This past winter, when I finally made my way to Mystery Castle at 800 E. Mineral Road in Phoenix, Arizona, I was glad to hear I was not the only slacker among my friends in the tour group.
“I am so happy to finally visit this landmark that I’ve been wanting to see for years,” shared Vanessa Torre of Phoenix.
Boyce Luther Gulley built this three-story, 8,000-square-foot stone mansion in the 1930s. And he built it out of the trash that was piling up in the town dump behind this plot of land he owned. Old car parts, cement, adobe, stone. When a Life magazine photographer happened upon the house, it ended up on the cover of the January 26, 1948, issue: “Life Visits a Mystery Castle.” The name stuck, and people have happened upon it ever since. Gulley’s daughter Mary Lou still lives there, and we even got to talk with her during our tour of the home.
This castle certainly did not compare to Neuschwanstein Castle, the royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany I visited back in 2006. But touring “Daddy Gulley’s” castle on my home turf felt comforting—beauty, in all its shapes and forms, truly does surround us everywhere we go.
I moved to Arizona from New York in 1996, yet for far too long, so much of the state’s treasures, like the Mystery Castle, were merely storybook accounts to me. I started taking trips regularly around the state once I graduated from the University of Arizona and settled into my first home in the outskirts of Phoenix.
I do still take grandiose vacations outside the state (and even outside the country) — it is nice to get away from the succulent desert plants and blazing sun. But ever since I realized that I could “get away” without really going all that far, I have been riding on every back road I can find and hiking every trail dotted with petroglyphs that friends recommend to me. Sometimes a person’s soul needs a long, extended break, and other times, just a short jaunt, among all the flowering cacti, with a bald eagle darting out from its perch on a mountain crag, above a trail that leads back to home that very same day.
I’ve hiked the Palatki ruins outside of Sedona (by the way, that’s how I learned about this issue’s Old West Savior). I’ve ridden the train from Williams into the Grand Canyon. I’ve geocached to Mattie Earp’s grave in the Old Pinal Cemetery. I’ve taken lessons in cutting and loped my horse on Weaver Mountain trails at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg. And I’ve panned for gold in Turkey Creek at Bradshaw Mountain.
None of these excursions are going to keep me from planning trips outside of Arizona. I still can’t stop boasting about my hike last summer up 21 switchbacks to the top of Angel’s Landing (about 1,500 feet above the main canyon floor) at Zion National Park in Utah. It was 106 degrees that day. And I loved every second of it.
This is your year to wander. Explore. Dream. The road less traveled can be found in your own backyard, or in a far-away locale. If you’re saving up money, don’t scrimp in rejuvenating your soul, take a Staycation and enjoy the attractions that surround you. If you’re looking for some new horizons, use this guide to inspire your next vacation. And if you’re anything like me, staycations and vacations are both luxuries you can’t afford not to take.
—Meghan Saar, Managing Editor
I’m sharing here with you some of my personal photos from my trips. To view more about my travels, please visit my page on our True West community site. Don’t forget to post your trip photos on your community profile too!
Bat City: View Mexican free-tail bats at the Congress Avenue bridge; the most popular time to watch is at sunset, March through October.
Year-Round Swimming: Take a dip in the constant 68-degree Barton Springs, where the Spanish built a mission in 1730.
Rest Your Head Here: Cattle baron Jesse Driskill spent his fortune building his hotel in 1886, and it remains a landmark of Texas hospitality to this day.
Oldest Building: The city’s oldest building is the 1841 French Legation, built as a diplomatic outpost when Texas was still a republic.
Capitol Tours: The south entrance of the 1886 capitol—built out of red granite quarried from nearby Marble Falls—is the departure point for free, guided, history walking tours of downtown, offered year-round Thursday through Sunday, excepting major holidays.
Hold On To Your Seat: The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum not only shares the story of Texas through artifacts such as Stephen F. Austin’s diary, but it is also home to the interactive Spirit Theater with special effects that make you feel as if you’re experiencing the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 or a gusher from a Texas oil derrick.
San Antonio (80 miles south) offers the Alamo mission, the start of the Spanish Mission trail, linking five Catholic missions along the San Antonio River. And you can buy a pair of custom boots at Lucchese, founded here in 1883. To go “full cowboy,” visit in February, for the city’s PRCA indoor rodeo.
Boerne (101 miles southwest) offers an Old West town at the working ranch, Enchanted Springs Ranch. Be sure to call before you visit, because the ranch is sometimes closed for film shoots.
Bandera (119 miles southwest), the start of the western branch of the Chisholm Trail, which ended, most often, in Dodge City, Kansas, still offers a taste of its cattle drive heritage at area guest ranches, such as the oldest in Bandera, Dixie Dude Ranch, which first opened its doors in 1937.
Colorado River: Boating down the Colorado is a popular pastime here. While you head south down the river, remember the Mojave who lived along these banks and established the Mojave Road trade route to California, part of the Old Spanish Trail that reached Santa Fe. The Mojave were forced off once the military built Fort Mojave in 1858, in ruins today, and they still reside at the nearby reservation.
Spirit Mountain: You can hike today at this sacred site of creation for the Mojave, called Avikwa’ame. They lost this land once they were forced onto the reservation.
Grapevine Canyon: The biggest petroglyph site in southern Nevada, at the foot of Spirit Mountain, shares how the Colorado River—notably the Mojave region—came into being.
Mojave Trail: Talk to avid four-wheelers in this part of the West, and it’s likely that they have traveled this trail, starting from Barstow, California, and ending up at Laughlin. Technically, the trail goes from Camp Cady, outside Barstow, to Fort Mojave, along the Colorado River.
Trail Ride at Black Mountain: Ride your horse into a Juniper-covered mountain range that is home to herds of Bighorn Sheep.
Katherine, AZ (11 miles northeast), offers the remnants of the 1860 gold Katherine Mine, and you can enjoy gorgeous sunsets over Lake Mohave during Ranger-led hikes.
Burros freely walk the streets in Oatman, AZ (24 miles southeast), posthumously named for Mojave captive Olive Oatman, a mining town with daily Wild West shoot-out re-enactments.
Needles, CA (27 miles south), shares its history at the Needles Regional Museum; spend the night at the restored 1908 Harvey Hotel, the El Garces Hotel.
Barstow, CA (180 miles southwest), offers a Route 66 Museum in a historic Harvey house. Barstow boomed after silver struck in the Calico mine in 1882; the story is shared at the Calico ghost town museum.
FORT WORTH, TX
World’s Largest Honky-Tonk: The three-acre Billy Bob’s Texas houses an indoor rodeo (with real bulls, not mechanical ones) and a dance floor where Dolly Parton’s rhinestone saddle revolves above your head.
