Take the Highways You Love the Best

There has never been a better time in our history to plan a heritage road trip to the Western United States.

For seven decades, the editors of True West magazine have encouraged our readers to pack their bags and go West to discover where history happened. Walk, hike, ride, drive and fly the magnificent country we call the Western United States. Spend time walking the grounds of national parks, monuments and sites, visit the local museums, spend time relaxing at a guest ranch or enjoy the refinements of a historic hotel. Embrace the beauty of the West’s natural wonders, immerse yourself in a small Western town and relish the new friends you make along the way. From winter to summer, spring to fall, our writers have traveled the length and breadth of the West to share with you the best of the West, including out-of-the-way, little-known local spots that shouldn’t be missed. We encourage you to make your plans this winter to travel to the American West, visit our editors’ and readers’ favorite places and make memories of a lifetime.
And don’t forget to take the highways you love the best.


Visionary sculptor Gutzon Borglum and a superintendent climbed on George Washington’s nose to inspect the progress of the massive public art project in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1932. The popular national memorial was not deemed complete until October 31, 1941. Courtesy Library of Congress


Best Place to Live Like an Old West Cowboy (Winter)

Prescott, AZ

The original Territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott celebrates its heritage throughout the year at local museums, hotels and restaurants. The mile-high city has mild winters with plenty of indoor and outdoor activities, including the popular Historic Downtown Prescott Walking Tours, the Annual Prescott Chamber Christmas Parade titled “A Hometown Christmas,” the Annual Courthouse Christmas Lighting and Sharlot Hall’s Annual Frontier Christmas, “The Spirit of Christmas Past Visits Prescott.” If you stay for the summer, don’t miss Frontier Days, the Frontier Days Rodeo Parade and the World’s Oldest Rodeo every Fourth of July.


Readers’ Choice: San Angelo, TX


Following in the footsteps of photographers William Henry Jackson and F.J. Haynes, Truman Ward Ingersoll was one of the most successful and comprehensive chroniclers of Yellowstone National Park in the 1880s. His backcountry photos of the park, including Yellowstone Falls, were widely reproduced as individual images and stereographs. Courtesy NYPL Digital Collections


Best Place to Live Like an Old West Cowboy (Summer)

Cody, WY

From the great outdoors to museums, Cody is one of the West’s most Western towns in which one can live like an Old West cowboy. Start at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, then head downtown to tour, shop, eat and drink. Don’t miss the Cody Nite Rodeo, Irma Hotel Gunfights, Old Trail Town and trail-riding at one of the local stables. Hang your hat at Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel downtown or contact the Cody Chamber of Commerce for information on booking a once-in-a-lifetime cowboy experience at a local historic guest ranch.


Readers’ Choice: Pendleton, OR


Best Old West Gunfighter Town

Tombstone, AZ

Discover legendary Tombstone, known internationally for its stormy and storied past, where walking the streets of Wyatt Earp and “Doc” Holliday and the infamous Gunfight Near the O.K. Corral is a unique step back into the Old West—a true encounter with history in “The Town Too Tough to Die.”


Readers’ Choice: Dodge City, KS


Eighteen years after Yellowstone was made the first national park, Congress and President Benjamin Harrison created Yosemite National Park on October 1, 1890. Long before the backpacking craze, tourists enjoyed trail riding into the park’s backcountry to camp and enjoy its natural wonders. Courtesy NYPL Digital Collections


Best Old West Art Town

Santa Fe, NM

Over the decades, the oldest state capital in the United States has become both a haven for writers and artists as well as an international tourist destination known for its historic ambiance, gourmet restaurants, elegant lodging, top-rated museums and world-class art galleries. Art events that should be on everyone’s bucket list include the Santa Fe Society of Artists’ Outdoor Fine Arts Shows, Santa Fe Studio Tour, Santa Fe Opera, International Folk Art Market, Traditional Spanish Market, Indian Market and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. SantaFe.org

Readers’ Choice: Durango, CO


Best Town for Historic Entertainment

Tombstone, AZ

Take a walk down Allen and Fremont streets and discover legendary Tombstone, known internationally for its stormy and storied past. Walking the streets of Wyatt Earp and “Doc” Holliday and the infamous Gunfight Near the O.K. Corral is a unique step back into the Old West—a true encounter with history in “The Town Too Tough to Die.” Don’t miss a tour of the O.K. Corral, the Birdcage Theatre, Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park and the Tombstone Epitaph building. TombstoneChamber.com

Readers’ Choice: Medora, ND


Best Living History Farm Museum

Grand Encampment Museum, Encampment, WY

A perennial favorite of True West, the hands-on living history experience tells the story of early town-building in Nebraska. For 40-plus years, the world-class educational center and outdoor living history museum, called a “crossroads in time,” has given visitors from around the world an authentic glimpse of frontier Nebraska prairie town life, while preserving and portraying the pioneers’ inspiring stories of life on the Great Plains.


