From about 1843 on, the Oregon Trail was known as one of the most perilous pursuits that had ever been attempted in the U.S. up until that time. There were many casualties along the way as pioneers encountered illnesses and situations they have never before dealt with, which gave it the reputation that it still holds today. Although the original Oregon Trail led weary travelers from Independence, Missouri, to where Oregon City is located today, now, the Oregon Trail starts in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and doesn't end until Cannon Beach, Oregon, turning it into a full cross-country trip.


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However, travelers who want a truly authentic experience can still traverse the Oregon Trail as it was done in the mid-1800s, known as the Oregon National Historic Trail route. Rather than traversing the full 3,300 miles (and taking two weeks or more to do so), the original trail will take travelers from the traditional starting point of Missouri through to Oregon over a span of 2,000 or so miles. Travelers will drive through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho, before reaching their final destination of Oregon's Pacific Coast.

Starting Off In Missouri

Back in 1993, the 150th anniversary of the Historic Oregon Trail was marked with reenactments and those who chose to follow the trail as their ancestors would have. This drove up increased interest in the trail itself and what it would have been like - however, all of that scenery wouldn't necessarily have been appreciated like it is today; rather, it would have erred on the side of fighting for survival over sightseeing.

For those hoping to follow the 400,000 men, women, and children who gave it their all in search of better lives, head to Independence, Missouri. Travelers won't be spending too much time here as the mileage to hit before Kansas is only 16, but it's worth it to stroll around the city of Independence and learn about its history before heading out.


After following Route 24 to Interstate 435, travelers will hit the state line of Kansas. This is where more sightseeing can take place and a stop in Kansas City is a must; while it looks entirely different than it would have back then, it's a great excuse to stop and get some BBQ before heading back out or spending the night.

Don't spend too much time here, because there are plenty of historical sites in the other states that are deserving of the attention. These directions from the National Park Service tell travelers exactly where to head out of Kansas and into Nebraska, which is the next stop.


Nebraska, along with Wyoming and Idaho, sees the most time on the Oregon Trail. Buckle up, because there's plenty to see and do here! Along the way, travelers can stop at several parks including Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park, Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, Bowring Ranch State Historical Park, and Fort Robinson, all of which can be found along Route 20.

The Snake River also runs along this route through the Valentine National Wildlife Reservation so if travelers make a detour off the intersection of 83, they'll find some picturesque moments.


With the views of Grand Teton And Yellowstone National Parks on the horizon (the same views that Oregon Trail travelers would have been met with, originally), this section of the trail is full of humbling wonder. Road trippers will proceed straight through Casper, Wyoming, past Hell's Half Acre, a roadside attraction that's fairly remote, but otherworldly - and appears exactly as its name implies.

Continuing on, travelers will meet a fork in the road in which they can either take Highway 120 to meet up with Route 20 once again or go Route 287. This is a fairly big decision because taking the highway will bring travelers to Yellowstone while taking Route 287 will lead travelers past Grand Teton's scenic vistas. While in Wyoming, be sure to stop at Fort Laramie, which has been restored to its full historical accuracy and offers an inside look at the lives of pioneer's travels.


When driving through Idaho, travelers should be on the lookout for Three Island Crossing State Park, which functioned as the most important Snake River crossing on the Oregon Trail. Pioneers would swim and camp here, and it can be found in the town of Glenns Ferry. Fort Boise is another fun stop and once functioned as a fur-trapping post; this, and the accompanying museum are in Parma.

After travelers have crossed the state line from Wyoming, the two routes will meet up again at Idaho Falls. Following Route 20 once again, travelers can make the choice to split their trip and drive through Sawtooth National Forest or stay on course to Route 93, which will bring them straight to Glenns Ferry on Route 84. Either way, travelers will continue down Route 84 through Parma and Boise, driving parallel to the Snake River the entire time - giving spectacular views toward the last leg of the trip.


Congratulations! You've made it to Oregon. The first stop after crossing the state line should be a detour to I-84, on which travelers will find the best place to learn about the Historic Oregon Trail: The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This by far will provide the best account, artifacts, and information about the 400,000 people who traversed the same route that you just did.

The site is open daily with varying hours in the summer vs. the rest of the year, and admission is $8 to take the tour. After that, head back to Route 26 and continue on. The road this time is fairly straight forward and visitors can pick and choose which sites they want to stop and experience; until a fork near Fort Hood. Travelers can decide if they'd prefer to stay on Route 26 or take the detour to travel part of the Historic Columbia Scenic Highway (I-84) which meets back up with Route 26 before its end at Cannon Beach.

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