Museums Galore: Want Western art? Head to Amon Carter in the city’s cultural district and Sid Richardson at Sundance Square (an area formerly known as Hell’s Half Acre). Don’t know much about cowgirls? Head over to the National Cowgirl Museum. Into rodeo and horses? Equine champs are honored at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Drink to a Classic Gunfight: At the White Elephant Saloon, raise your glass to co-owner Luke Short and Marshal Jim Courtright’s gunfight, which took place outside here in 1887. Courtright bit the bullet; Short died six years later. Their bodies are resting for eternity together in the local cemetery.
GPS the Stockyards: A walking tour of Stockyards Station is offered via GPS, hosted by rodeo stars Pam Minick and Bob Tallman. Then check out the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive.
Log This in Your Logbook: Costumed interpreters share pioneer stories at Log Cabin Village, home to nine log houses dating to the mid-1800s.
Near Fort Worth:
Ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad from Fort Worth to Grapevine (23 miles northeast), where you can sip wine made by Cross Timbers Winery at the 1874 Brock Family farmhouse.
Pioneer life from 1840-1910, including Texas’s secession from the U.S. in 1861, is shared in 38 historic buildings in Dallas (34 miles east), at Dallas Heritage Village.
Denton (37 miles north) offers exhibits on local historical families at the 1896 Courthouse-On-the-Square Museum, while you can learn Victorian-era home arts at the Bayless-Selby House Museum.
Mesquite (45 miles east) is home to the 1872 Florence Ranch homestead and the Opal Lawrence park, with a farmstead complex of buildings dating to the 1870s.
Waco (88 miles south) celebrates a Lone Star State icon at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.
History On the Move: Catch the trolley or enjoy a romantic carriage ride and tour the largest historic district in the nation: 2,169 buildings covering 400 city blocks.
Tom Mix’s Bar: Silent film actor Tom Mix once tended bar at what is billed as the state’s oldest watering hole, the Blue Belle Saloon, where you can chow down on some juicy burgers and steaks.
Frontier Doc: Exhibits on frontier pharmacies and medicines share the story of health in the Old West at the Frontier Drugstore Museum.
Land Rush: Celebrate “Harrison’s Hoss Race” that birthed this town in six hours in 1889 at the 89er Celebration, held every April. The Oklahoma Territorial Museum shares this history, no matter when you’re in Guthrie. Also enjoy rodeo events, held year-round at the Lazy E Arena.
Print the Legend…errr…Truth: Tour a historic printing house at the State Capital Publishing Museum, which shares Oklahoma newspapers from 1835-1935 and offers educational programs utilizing turn-of-the-20th-century printing equipment.
Edmond (17 miles southwest) is home to the territory’s first public schoolhouse and other Land Rush notables, all of which you can learn about at the Edmond Historical Society’s museum. You can also wobble away from the Silver Bullet rollercoaster and enjoy gunfight shows at nearby Frontier City theme park.
Oklahoma City (25 miles south) is home to the prestigious National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, with exhibits this year on Colorado huntress Martha Maxwell, Blackfeet art and Southwest Indian murals. The Harn Homestead, claimed during the 1889 rush, shares territorial farm life through seven historic structures. Stockyards City offers cattle auctions, a meal of lamb fries and a porterhouse at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse and live music at the Centennial Rodeo Opry.
Lawton (114 miles southwest) shares the lives of Plains warriors, traders and ranchers at the Museum of the Great Plains. Visit the only active Army fort built during the Plains Indian Wars, Fort Sill, where Geronimo drew his last breath in 1909. And view free-roaming bison at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Wind River Country: With the Wind River Mountains to the west, area ranches offer trail rides while high mountain lakes and trout streams afford you the chance to catch some big fish.
Fort Washakie: At the fort’s cultural museum, on the Wind River Reservation, you’ll find the graves of Chief Washakie and Lewis & Clark’s Shoshoni guide Sacagawea. You can also roll the dice at the Arapaho Nation’s Wind River Casino.
Mountain Men: Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and other mountain men held their rendezvous in this region, and the best time to commemorate these hardy trailblazers is in June at the annual 1838 Rendezvous.
Fast Food: Hire a licensed outfitter to help you track game such as antelope on the plains of Riverton or the elusive big horn sheep. Big game is the heart of Jake Korell’s trapper collection, housed at the Wind River Heritage Center.
Homestead Life: Inside the 1916 Riverton Methodist Church, the Riverton Museum shares pioneer artifacts that illustrate homestead life since the city was open for settlement in 1906.
Lander (27 miles southwest) preserves its fur trade history at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum.
Take a dip in the world’s largest hot springs year-round, even on holidays, at Thermopolis (55 miles northeast), and visit the State Bath House where an 1896 treaty signed with the Shoshoni and Arapaho opened the baths to the public.
South Pass City (60 miles southwest) is the state’s only restored gold mining town and is found near where the Oregon Trail crosses the Continental Divide; the best time to visit is the last weekend in July for its Gold Rush Days.
The tie hack town of Dubois (79 miles northwest) is home to the prestigious National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, with tours of the Rocky Mountain herd held November through March.
Living History: Work the ripsaw and feel the trapper’s animal skins at Old Cowtown Museum, which engages visitors by blending its 26 historic structures with interpreters to recreate life in Wichita during 1865-80.
Dinner Bell: The Prairie Rose Ranch boasts it offers the largest chuckwagon supper in the Midwest, so when the gates open at 5 p.m., get in quickly to find a good seat to watch the show after your all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner.
Chisholm Trailhead: This “Magic City” was founded as a trading post on the trail in 1868, and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum shares its history ranging from the trappers and traders to the cattle drovers to the aviators who made history in the skies.
Mood Theatre: At the Orpheum, the nation’s first atmospheric theatre, the mock tile roofs and the lattice arches make patrons feel like they’re watching a film or concert inside a Spanish courtyard.
Western Wear: Sheplers has been a leading purveyor of Western work wear since its establishment in Wichita in 1899, so here’s your chance to shop at the store that launched the chain. When are you not in the market for some new Wranglers, Justin boots and Stetson hats anyway?
Caldwell (61 miles southwest), a Chisholm trailhead north of the Cherokee Outlet, depicts drover life at the Cherokee Strip Museum. Town markers share history such as the 1881 Talbot Gang shoot-out that had the hardware store passing out guns to locals and ultimately left the mayor dead.
Medicine Lodge (107 miles southwest) is named for the Kiowa’s healing lodges; reproductions are at the Stockade Museum. Next door is the home of Carry A. Nation, who famously whacked her hatchet inside Kansas saloons ignoring prohibition laws. For a more peaceful excursion, take a trail ride through Gyp Hills, named for the red bluffs flecked with white gypsum.
Coffeyville (147 miles southeast) lives on in fame as the city that got the best of the Dalton Gang. The dual bank robbery in 1892 failed largely because the citizens armed themselves and fought back. The town celebrates these locals in a re-enactment held every October.
Dodge City (154 miles west) is home to the 1881 Mueller-Schmidt House Museum, the 1897 Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe depot, the 1865 Fort Dodge-turned-Soldiers Home and cowtown history at the Kansas Heritage Center. Get a taste for 1870s life on Front Street at the Boot Hill Museum.