Readers’ Choice: New Mexico Farm and Ranch, Las Cruces, NM


Best Historic Town Tour

Historical Walking Tour “A Walk Through the History of Trinidad,” Trinidad, CO

Step back in time for a walking tour of historic Trinidad, Colorado. The famed Santa Fe Trail town’s heritage and history along Raton Pass is celebrated on the tour of the city, which developed from a trading post village to one of Colorado’s most important railroad, mining and coal towns. Discover Trinidad’s great history on its dynamic and informative walking tour. Also, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the the historical society and the A.R. Mitchell Museum when in town.


Readers’ Choice: Bisbee, AZ


The world rushed to California after the discovery of gold near Sutter’s Fort was announced in 1849. Three years after the rush, tens of thousands of bonanza seekers were still arriving by hundreds of ships through the Golden Gate to San Francisco Harbor. Many of the ships would be abandoned where they anchored. Library of Congress


Best Promotion of a Historic Place

Prescott, AZ

The Prescott Chamber of Commerce and City Tourism Office work hand-in-hand to plan and promote one of the busiest public event schedules in the state of Arizona. Nearly every weekend from May to September, the chamber has events planned for the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza in the center of the city’s historic district. Prescott is known as “Everyone’s Hometown,” which is apparent throughout the year, culminating in the World’s Oldest Rodeo and Prescott Frontier Days in June and July as well as the most popular holiday celebration calendar in Arizona, earning the mile-high town the moniker of “Christmas City.” Don’t miss the lighting of the Courthouse, the Frontier Christmas at Sharlot Hall Museum, the Christmas Parade and the German Christmas marketplace.


Readers’ Choice: Abilene, KS


President Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a transcontinental national railroad system began in 1862 with the Pacific Railroad Act. By the 1890s, the Black Hills & Fort Pierre Railroad and other small railroad lines were extending into the far corners of the West to carry freight, settlers, tourists and raw goods in and out of the smallest settlements. Courtesy Library of Congress


Best Old West Town to Live In

Virginia City/Nevada City, MT

In 1863, gold was discovered along Alder Creek. The rush into the hills led to numerous claims and the founding of Virginia City, Montana. Once the territorial capital of Montana, the historic, living-history village invites visitors to stay and immerse themselves in the heritage community with its Old West entertainment, lodging, restaurants and activities, including stagecoach and train rides.


Readers’ Choice: Tombstone, AZ


Best Historic Railroad of the West

Georgetown Loop Railroad, CO

Built in 1884, Colorado’s Georgetown Loop Railroad is one of the engineering wonders of the Rocky Mountain State’s historic narrow-gauge rail lines. Passengers enjoy the thrill of riding on historic rolling stock pulled by a steam-driven locomotive across the new High Bridge. Many specialty trains are planned throughout the season. After the exciting highline rail trip, enjoy a mine tour, gold panning and a tour of historic Georgetown. Check regularly with the railroad for changes in the schedule due to COVID restrictions. 


Readers’ Choice: TIE: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, CO/Nevada Northern Railroad, Ely, NV


Best “Who Slept Here” Hotel

The Strater Hotel, Durango, CO

The Strater Hotel in the historic district of Durango is the perfect place to stay when vacationing in the Animas River Valley city made internationally famous by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Opened in 1887, the Strater is a landmark hotel, luxuriously maintained and preserved with antiques throughout the historic inn and its well-appointed rooms. Don’t miss an evening in the Diamond Belle Saloon and dinner in the Mahogany Grill.


Readers’ Choice: Occidental Hotel, Buffalo, WY


Originally built in 1692, the current San Xavier del Bac Mission was constructed between 1783 and 1797. Carlos Gentile’s 1870 image is one of the earliest photographs of the Franciscan mission south of Tucson. Today, the Roman Catholic church still operates as an active parish to its community. Courtesy Library of Congress


Best Heritage Hotel

The Historic Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD

Known as the “Jewel of Downtown Deadwood,” the Bullock Hotel has its roots in the grandest years of Deadwood’s frontier era. Rumored to be haunted by its founder Sheriff Seth Bullock, the meticulously restored property is located right in the middle of the city’s historic entertainment district. Whether in town for Wild Bill Days, ’76 Days or Oktoberfest, the Bullock is the perfect headquarters for a weekend of fun.


Readers’ Choice: TIE: Hotel Wolf, Saratoga, WY/Hotel Colorado, Glenwood Springs, CO 


Best Dude Ranch of the West

Rancho Cortez Dude Ranch, Bandera, TX 

When staying at Rancho Cortez, guests can choose between overnight stays and weekly dude ranch packages. Horseback riding is a centerpiece activity at the guest ranch and many guests return annually to enjoy the hospitality, friendship, dining and wellness activities of the Bandera institution. Don’t miss the great evening campfires, which are beloved by all generations. Rancho Cortez also offers two summer camps for kids, a Girls Horse Camp and a Boys Cowboy Camp, and two fitness programs for adults: the Two-Week Fitness Program and the 60-Day Fitness Work Program.


