benoni M. Hudspeth and John J.
Myers were the two individuals who lead the first wagons on a new branch of
the California Trail, which left the main trail near Soda Springs and rejoined
the main trail near Malta, Idaho. When they left the main trail west of Soda
Springs, they thought they would save considerable miles and arrive at the
headwaters of the Humboldt. To their surprise, they were still in the Raft River
drainage when they again came upon the trail from Fort Hall. They actually had
saved about 25 miles, but had crossed four mountain ranges and a number of lower,
but difficult divides. At least one wagon train divided when they came to the
juncture, with half the group going via Fort Hall and the remainder taking the
Hudspeth Cutoff. When the cutoff group arrived at the reunion, the Fort. Hall
group was already
there. So the Cutoff may not have provided any savings in time for most of the
< Lander Cutoff
> Goodale Cutoff
Fort Hall (near Pocatello Idaho)
was built in 1834 on the banks of the Snake River. First owned by Columbia River
Fishing and Trading Company, it was sold to the Hudson Bay Company in 1837. It
fell into disrepair and was dismantled in 1863. Fort Hall was a major stop along
the Oregon Trail (a.k.a. Oregon-California Trail) for settlers seeking the Oregon
Territory and for those Argonauts seeking the California gold fields.
Three Island Crossing
< Goodale Cutoff
West to Fort Vancover or
South from Dalles, then west to Oregon City.
In 1769, a fortress and a Franciscan
mission was founded at San Diego. This was
the first a series of small self-reliant religious settlements, each a days travel
apart and linked by El Camino Real. In time, El Camino Real linked twenty-one
missions, pueblos, and four presidios from San Diego to Sonoma.
The Southern Trails
1769 San Diego de Alcalá. San Diego County.
1770 San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, a.k.a. Carmel Mission. Monterey County
1771 San Antonio de Padua. Monterey County.
1771 San Gabriel Archangel. Los Angeles County.
1772 San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. San Luis Obispo County.
1776 San Francisco de Asís, a.k.a. Mission Delores. San Francisco County.
1776 San Juan Capistrano. Orange County.
1777 Santa Clara de Asís. Santa Clara County.
1797 San José. Alameda County.
1798 San Luis Rey de Francia. San Diego County.
1791 Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz County.
1782 San Buenaventura. Ventura County.
1786 Santa Bárbara. Santa Barbara County.
1787 La Purísima Concepción. Santa Barbara County.
1791 Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. Monterey County.
1797 San Juan Bautista. San Benito County.
1797 San Fernando Rey de España. Los Angeles County.
1797 San Miguel Arcangel. San Luis Obispo County.
1804 Santa Inés. Santa Barbara County.
1817 San Rafael Arcángel. Marin County.
1823 San Francisco de Solano, a.k.a. Mission Sonoma. Sonoma County.
1777 El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe. Santa Clara County.
1781 El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles. Los Angeles
1769 El Presidio de San Diego. San Diego County.
1770 El Presidio de Monterey. Monterey County.
1776 El Presidio de San Francisco. San Francisco County.
1782 El Presidio de Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara County.
Cookes Wagon Road
A more southerly improvement
to the Old Spanish Trail. Was a popular route to southern California.
El Camino del Diablo
Fort Smith ~ Santa Fe Trail
Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail lead into
Santa Fe extending from Fort Smith, Arkansas, across Indian Territory and the area
of the present Texas Panhandle and to Santa Fe.
Old Spanish Trail
Santa Fe to Pueblo de los Angelos.
More Coming Soon!
Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail was a significant
and economical important commercial route from 1821 to 1880, extended
from the westernmost settlements of the United States in Missouri across the plains
Indian country to the New Mexican capital of Santa Fe. The date 1821, is generally
accepted as the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail. In that year Mexico established her
independence from Spain and reversed Spanish policies of exclusiveness and resistance
to foreign trade. For mutual protection the merchants commonly traveled in caravans
with the mule or ox-drawn wagons arranged in two parallel lines so that they could be
drawn into a circle quickly in case of attack. United States military escorts were
furnished, but the soldiers were rarely needed for the cautious plains Indians
seldom risked battle with the well-organized caravans.
The trail as originally traveled
extended from Franklin or Independence, Missouri, westward past Council Grove
to the Great Bend of the Arkansas, along the river almost to the Rocky Mountains
before turning south across Raton Pass (Pass of the Rat) and into Santa Fe.
There were, of course, several variants of the trail, but at least as early as
1825 the most popular route was the one known as the Cimarron Cutoff, which crossed
the Arkansas River in western Kansas and proceeded in a more nearly southwestward
direction to Lower Spring on the Cimarron River, up and across the Cimarron to the
eastern New Mexican settlements and then to Santa Fe. After crossing the Arkansas River,
this route lay entirely within territory claimed after 1836 by the Republic of Texas.
In its later years the Santa Fe Trail became a link in the gold trail to California and
in the immigrant trails to the Far West.