Drink to Black Jack: An 1899 train robbery gone bad landed Tom Ketchum in a hospital in Trinidad. At Black Jack’s Saloon, Steakhouse & Inn, folks pay tribute to the outlaw who would gain notoriety as the only person legally hanged for robbing a train.
Santa Fe Trail: The Mountain Branch of this trail traveled parallel to the Purgatoire River toward its crossing at Raton Pass. Take a stroll at Riverwalk Park, dotted with interpretive signs, and also the site for Kearny’s encampment when he triumphantly organized his men to cross Raton Pass and conquer Santa Fe during the Mexican-American War of 1846.
Kit Carson Park: Enjoy a picnic in this park named after the trapper/Indian agent, and remember other famous folks who likewise made their way to Trinidad: Bat Masterson, town marshal in 1882, and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, fresh from their Vendetta Ride.
Trinidad History Museum: This complex includes the 1870 restored Baca House, the 1882 Bloom Mansion, former home of cattle baron Frank Bloom, and the Santa Fe Trail Museum housed in the former workers’ quarters.
El Corazon de Trinidad: Ride the trolley for a tour of more than 40 historic buildings; a walking tour guide is also available at the Carnegie Public Library and at local shops in the district.
Raton Pass (14 miles south) is the most direct land route, first established in the 1820s, between the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado and south to the Cimarron River Valley in New Mexico. The canyons in the Raton Mountains were also favorite hideouts of the Wild Bunch.
La Junta (81 miles northeast) is west of the reconstructed Bent’s Old Fort, a trade empire first built in 1833, that offers guided tours daily.
The El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo (86 miles north) pays homage to the melting pot of occupants living at the trading post in the 1840s: Anglos, French, Mexicans and Plains and Cherokee Indians.
Lamar (96 miles northeast) welcomes history buffs at the Big Timbers Museum, focusing on southeastern Colorado history.
FORT BENTON, MT
Whoop-Up Trail: Carved by bootleggers transporting illegal whiskey across the U.S. and Canadian border in the late 1870s, this trail extends from Fort Benton to Fort Whoop-Up in Canada.
Fort Benton: This partially-restored 1846 fort is home to the blockhouse, the state’s oldest, standing building, and offers guided tours from Memorial Day weekend through September.
Museum of the Northern Great Plains: One of the prized treasures here are the six bison collected by taxidermist and head zoologist for the Smithsonian, William T. Hornaday, originally displayed at the Smithsonian in 1887.
Museum of the Upper Missouri: See Chief Joseph’s Winchester Model 66 lever-action carbine that he surrendered to Col. Nelson Miles in 1877, after he tried to flee to Canada with his fellow Nez Perce.
Rest Your Head Here: The restored 1882 Grand Union Hotel is Montana’s oldest operating hotel, built seven years before statehood.
Near Fort Benton:
Loma (13 miles northeast) is near the Fort Piegan site, a Blackfoot trading post, and home to Lewis and Clark sites: Crocon du Nez (Bridge of the Nose) and Decision Point, where Lewis and Clark decided which river was the Missouri.
Great Falls (40 miles southwest) celebrates cowboy artist Charlie M. Russell at the spectacular C.M. Russell Museum, which displays the artist’s works and his log studio and home.
Lethbridge, AB, Canada (223 miles northwest) is home to Fort Whoop-Up, the end of the whiskey route. The interpretive center brings the Robe Trade era to life at the reconstructed 1876 compound.
Spokane River History: Walk past the giant Radio Flyer wagon in Riverfront Park to the Spokane River, which, historically, was a salmon river for the Spokane tribe. Little Falls and Coulee Dams put an end to the salmon migration, but you can tour the trout fish hatchery, opened in 1991, that the tribe now runs.
Skyride to the Falls: To get the best view of Spokane Falls, travel down into the canyon on a gondola skyride from Riverfront Park.
Ride a Historic Carrousel: Built in 1909, the hand-carved wooden carrousel at Riverfront Park features 54 horses, two Chinese dragon chairs, a giraffe and a tiger.
Rail Clocktower: This landmark outside Riverfront Park was built as part of the Great Northern Railroad on Havermale Island in 1902; the eight-day clock is still wound by hand!
Centennial Trail: Runs along the Spokane River from Nine Miles Fall to the Idaho state line; milepost 2 marks the Horse Slaughter Camp, where Col. Wright and his soldiers defeated the Walla Walla Indians and then killed their horses on this bank in 1858.
Nine Mile Falls (14 miles northwest) is home to the Spokane House Interpretive Center that shares the history of the fur trade and native culture.
Ritzville (60 miles southwest) shares the region’s rail heritage at the Railroad-Depot History Museum, and it has a historic downtown dating to 1888.
Kennewick (142 miles southwest) is a great place to view the Columbia River and also to learn about the discovery of the 9,200-year-old skeleton unearthed on its banks in 1996.
Get on the Nez Perce Trail in Orofino, Idaho (144 miles southeast), where the Nez Perce historic park shares native history. Also visit Clearwater River, where Lewis and Clark stopped to make five canoes at Camp Canoe in 1805.
Ellensburg (173 miles southwest) is home to Washington’s oldest rodeo, established in 1923, the Palace Café, open for business since 1892, and a museum honoring hometown artist John Clymer, most known for painting fur trappers and Indians.
Pechanga Indians: The reservation borders the town on the south, and it now offers a resort and casino. This band of Indians has inhabited the Temecula Valley for more than 10,000 years. Californios most notably clashed with natives in a December 1846 battle that ended badly when the military massacred the prisoners.
Vail Ranch: This 1905 cattle ranch was built atop the trading post site established by Louis Wolf in the mid-1860s. This year, the ranch is scheduled to come alive for the first time since it was sold in 1964, as a shopping complex at the site of the Butterfield stagecoach stop. Among its original buildings is the Wolf Store, built circa 1867.
Original Post Office: California’s second post office (after San Francisco’s), built in 1859, is still here, albeit not at its original spot. You can also visit the city’s oldest building on Rancho California Road, among other structures, in Old Town.
Emigrant Trail: The Mormon Battalion passed through Temecula on this trail, crossing in 1847, from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Highway 79 South follows some of this original trail, stretching from Aguanga, through Temecula and to Los Angeles.
Wine Country: A short drive down Rancho California Road from Old Town, you’ll find a new “French Valley,” with local vineyards offering nearly 30 varietals that your palate can explore during Temecula’s wine tasting tours.
Oceanside (34 miles southwest) is home to Mission San Luis Rey, founded circa 1798 and the largest of the 21 California missions; it also had one of its six outlying ranches in Temecula.
Colton (45 miles north) has the grave of Morgan Earp, the youngest of the “Fighting Earps,” at Hermosa Memorial Gardens.
San Bernardino (52 miles north) is home to a celebration of the Old West, the Harvest Fair, held every November; the Brandin’ Iron, California’s longest-running honky-tonk; and a by-appointment Heritage House, a library on the same grounds as the city’s first jail, circa 1857.
