Come learn the stories of one of the most important chapters in America's history. The museums and historic sites in this guide focus on preserving the culture of life on the Oregon Trail. See artifacts from everyday pioneer life, visit forts that once guarded pioneers from feared Native American attacks, examine actual ruts left by the wagons constantly moving westward. You’ll uncover every aspect of the Oregon Trail and want to delve further and further into its complex history. Sure, it's nothing like playing The Oregon Trail on your old PC, but at least you won't have to worry about feeding your oxen or dying of dysentery. So, take on your own manifest destiny and discover the history and intrigue of traveling along America's final frontier.
Get in the "Go West" mindset of Oregon Trail pioneers at the National Frontier Trails Museum, dedicated to the start of many westward trails. Artifacts, exhibits, videos and more tell the stories of the brave individuals who made the journeys.
South of E. Red Bridge Road and just west of Blue River Road, Kansas City, MO, US
The Blue River Crossing was one of the first obstacles faced by pioneers. Thankfully, rather than caulking your wagon and floating it across, you can take the Red Bridge Crossing.
3001 Merriam Ln, Kansas City, KS, US
Those traveling on the Oregon Trail probably hunted and ate a hearty meal whenever they could...but they definitely didn't get to enjoy some of the country's finest barbecue the way you can. At Woodyard BBQ, enjoy brisket, ribs, and burnt ends chili in a relaxed and authentic BBQ shack space.
2400 South 148th Street, Walton, NE, US
The Prairie Creek Inn in Walton, NE, is a rustic, farm-inspired B&B that's the perfect place to spend a night. The spacious, well-adorned rooms and tasty communal breakfast, plus the barn and lake that are begging to be explored, make for a quiet and relaxing stay.
840 N 70th St, Lincoln, NE, US
The simple exterior and strip mall location of local burger favorite Honest Abe's Burgers and Freedom are deceiving: the burgers they serve up are far from plain. Chutneys, pickled onions, aiolis, pork belly, truffle fries, and gluten-free and vegan options keep the rotating burger options consistently intriguing.
5520 S Lincoln Ave, York, NE, US
Take yourself out of the Oregon Trail and fast-forward in time a bit to the Dust Bowl. The well-maintained farm, live animals, antique equipment and gorgeously restored church and museum at Wessel's Living History Farm in York, NE, can entertain for a few hours, if you're being thorough. Have a tour guide take you around and explain everything to you.
1400 E South St, Hastings, NE, US
Kitty's Roadhouse in Hastings, NE is a quirky garage-themed joint that serves up plenty of drinks and awesome wood-fired pizzas with delectable toppings. Not something pioneers would have been able to enjoy, but definitely something they would have appreciated.
Kearney, NE, US
Historic Fort Kearny was established to protect pioneers traveling on the Oregon Trail. There are several buildings that have been rebuilt to make the fort appear as it did back then, along with some exhibits in the visitor center. Take a moment to get into costume and post with a covered wagon for a souvenir.
519 E 1st St, Ogallala, NE, US
Ogallala Front Street is part museum, part Wild West show, part steakhouse, part saloon, and part diner. Learn about how Ogallala was known as the "Gomorrah of the West" and maybe indulge in a little of that Wild West fun with a Nebraska-raised steak, a cold beer, or just breakfast and a browse through the museum.
U.S. 26, Lewellen, NE, US
Head to the Ash Hollow State Historical Site's Windlass Hill to see the ruts left by Oregon Trail wagon wheels as they descended the slope. There's also a campsite and a gravestone from a girl who died along the journey.
9822 County Rd 75, Bayard, NE, US
Chimney Rock National Historic Site is a distinctive landmark, and all that remains of a sandstone cliff that has eroded. It can be seen for many miles and assured pioneers on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails that they were headed in the right direction.
3 miles West of Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scottsbluff, NE, US
You'll find the cozy Barn Anew B&B in the shadow of Scotts Bluff. The highlight here is the ability to spend the night in a tricked-out sheep's wagon, similar to the kind that pioneers used to travel across the country. They also have the world's most elegant outhouse, well worth seeing!
5933 Road 48, Torrington, WY, US
You've been traveling a long way, so why not treat yourself to a nice glass of wine while soaking up the gorgeous views from Table Mountain Vineyards in Torrington, WY. It's a farm turned vineyard. From reds to whites to blushes, they make some great wines and have a beautiful tasting room, to boot!
965 Gray Rocks Road, Fort Laramie, WY, US
Fort Laramie National Historic Site is a former fur trading post-turned-military fort, which was a popular stop for immigrants on the Oregon Trail. There are tons of restored buildings to explore, so leave plenty of time to check out everything you want to see!
Guernsey, WY, US
The Oregon Trail Ruts in Guernsey, WY is another spot along the trail where you can literally walk in the footsteps of pioneers. It's hard to believe that ruts from the wagon wheels are still visible today, some 150 years later.
I-80, Exit 228, Rawlins, WY, US
The Oregon Trail predates Fort Fred Steele Historic Site by a few years, since it was built to help protect the Union Pacific Rail Line, but this fort didn't last more than 30 years. It's another interesting piece of the fascinating history of the American West that's worth learning about.
US 191, Rock Springs, WY, US
White Mountain Petroglyphs in Rock Springs, WY is an important puzzle piece to the story of settling the West, which involves the Native Americans who were living here well before settlers came in. The ancient markings on these cliffs are fascinating and pretty well preserved, especially for possibly being 1,000 years old. It's a quick hike to see the petroglyphs, and the impact that seeing them will leave is pretty significant.
I-80 Exit 68, Little America, WY, US
The grub at Little America Restaurant is simple, but fresh and homemade, and the prices are good. Plus, kids and adults alike will love their 50 cent ice cream cones!
320 N 4th St, Montpelier, ID, US
The National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, ID may seem like another Oregon Trail museum, but this one is super cool, too. Here you'll have the chance to experience riding in a covered wagon and hearing re-enactors tell their stories at this unique and interactive museum.
746 E Center St, Pocatello, ID, US
The Black Swan Inn in Pocatello, ID is one of America's last remaining themed hotels, with rooms that range from "Arabian Nights" to "Under the Sea". Personally, I'd suggest the Wild West suite...the faux storefront walls and the watering can shower make it feel fun, but you don't have to sacrifice basic amenities here, either: free wifi, a massive jetted tub, a 50-inch TV and more make this place pretty swanky, and it's reasonably priced!
The best time of year to travel the Oregon Trail is late spring, summer and early fall. During this time of year the weather will be temperate and you won't have to worry about any of the harsh winter conditions that plagued the pioneers during days of old.