Trails West
A Map of Early Western Migration Trails
Copyright © 2000, Frederick Smoot. All Rights Reserved.

Westward Wagons

Trails West, a map.

Far Out West
        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

Applegate Trail
        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 Oregon’s 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.

Bozeman Trail
        Coming Soon!

California Trail
        Council Bluffs, Iowa, and from St. Joseph, Missouri, via the Platte River to Sacramento California.
        More Coming Soon!
Hastings Cutoff
        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 Nevada.

Hensley-Salt Lake Cutoff
        Coming Soon!

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.

Cherokee Trail, a.k.a. Evans Northern Cherokee Trail
        Coming Soon!

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
        Coming Soon!

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 1840’s 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 Oregon Trail
In Missouri

In Kansas
Junction with the Santa Fe Trail
Blue Mound

In Nebraska
Fort Kearney
Ash Hollow
Court House Rock
Scotts Bluff

In Wyoming
Fort Laramie
Register Cliff
Independence 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 use.
South Pass
         > 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.
Fort Bridger
         < Sublette Cutoff

In Idaho
Soda Springs
         > 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 travelers.
         < Lander Cutoff
         > Goodale Cutoff
Fort Hall
        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
Fort Boise

In Oregon
Flagstaff Hill
Whitman Mission
Columbia River
West to Fort Vancover or
South from Dalles, then west to Oregon City.

Far Out West
El Camino Real (“The King’s Highway”)
        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 day’s 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.
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 County.

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.
The Southern Trails
Apache Pass Trail
        Coming Soon!

Cooke’s Wagon Road
        A more “southerly” improvement to the Old Spanish Trail. Was a popular route to southern California.

El Camino del Diablo
        Coming Soon!

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.
        Coming Soon!

Gila Trail
        Coming Soon!

Lower Road
        Coming Soon!

Old Spanish Trail
        Santa Fe to Pueblo de los Angelos.
        More Coming Soon!

Santa Fe Trail
        The Santa Fe Trail was a significant historical 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.

Happy Trails to You

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