Redlands (54 miles northeast) is home to the San Gabriel ranch outpost, the reconstructed San Bernardino Asistencia Mission, built between 1830-34. And its Historical Glass Museum exhibits 6,000 examples dating from 1800s to present day.
San Diego (61 miles south) is home to 16 free museums, including the Wells Fargo Museum, with an 1868 Abbot-Downing stagecoach. The 1830 home of Juan Bandini is due to open this year as the Cosmopolitan Hotel, so be sure to stay there if it does.
Calico (130 miles northeast) boomed during 1881-96, and now the silver city is a ghost town, with one-third of its original structures still standing. A museum and re-enactors share the toils and triumphs of mining in the Mojave Desert.
First National Bank: “Desperate attempt to rob the bank!” screamed the headline of the local paper the week after the September 7, 1876, failed robbery by the Jesse James-Younger Gang. The Northfield Historical Society has converted the 1868 bank into a museum.
Defeat of Jesse James: Every weekend after Labor Day, this town celebrates the citizens of Northfield who brought down Jesse James and his boys with a re-enactment of the robbery.
Outlaw Trail Tour: You can retrace the route the James-Younger Gang took when they rode through the Northfield area by picking up a guide at the local chamber of commerce.
Living History: Inside more than 60 historic buildings, you’ll find the shops and restaurants and apartments enjoyed by locals who appreciate their history so much, they live inside it every day.
Rest Your Head Here: Stay along the Cannon River at the Archer House, one of the oldest river inns in the region, which opened a year after the infamous bank raid.
Gaylord (58 miles west) celebrates its 125th anniversary this August with re-enactments performed by the Old West Society of Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Pioneer Park is found in Annandale (100 miles northwest), emphasizing late 1800s life in this 23-building compound, complete with an 1886 Soo Line caboose.
For a bit of a long haul, but one that’s worth it if you’re a John Wayne fan, head to Winterset, Iowa (244 miles south), for the John Wayne Birthplace Museum.
ST. JOSEPH, MO
Jesse James Home: The assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford took place here on April 3, 1882. Well, not exactly. It’s been moved a few blocks, but the home pretty much looks like it did when Jesse last saw it.
Ford Brothers On Trial: Bob and Charley Ford were declared guilty of killing Jesse James at their trial two weeks after the shooting, yet a pardon by Missouri Gov. Thomas Crittenden set them free. Visit the site of the trial at the Buchanan County Courthouse.
Patee House: After Jesse was shot, his widow Zee and their two children moved into this hotel, which is today a history museum with the gallows from which the Ford boys were supposed to have swung.
Pony Express: St. Joseph was the eastern terminus of the 18-month mail delivery service in 1860-61, and its heritage is celebrated both at the 1858 Patee House (which served as the headquarters) and the Pony Express National Museum.
Robidoux Row: Fur trader Joseph Robidoux established a trading post in 1826 that birthed St. Joseph in 1843. Four of the homes he constructed at the site have been restored, one of which houses a museum sharing his personal belongings.
Near St. Joseph:
Liberty (56 miles southeast) is home to William Jewell College, whose contributing founders included a Baptist minister, Rev. Robert James, the father of Jesse and Frank, who would grow up to avenge the Confederate mistreatment they felt while serving in the Civil War.
Kearney (62 miles southeast) is the birthplace of Jesse Woodson James (1847) and Alexander Franklin James (1843), and you can visit the family farm, a tourist attraction even back during Frank’s final years of life.
VIRGINIA CITY, NV
Mark Twain Bookstore: Mark Twain made a name for himself here writing for the local newspaper, and this bookstore houses the largest in-print and out-of-print Twain books in the nation. It also sells books on the Comstock and the West.
Watering Holes: Cheers to Virginia City! The Delta first opened its doors in 1863 and this building dates to after the fire of 1875; the Bucket of Blood has been at its site since it opened in 1876.
The Way It Was Museum: The charm exuding from the name alone likely draws in many visitors to this museum that exhibits the most complete collection of silver mining artifacts from the Comstock Mine that birthed this town in 1859.
Virginia & Truckee Railroad: The 1869 V&T is back on track, with daily steam trips to Gold Hill. Ride the train and donate to the Northern Nevada Railway Foundation, so we can get this heritage rail all the way back to Carson City.
Rest Your Head Here: You can’t beat staying at the Gold Hill Hotel, a.k.a. the Riesen House a.k.a. Vesey’s Exchange, then Vesey’s Hotel, then Vesey’s House. The circa 1862 hotel is built over the Yellow Jacket Mine, where an 1869 fire took 45 lives and burned for three years.
Near Virginia City:
The capital city Carson City (15 miles southwest) has many treasures to share: the restored 1862 St. Charles Hotel, the Nevada State Museum in the former U.S. Mint building, the Carson hot springs, the Great Basin Art Gallery inside a former stagecoach station and the V&T Railroad Museum.
Genoa (30 miles southwest), established as Mormon Station in 1851, is the state’s oldest permanent settlement so it makes sense that you can drink a shot of whiskey here at the state’s oldest bar, Genoa Bar.
John C. Fremont first gazed down at Pyramid Lake (82 miles northeast) in 1844. Fishing is still big here, just like when it sustained the Paiutes. Unfortunately, an 1860 turf war cut off access to the lake for the defeated Paiutes.
What Cheer Saloon: Locals are more keen on this 1855 establishment, but dry throats will also find hospitality (and sarsaparilla) at the 1857 Jack Douglass Saloon and the 1856 St. Charles Saloon.
Book-Lover’s Paradise: The Columbia Booksellers & Stationers, housed in the city’s oldest brick building, sells Indian, Old West and Civil War books, as well as period paraphernalia.
Miner’s Pasties: The Jenny Lind Restaurant, established in 1854, serves miner’s stuffed pasties: chicken or beef stew in a turnover. Eat a hearty meal here before visiting the town museum and the Native Sons of the Golden West Museum.
Gold to Hollywood: Forty-niners struck gold here at Hildreth’s Diggings in 1850; later on, Hollywood found the “Gem of the Southern Mines,” where directors filmed more than 100 movies and TV shows, including 1952’s High Noon.
Rest Your Head Here: The City Hotel and the Fallon House Hotel are part of a lodging complex first established in 1854, and both are restored inns that keep you in the heart of the Gold Rush-era town.
Sonora (4 miles south) was the hub of the southern Sierra gold rush mines, and it offers a military museum and the Tuolumne County Museum and History Center, housed in an 1857 Sonora jail.
Jamestown (6 miles southwest) is home to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, a 26-acre facility offering steam train rides April through October.
Angels Camp (13 miles west) is an 1848 Gold Rush town made famous by Mark Twain’s story, “Jumping Frog of Calaveras County;” its mining history is preserved at the Angels Camp Museum.
Murphys (15 miles north), established in 1848, offers guided tours of its historic buildings, leaving from the Old Timer’s Museum on Saturday mornings.