Readers’ Choice: Tombstone Monument Ranch & Cattle Company, Tombstone, AZ


A traditional evening campfire when camping out West is still a popular way to share stories, song and friendship. Adam C. Vroman’s photograph of his traveling party to Northern Arizona, including the Hopi communities, is a rare, extraordinary nighttime image of the tradition. Courtesy Huntington Library


Best Heritage Bed & Breakfast

Tucker Inn, Deadwood, SD

Located in the heart of historic Deadwood, this oasis from gambling in downtown has a homelike atmosphere for couples and families alike. Relax in the historic home within walking distance of the town’s famous sites and Main Street, or wait for the trolley which will take you to all the great museums, restaurants and bars in what was once one of the most notorious towns in the Old West.


Readers’ Choice: Old Central Firehouse Bed & Brew, San Angelo, TX


Best Heritage Guest Ranch

Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, Winston, NM

Looking for a great Old West escape from the day-to-day grind? Want to relax in one of the most scenic and historic regions of New Mexico? Then take the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway to the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, south of Beaverhead in southwest New Mexico. Located in the heart of the mountains of the Gila National Forest, the unique guest ranch offers guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in a relaxing Western experience with first-class accommodations. Guided trail rides take guests into the canyons and mountains to explore the Mimbres cultural sites adjacent to the ranch.


Readers’ Choice: Mayan Dude Ranch, Bandera, TX


Best Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Durango, CO

This popular poetry gathering the first weekend of October includes a traditional trail ride, chuckwagon breakfast, cowboy poet train, parade and, of course, the world-class cowboy poets entertaining crowds day and night.


Readers’ Choice: Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, Prescott, AZ


Decades before Alaska was a state, tourists were visiting its natural wonders. A popular stop for the earliest tourist boats that plied the inland passage was Muir Glacier, which John Muir had visited during an 1878 exploration of the territory. Courtesy Yale University


Best Cowboy Music Gathering

Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival, Fort Worth, TX

The gathering, celebrating 25 years, features a weekend of great events, including a wagon train and trail ride from Jacksboro, trappings show, cowboy poetry, cowboy music, a youth poetry contest, youth fiddle competition, youth chuck wagon cook-off, Texas Trail of Fame, Cowboy Church, cowboy gospel concert and Western swing dances.


Readers’ Choice: Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Heber Valley, UT


Best Old West Mounted Reenactment

Defeat of Jesse James, Northfield, MN

Held the first weekend after Labor Day every September in Northfield, Minnesota, the Defeat of Jesse James Days offer a thrill-a-minute mounted reenactment of the failed James-Younger Gang robbery of Northfield’s First National Bank on September 7, 1876. The three-day event includes programming for all ages, but the highlights every day are the Raid Reenactments—two on Friday, four on Saturday and two on Sunday—with enough action in every 30-minute show to ensure you leave believing you were there on that fateful day in 1876. 


Readers’ Choice: Little Big Horn Battlefield, Crow Agency, MT


Former President Theodore Roosevelt was a great promoter of public lands and parks in the United States and was always up for an adventure in a saddle, as seen here leading a mule train down the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail. Courtesy Library of Congress


Best Old West Reenactment Group

Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies, Prescott, AZ 

Members of the Prescott Regulators & Their Shady Ladies, Inc., an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, are the “Official Old West Ambassadors” of historic Prescott. They host the annual Shootout on Whiskey Row, participate in reenactment events and parades throughout Arizona, donating all profits to locally based charities. 


Readers’ Choice: Concho Cowboy Company, San Angelo, TX


Best Wild West Show

Deadwood Alive, Deadwood, SD

During the summertime, Deadwood is one of the busiest, fun-filled cities in the West. With gunfights and the Trial of Jack McCall six days a week, plus entertaining living history programs in Outlaw Square, visitors are guaranteed to catch some Old West action most days. Every summer the city also hosts Wild Bill Days and ’76 Days, including two parades and its award-winning rodeo in the historic Days of ’76 Arena. In the fall, ticketed stagecoach rides, weather permitting, are offered on the half-hour from the Celebrity Hotel from noon to 5 p.m.


Readers’ Choice: OK Corral, Tombstone, AZ


Timothy O’Sullivan’s service as a survey photographer took him on lengthy trips through the West, including along the Snake River in Idaho. His large-format image of Shoshone Falls is one of the finest and most artistic photographs ever made of a natural wonder in the Western United States. Courtesy Yale University


Best Historic Western Rodeo

Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cheyenne, WY

Since 1897, Wyoming’s world-famous annual Cheyenne Frontier Days has been considered “the daddy of them all.” This year’s rodeo, scheduled for July 22-30, 2023, also includes two parades, a carnival midway, nightly entertainment and an American Indian Village. Don’t miss the famous pancake breakfast and a four-day Chuckwagon Cook Off that celebrates the heritage of chuckwagon cooking on the open range during cattle drives that brought cattle from Texas to the Cowboy State. 


Readers’ Choice: The World’s Oldest Rodeo, Prescott, AZ

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