Some California Gold Rush history to remember while touring Yosemite National Park (80 miles southeast): The rush for gold inspired the Army’s push into the west end of the park in 1851, which sent the Ahwahneechee to a reservation near Fresno. A reconstructed village of this tribe is located at the Yosemite Museum, next to the visitor center.
Ride through the Sierra National Forest aboard a narrow gauge steam train run by the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad in Fish Camp (102 miles southeast).
Bodie (118 miles northeast) is the state’s best-preserved ghost town, and you’ll find about 200 structures in this town first established in 1859.
HILL CITY, SD
Ride to Mount Rushmore: Take a ride on the 1880 steam train from here to Keystone, leading you to the memorial that is also where Lakota leader Black Elk took his spiritual journey (the Lakota called the mountain Six Grandfathers).
Rails to Trails: Speaking of the railroad, you can now hike the Mickelson Trail, along the abandoned rail route first constructed by Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1890-91, that goes from Edgemont to Deadwood.
Black Hills Gold: Wade’s Gold Mill and Mining Museum offers gold panning and tours that show how placer mines operated and how the stamp mills processed the ore.
Trail Rides: Ride through the Black Hills with starting points at High Country Guest Ranch, Palmer Gulch camp, Rafter J Bar Ranch and at horse camps in the area.
Rest Your Head Here: Rest well at the Alpine Inn, formerly the Harney Peak Hotel, built by the local tin mill sometime between 1887 and its closure in 1893.
Near Hill City:
Custer (13 miles south) is home to Crazy Horse Memorial, an in-progress mountain carving of the Lakota warrior who helped defeat the U.S. 7th Cavalry at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Thomas Jefferson grasps a quill on a street corner in Rapid City (27 miles northeast), and soon statues of all 43 U.S. Presidents will line these streets; be sure to visit the Journey Museum, sharing Indian, pioneer and natural history.
Deadwood (43 miles north) offers treasures galore: Saloon No. 10 remembers Wild Bill Hickok’s murder; Tatanka tells the story of the Bison; Mount Moriah Cemetery is where Hickok and Calamity Jane’s bodies rest eternally; and historic museums include the Adams Museum and the Days of ’76 Museum.
Hot Springs (45 miles south) is home to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and the Wind Cave National Park, which offers a free-roaming bison herd and caves featuring rare honeycomb-shaped calcite known as boxwork.
Wall (80 miles east) offers the Wounded Knee museum to interpret the Lakota’s history in the region, from its daily life to the treaty of 1868 to the 1890 battle.
Badlands (106 miles east) is home to the national park where: the Sioux displaced northern tribes; Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger and their ilk trapped; and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was ultimately broken, forcing the Sioux off the land after Custer’s 1874 expedition found gold in them Black Hills.
The site of Wounded Knee is found at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (109 miles southeast).
Butch Cassidy Robbery: The bank of Montpelier, established in 1891, is marked off as the site of the 1896 Butch Cassidy robbery, and every July, the town gets together to remember the outlaws.
Oregon Trail: The National Oregon/California Trail Center sets you off on your journey with a wagon master guide and a cast of settlers who bring to life the Oregon Trail experience.
Big Hill: Trail diaries marked the steepest hill encountered thus far along the Oregon Trail as this site, which you can ascend today by foot, horse or wagon.
Rails and Trails: The Bear Lake County Historical Society shares its treasures at the Rails and Trails Museum, below the Oregon Trail center.
Cave Exploring: Tour the stalagmites in the state’s largest limestone cavern, the 320-million-year-old Minnetonka Cave, in the Montpelier Ranger District of Caribou National Forest, up St. Charles Canyon.
Preston (46 miles southwest) is the site of the Bear River Massacre, an 1863 battle in which the California Volunteers attacked a village of Shoshoni.
Pocatello (86 miles northwest) shares its rail and Shoshoni/Bannock heritage at the Bannock County Historical Museum, which is adjacent to the 1834 Fort Hall replica, along the Oregon Trail.
American Falls (113 miles northwest) is home to Massacre Rocks State Park, with Oregon Trail landmarks such as Devil’s Gate and Register Rock.
West Yellowstone (275 miles northeast) is largely in Wyoming, but a small slice of it is in Idaho, so you can enter the park from this state and view its more than 10,000 geysers.
LAS CRUCES, NM
Crossroads of History: The Branigan Cultural Center promotes awareness of the city’s multicultural heritage through artifacts dating from the 1850s.
Santa Fe Rail Heritage: The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe train rolled into Las Cruces in 1881, and today, the 1910 depot is home to a railroad museum sharing the impact the railroad had on the city and the surrounding Mesilla Valley.
Buffalo Soldiers: Learn about the black troopers stationed at 1865 Fort Selden, charged with protecting settlers from the Mescalero Apaches, at living history tours every summer, and view the adobe ruins throughout the year.
Agri-Tour: The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum preserves the state’s 3,000-year-old agricultural history in interactive exhibits and offers livestock tours.
Heard It On the Grapevine: New Mexico started producing wines in 1629, so the state is the oldest wine producer in the country. Sample wines at wineries in and near Las Cruces, which hosts a wine festival every Memorial Day Weekend.
Near Las Cruces:
Mesilla (4 miles southwest) is an 1848 town that has seen historic events ranging from the Gadsden Purchase, to the Civil War, to the Butterfield Stagecoach era, to the 1881 trial of Billy the Kid, with mid-1850s buildings surrounding its Plaza.
Deming (59 miles west) shares its native heritage at the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, across the street from a custom house dating to territorial days, and the city also offers a walking tour of its historic downtown.
Retrace the steps of Billy the Kid after he escaped from the Lincoln County Courthouse in Ruidoso (117 miles northeast), and visit the Hubbard Museum of the American West, with exhibits on 1860’s fashion and Fort Stanton.
Billy the Kid spent his early years in Silver City (111 miles northwest), where you can visit the grave of his mother, as well as nearby Fort Bayard, an 1866 post of Buffalo Soldiers who battled Apache leaders such as Victorio and Geronimo.
Monthly guided tours are offered in Shakespeare (122 miles west), a ghost town along the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, where Billy the Kid, Johnny Ringo and the Clantons once walked.
Hike at the Gila Cliff Dwellings (152 miles northwest), caves considered home to the Mogollon, Puebloans who resided here in the 1200’s.
Vulture Mine: You’ll be given a treasure map to explore the mine discovered by city founder Henry Wickenburg in 1863; another great site to mine is Robson’s Mining World, which exhibits the world’s largest collection of antique mining equipment.
Wickenburg’s Settlers: Marshall Trimble, True West’s answer man and Arizona State Historian, wrote the narrative history behind some of Wickenburg’s important settlers, commemorated around downtown as bronzes crafted by J. Seward Johnson.
Santa Fe Rail: Visit the Hassayampa Building, formerly the 1905 rail resting stop, the Vernetta Hotel; the 1895 depot, home to the city’s chamber of commerce; and the steam locomotive display behind town hall, all remembering the Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railway.
Art History: The city’s oldest building now houses the Gold Nugget Art Gallery, and another great source for Arizona art (and local history exhibits) is the Desert Caballeros Western Museum.
Dude Ranch Capital: Dubbed in the 1930s as the “Dude Ranch Capital of the World,” Wickenburg is still home to area ranches that offer adventures on horseback, cattle clinics and cookouts.
Old Town Cave Creek (51 miles southeast) is not only home to the True West headquarters, but it also shares the city’s Hohokam and gold mining heritage at the Cave Creek Museum, and it is a favorite spot to shop the “Old West.”
Phoenix (63 miles southeast) exhibits one of the nation’s finest Indian arts and crafts at the Heard Museum, with affiliates in Scottsdale (69 miles southeast) and Surprise (37 miles southeast).
Camp Verde (107 miles northeast) is home to a museum remembering Black Jack Ketchum, an outlaw who also may have killed two locals in 1899, as well as the Fort Verde park that honors its various posts built here from 1865-91.
Sedona (130 miles northeast) is home to the Verde Canyon Railroad, a heritage museum focusing on community life from 1870 to the present and is near the copper mining town of Jerome and the world heritage site, Palatki, with ruins, petroglyphs and an agave pit dating to the Sinagua who left in the 1300’s.
Payson (141 miles northeast) is home to a replica cabin of Zane Grey, a prolific author of Western novels who fished and hunted in Payson. The city bills itself as the home to the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, held the third weekend of August since 1884.
From Gold Camp to Paris on the Platte: Take guided tours of historic Denver—view Mattie Silk’s House of Mirrors, Union Station and Larimer Square, the state’s first historic district.
U.S. Mint: Prospectors first came here to change gold into coins, and it officially opened as a mint office in 1906; free tours share how ore becomes treasury coins.
Elitch Gardens: Elitch’s Zoological Gardens opened in 1890; it featured plays at its theatre in 1897; and its first rollercoaster accepted riders in 1904—you can still ride on the theme park’s 1928 carousel.
Pioneer Denver: Two pioneer Denver families are remembered at the Byers-Evans House Museum, while a toy collection dating from the 16th century is housed at the Pearce-McAllister 1899 Cottage and local history is shared at the Colorado History Museum.
Unsinkable Survivor: The Molly Brown House Museum pays tribute to the survivor of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic in her 1894 home, which offers exhibits and events focused on the Victorian era.
Golden (16 miles west) celebrates the life of Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, located on Lookout Mountain.
Platteville (35 miles north) offers the Fort Vasquez Museum, an 1835 fur trading post replica sharing the life of settlers and traders along the South Platte Basin.
Georgetown (48 miles west) brings you an engineering marvel originally built in 1884, the Georgetown Loop Railroad, which connects this burg to Silver Plume.
Greeley (51 miles northeast) is home to Centennial Village, featuring 1860s-1920s life, while local history is shared at the downtown museum and the Meeker Home, built in 1870 for the city founder.
Leadville (104 miles southwest) answers your questions about the city’s yesteryears at the 1879 Dexter cabin and the 1878 home of August Meyer, now called the Healy House Museum.
Steamboat Springs (169 miles northwest) shares its cowtown heritage—and the story of outlaw Harry Tracy—at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, and offers a walking tour of some of the city’s thermal springs.
Kit Carson once commanded Fort Garland (211 miles southwest), the state’s oldest military post, established in 1858, and today a living history museum.
Pike’s Stockade, reconstructed to look like it did in 1806-07, when Zebulon Pike wintered here, is found in Sanford (256 miles southwest).
Hanging Tom Horn: The courthouse location where cattle detective Tom Horn was hanged in 1903 houses an exhibit, while the 1883 Commercial Block site where a drunken Horn “confessed” to murdering a local sheepherder’s son is under renovation after a 2004 fire.
Six Historic Districts: Rainsford dates to East Coast architect George Rainsford, who moved to the city to become a cattle rancher in the 1870s, and it is just one of the six districts in Cheyenne you can walk around to soak in the Old West history.
Seven Museums: Free cell phone tours will guide you through the Wyoming State Museum; Nelson Museum of the West; Cheyenne Depot Museum; Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum; Warren ICBM & Heritage Museum (former 1867 Fort D.A. Russell); the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens; and the Governors’ Mansion.
Big Boy: Cheyenne honors its rail heritage at numerous sites—from Big Boy itself, the world’s largest steam locomotive; to the state’s oldest locomotive built in 1890; to the Union Pacific depot museum, along the still-active tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Bison Ranch: The Terry Bison Ranch offers motorized tours that get you right in the middle of the roughly 3,000-bison herd.
Buford (40 miles west) is home to the Ames Monument, a 60-foot-tall pyramid built in 1882 by the Union Pacific to cover up a taxpayer swindle by its ex-officials.
Pine Bluffs (42 miles east) is home to the Texas Trails Museum and the dig site of artifacts dating back more than 11,000 years, as well as Friday Night rodeos held from late May through mid-August.
Laramie (50 miles northwest) preserves its history at the Laramie Plains Museum, the 1872 territorial prison and the Historical House for Women, with a memorial commemorating Quaker Louisa Swain, who, in 1870, became the first woman to cast a ballot legally in the States.
The Virginian author Owen Wister lives on in Medicine Bow (110 miles northwest), at the 1911 Virginian Hotel named after his 1902 book and at the Medicine Bow Museum, housed inside the 1913 Union Pacific depot and exhibiting his circa 1911 cabin.
Casper (179 miles northwest) is home to reconstructed 1865 Fort Caspar and the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, remembering the Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express Trails; Overland Stage route; and the Bridger and Bozeman Trails’ cutoffs.
Ice Rink Courthouse: The town’s first courthouse was a renovated ice rink, and the wooden structure was rebuilt as a brick two story after the 1879 fire; it is still in use as a courthouse to this day.
Eureka Opera House: Built in 1880 and restored in 1993, shows are still held here, and you can learn about the plays, masquerades and other social occasions pioneers enjoyed at the opera house.
Survivor of Fire: The town’s pride and joy is the Tannehill cabin, built as a residence in 1864, which still stands to this day, despite fires and floods that have destroyed other historic structures.
Newspaper Museum: An 1800’s newspaper room with original press equipment is the highlight at the Eureka Sentinel Museum, remembering the newspaper printed from 1879 until 1960.
Rest Your Head Here: Today’s 1877 Jackson House Hotel was gutted in the 1879 fire, advertised as the state’s only fireproof hotel after it was rebuilt in the 1890s, became the Brown Hotel in 1910 and was restored in 1981 to serve as lodging once again.
Elko (84 miles northeast), a former railhead for the White Pine mines in 1869, embraces its heritage at the Western Folklife Center, which also puts on the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, celebrating 25 years this past January.
Ride the Ghost Train in Ely (124 miles southeast), on a restored Nevada Northern Railway route to the copper pit mines at Ruth and the smelter at McGill.
Winnemucca (162 miles northwest), formerly Ogden’s Camp and Frenchman’s Ford before being named for the Paiute chief in 1863, is home to the 1863 Winnemucca Hotel, where Basque meals are still served. The town also honors Butch Cassidy for the Wild Bunch robbery that took place here in 1900.
NORTH PLATTE, NE
Scout’s Rest Ranch: This 18-room Victorian mansion was built in 1886 as the home for Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody, and today it is full of Buffalo Bill playbills, costumes and authentic furniture.
Cody Park Railroad Museum: This is the home to one of two Challenger Line steam locomotives operated by the Union Pacific, as well as a fully restored rail depot from neighboring Hershey.
Buffalo Bill Extra-vaganzas: The Buffalo Bill Birthday Bash is held around the showman’s birthday (February 26) to raise funds for other events honoring the showman: NebraskaLand Days and the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, held in June.
Buffalo Bill Ranch: Take a trail ride through this 233-acre recreation area adjacent to Scout’s Rest Ranch.
Buffalo Bill Avenue: At 2403 N. Buffalo Bill Avenue, you’ll find the Lincoln County Historical Museum, which preserves historic buildings including the 1863 Fort McPherson headquarters, an 1866 log cabin and an 1860 Pony Express stop.
Near North Platte:
The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is found in Kearney (100 miles east), and it shares dioramas on Lewis & Clark, the Mormon Handcart Expedition and the transcontinental railroad.
More than 20,000 pioneer memorabilia displayed in nearly 30 buildings trace our Western progress since 1830 at the Harold Warp Pioneer Village in Minden (117 miles southeast).
Bayard (157 miles northwest) is home to one of the most famous natural landmarks on the Oregon Trail, a spire called Chimney Rock.
Gering (173 miles northwest) boasts the Oregon Trail landmark, Scotts Bluff, named after a trapper, whose story and those of other trail pioneers is shared at the visitor’s center museum.
Crawford (250 miles northwest) is home to Fort Robinson, which served the Red Cloud Agency and became the site of the 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak and the death of Sioux Chief Crazy Horse, all of which is shared at the local museum.
Beatrice (262 miles southeast) offers the Homestead National Monument of America, with a reconstructed log cabin and one-room schoolhouse honoring Daniel Freeman, one of the first homesteaders here in 1862.
EL PASO, TX
John Wesley Hardin Grave: Gunfighter-turned-lawyer John Wesley Hardin was murdered at the Acme Saloon in 1895, and his body is buried in Concordia Cemetery.
Mission Trail: Built in 1744 and burnt down in 1907, the reconstructed Ysleta Mission became the home of the Tiguas after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and it is on the Mission Trail that connects this church to Socorro and San Elizario.
Magoffin Home: Built in 1875, the 19-room adobe exemplifies territorial-style architecture and shares the city’s multicultural heritage.
Mexican Revolution: Our recent cover story on El Paso’s connection to the Mexican Revolution discussed the 1909 building designed for Mayor Richard Caples, which served as headquarters for revolutionaries. The building still stands in downtown today.
Rest Your Head Here: Stay at the 1912 Camino Real Hotel, where Mexican Revolution adversaries Pancho Villa and John “Black Jack” Pershing once stayed.
Near El Paso:
Black Jack Pershing took command of Fort Bliss (8 miles northeast) in 1914, during the Mexican Revolution, and the 1910 home he resided in is still at the 1848 post, as well as an interpretive museum.
A trip to the salt flats at Guadalupe National Park (86 miles east) recalls the Salt War waged in 1877 by El Paso businessmen, while the ruins of the Pinery station recall the Butterfield Overland mail route.
Fort Davis (210 miles southeast) boasts more than two dozen restored buildings, where troops were stationed from 1854-91 to protect emigrants.
Area history from the Davis Mountains to Mexico’s borderlands is preserved at the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine (220 miles southeast).
Custer’s Last Stand: More than 200 participants act as Custer’s Cavalry and Northern Plain Indians to perform the re-enactment of the 1876 battle at Little Bighorn Battlefield every June; the battlefield also has an interpretive museum and ranger-led programs.
Reno-Benteen Battlefield: Three miles southeast of the Little Bighorn Battlefield is the site of military action by Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen, who survived the 1876 battle.
Crow Heritage: Hardin is on the outskirts of the Crow Indian Reservation, and every third weekend in August, the largest powwow in Montana takes place here, commemorating
Everyday Life: The Big Horn County Historical Museum boasts 20 historic buildings filled with artifacts dating to Hardin’s developing years.
Fort Custer Monument: This monument commemorates the post established here following the Little Bighorn battle to control the Crow Indians; Fort Custer supplied troops for the 1878 Bannock War and the 1886 uprising at Crow Agency before closing in 1898.
Take a ride along the Black Otter Trail in Billings (47 miles west), where you’ll find the graves of the namesake Crow chief and scout Yellowstone Kelly, buried on Kelly Mountain. Discover Billings’ past at the Moss Mansion Museum, Yellowstone County Museum and the Western Heritage Center.
Chief Plenty Coups State Park, in Pryor (77 miles southwest), shares the chief’s home and a museum showcasing his accomplishments in leading the Crow to balance traditions with modernity.
Miles City (119 miles northeast) is home to the 1876 Fort Keogh, named after an adjutant killed during the Battle of the Little Bighorn; today it is home to four original structures, with the Range Riders Museum housed in the officers quarters.
Livingston (162 miles west) is near the site of the 1869 Fort Parker, also known as Crow Agency, which was established as a refuge for Crow Indians; the fort was abandoned in 1870 and later moved to its current site.
Utah Pioneers: Brigham Young’s daughter Luna lived in Logan, and the Cache Museum displays some of the furniture the Mormon prophet made for her, as well as other pioneer artifacts dating from 1859-99.
Mormon Temple: Completed in 1884, the four-story, limestone LDS Temple was built on a site where the Shoshoni once held their healing ceremonies.
LDS Tabernacle: Tour this majestic tabernacle, built out of quartzite, from nearby Green Canyon (construction began in 1864 and took 27 years to complete); also visit the genealogical library.
I Scream for Ice Cream: The Bluebird Café, established in 1914 as a candy shop, is still a great place to score an ice cream cone, and if you’re looking to enjoy a full meal with historic ambience, then settle into your seat.
Trail Ride: The rugged country outside Logan, especially the Wasatch Mountains, offers great trails for a scenic, tranquil horseback ride.
Wellsville (10 miles southwest) is home to the American West Heritage Center, a living history museum featuring a 1917 farm and a homestead section sharing life from 1845-70.
Ogden (49 miles south) was a popular rendezvous site for mountain men in the 1820s, and you can learn about some of the trapper heritage at the recreated 1846 Fort Buenaventura.
Promontory Point (59 miles southwest) is the place where the nation’s first transcontinental railroad met in 1869; learn more at the visitor’s center.
Huntsville (61 miles south) is home to the state’s oldest continually operating watering hole, the Shooting Dog Saloon, first established in 1879.
Salt Lake City (81 miles south) is home to This is the Place Heritage Park, the spot where Brigham Young and his pioneers first set eyes on the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, as well as great museums sharing pioneer history: Pioneer Memorial Museum, Utah State Historical Society Museum and the Museum of Church History and Art.
Provo (124 miles south) is home to Pioneer Park, with the recreated Fort Utah, originally built by the Mormon Church in 1849 after Mormon militia attacked the native Utes at Battle Creek.
LA GRANDE, OR
Oregon Trail: The Oregon Trail runs right through La Grande at B Avenue, where pioneers rested before climbing the Blue Mountains and traveling on to the end of the trail in Willamette Valley.
Firefighting: The Eastern Oregon Fire Station, which operated from 1899-2002, is a museum exhibiting fully restored fire engines from the Old West.
Pioneer Memorial: Head over to the Birnie Park Memorial to view a pioneer wagon in a lush setting, as well as memorial art of the Oregon Trail pioneers who used La Grande as a stomping ground.
Pre-Settlement Park: Guides from the Native Plant Society are more than happy to share how they are restoring Gangloff Park to pre-settlement era vegetation; you can also view a log cabin, typifying the dwelling used by settlers.
Historic Home Tour: Pick up your walking tour guide of La Grande’s historic homes at the visitor center.
Near La Grande:
Interpretive panels depicting the pioneers’ struggle over Blue Mountain Crossing and a living history encampment are offered at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park (14 miles west).
Ride the Eagle Cap Excursion Train in Elgin (20 miles northeast) on the historic Joseph Branch line; the train also departs from Minam (33 miles northeast) and Wallowa (47 miles northeast).
Swim in the Lehman Hot Springs in Ukiah (40 miles west), formerly a gathering place for Nez Perce Indians.
Baker City (45 miles south) recreates the hardships endured by pioneers at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, where you can stand in actual wagon ruts; stay at the 1889 Geiser Grand Hotel.
Wallowa (47 miles northeast) is home to the Nez Perce Interpretive Center, sharing Wallowa Band history, including Chief Joseph’s tragic story.
Pendleton (54 miles northwest) displays its mining heritage at the Pendleton Underground Tours, its Indian heritage at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute and its rodeo heritage at the Pendleton Roundup Hall of Fame. The still-operating Pendleton Woolen Mills was first founded here in 1863.
Echo (74 miles northwest) is home to the site of 1851 Utilla Agency-turned-1855 Fort Henrietta, with the Chinese House Railroad Museum sharing fort artifacts, as well as an 1883 Chinese bunkhouse.
Narrow Gauge Railroad: Race along the Rocky Mountains, above the Animas River, in a steam-powered iron horse on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, open since 1881 to haul ore from the San Juan Mountains.
History On Exhibit: Learn about the city’s rail heritage at the rebuilt 1882 depot and all aspects of its history at the Animas Museum, housed in a 1904 school.
Elk Hunting: The Turners have been hunting elk since 1876, and Turner Guides can still lead you on an elk hunting adventure into the San Juan Mountains.
Pioneer Dwellings: View historic architecture constructed by Durango’s pioneers at the business district on Main Avenue and the grand home district on Third Avenue.
Rest Your Head Here: Strater Hotel has served this mining camp since 1887, and it still exhibits Victorian charm, right down to its hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper.
Mesa Verde National Park (47 miles west) is home to 4,700 archaeological sites, which include about 600 cliff dwellings, in this home of the Ancestral Puebloan, who resided here from 600 to 1300.
Silverton (48 miles northeast) is the terminus of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and you’ll also find historic buildings throughout town and a historic place to stay at the 1883 Grand Imperial Victorian Hotel.
Ouray (71 miles north) is home to the 1888 county courthouse, which served as the setting for John Wayne’s True Grit, as well as the Bachelor Syracuse Mine, which you can tour and also go gold panning.
Telluride (73 miles north) shares Ute and mining history at the Telluride Historical Museum, housed in an 1896 miners’ hospital.
Ridgway (81 miles north) is found along Owl Creek Pass, an 1885 cattle drive trail, and the city also served as a town setting for True Grit, with its movie heritage shared at the True Grit Cafe.
Montrose (106 miles north) boasts the Ute Indian Museum, found on the original homestead of Chief Ouray, features historical replicas and original buildings at its Museum of the Mountain West and shares its rail heritage at the historical museum located in the 1912 Denver and Rio Grande depot.
Enjoy a walking tour of nearly 40 historic buildings in Gunnison (171 miles northwest), which is also the home of the state’s longest running rodeo, Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo, held since 1900 every July.
Badlands: North Dakota’s Badlands is now enshrined in the Teddy Roosevelt National Park, where Teddy first arrived in 1883 to hunt big game; you can still visit his Maltese Cross Ranch cabin. During his presidency, the cabin went on exhibit and stayed at the state capitol for 50 years before it was relocated back near Medora in 1959.
Cowboy Up: Rodeo and ranching heritage is shared at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. The executive offices are here, but the museum itself is in Medora.
Indian Art: Plains Indian artifacts are put in historical context at the city’s North Dakota Heritage Center, while beadwork, paintings, baskets, jewelry and sculptures are on display at the Five Nations Art Museum, housed in a refurbished Northern Pacific Railroad depot, in nearby Mandan.
O, Pioneers!: The North Dakota Heritage Center also documents the struggles and successes of homesteaders through interactive displays and films of the area shot during 1916-21.
Capitol History: The original capitol may have burned down in 1930, but the “new” capitol does offer a tour sharing the history of this city founded in 1872 that became a territorial capital in 1883 and the state capital in 1889.
Pony races and baseball games kicked off an 1879 Fourth of July celebration in Mandan (7 miles west); today, you can enjoy a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo every July 4th at the Dacotah Centennial Park.
The 1804-05 winter encampment where Lewis & Clark stayed with the Mandan-Hidatsa is the reconstructed Fort Mandan, 10 miles downstream from the original site, at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn (40 miles northwest), where you can also try on a buffalo robe and admire Karl Bodmer’s 1833 prints.
The Knife River Indian Villages in Stanton (64 miles northwest) features a reconstructed earthlodge and shares traditional games, ceremonies and trade of the Mandan-Hidatsa Indians.
In 1875, Gen. Custer took command at the 1872 Fort Abraham Lincoln (82 miles northwest); that time comes to life through guided tours of the reconstructed Custer House and Central Barracks. Also view six reconstructed earthlodges at the On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Villages.
Medora (134 miles west) is home to the 1884 Rough Riders Hotel, frequented by Teddy Roosevelt, whose Rough Riders brought him fame during the Spanish-American War, and the Chateau de Mores site, which interprets the life of a French aristocrat-turned-cattle rancher.
More than 40 buildings share late 1800s life in the Red River Valley at the Bonanzaville living history museum in West Fargo (188 miles east).