Custer State Park’s Buffalo Roundup of the park’s herd has been a public event for over 50 years and is held the last Friday of every September.
– Chad Coppess, Courtesy South Dakota Tourism –

“Ocian in view! Oh! The Joy!”

William Clark wrote in his journal on November 7, 1805, viewing what he believed was the Pacific Ocean as the Corps of Discovery reached the broad estuary of the Columbia River, 20 miles from the coast.

Clark’s exhilaration at reaching the destination the Corps had dreamed of for thousands of treacherous miles is the pure emotion of joy that the editors of True West believe our readers—whether first-time visitors or seasoned Western adventurers—discover, and rediscover, when they travel across the American West.

True West’s “Ultimate Historic Travel Guide” encourages treks to the West’s greatest heritage sites, where you can actually stand and experience where history happened. The editorial staff at True West invites you to “saddle up” and travel with us to discover the West together—in the hope we’ll inspire your own ultimate Western adventure—and make some history of your own.

Be sure to tune in as we publish each region of our Ultimate Historic Travel Guide on True West Online!

President Theodore Roosevelt, Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California.
— Courtesy Library of Congress —

The Pacific Coast

California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington

From the Sierra Nevada to the San Juan Islands, from the Columbia River Gorge to Death Valley, the Pacific Coast Region is a land of endless horizons, deep, lush valleys and long snowcapped mountain ranges.

The natural beauty, vast distances and diversity of the geology and history of the five states inspire wonderment and admiration for those who lived, explored and settled the region in the centuries before trains, automobiles and airplanes.

The heritage of the area is defined by the Pacific Ocean, seemingly endless mountain ranges and the continent’s most arid deserts.

The Pacific Coast Region is home to dozens of the nation’s most recognizable parks, monuments and historic sites, and travelers to the five states find themselves following the trails of explorers, adventurers and pioneers, while walking in the footsteps of missionaries, mountain men and miners.


Bodie State Historic Park

Visitors who walk the silent streets of Bodie State Historic Park, set amidst the sagebrush of the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Yosemite, will discover the real West in the 170 buildings that remain preserved in one of California’s most notorious mining camps.

Northeast of Yosemite, 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road (Hwy 270), seven miles south of Bridgeport.
760-647-6445 •

Death Valley National Park

Founded as a monument in 1933, Death Valley National Park’s 3.33 million acres in California and Nevada make it the largest park outside of Alaska.

Start your tour at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to visit the nearby Harmony Borax Works and learn about the mineral bonanza that inspired the iconic 20-mule team borax wagons.

Highway 190, Death Valley, CA 92328  
760-786-3200 •

Donner Memorial State Park

Honoring the tragic emigrant party, Donner Memorial State Park in Donner Pass includes a museum in the visitor’s center, and a monument dedicated to all the pioneers who traveled to the Golden State on the California Trail.

9 miles west of Truckee, CA
530-582-7892 •

El Alisal

Famed author and Western preservationist Charles F. Lummis hand-built his famed cobblestone home in northeast Los Angeles in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Follow up a Lummis house tour with a visit to the Autry Museum of the American West in nearby Griffith Park and, on Saturdays only, Lummis’s Historic Southwest Museum in Mt. Washington.

200 E Ave 43, Los Angeles, CA 90031
323-661-9465 • /

Fort Humboldt State Historic Park

Founded in 1853, the outpost was once led by Capt. U.S. Grant, who found it so isolating he left the Army after his posting at Humboldt.

Shuttered in 1870, the fort today is open to visitors who can walk the grounds, including the last surviving building—the hospital, now a museum dedicated to Army life and local tribal history.

3431 Fort Ave, Eureka, CA 95503
707-445-6547 •

Lava Beds National Monument

Near the Oregon border east of Yreka, California, and south of Klamath Falls, Oregon, Lava Beds National Monument protects the battle sites of the Modoc War, including Captain Jack’s Stronghold.

1 Indian Well Campground – Trail Indian Well Hqts, CA 96134
530-667-8100 •

Lone Pine

Situated along the Eastern Sierra’s “Main Street,” U.S. Highway 395, Lone Pine is a historic community first settled in the 1860s.

In 1920, Hollywood producers filmed the Western The Last Roundup in Lone Pine, and since then over 400 movies and 100 television programs have been produced in and around the distinctive Alabama Hills.

120 South Main St, Lone Pine, CA 93545
760-876-4444 •

Marshall Gold Discovery State Park

In the heart of “Mother Lode Country,” Marshall Gold Discovery State Park near Caloma preserves the site where James W. Marshall found gold in the tailings of Sutter’s Mill in January 1848.

A living history center, the park includes Marshall’s cabin and a replica of the original mill. Rangers and docents provide daily programs at the park. Visitors can even pan for gold.

310 Back St, Coloma, CA 95613
530-622-3470 •

Old Sacramento

A national historic landmark district and state historic park, Old Sacramento is a living history center on the banks of the Sacramento River.

Visitors can tour the California State Railroad Museum, The Delta King Riverboat, Huntington & Hopkins Hardware, Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, Sacramento History Museum and the Wells Fargo History Museum.

Passenger train rides can be enjoyed on the California State Railroad Museum’s Sacramento Southern Railroad, which departs from the reconstructed Central Pacific Freight Depot.

2nd St & Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA 95814
916-808-7059 •

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park celebrates and preserves the Spanish, Mexican and early American heritage of the city.

Five original adobe buildings survive in the living history center.Don’t miss an opportunity to stay and dine at the historic Cosmopolitan Hotel.

4002 Wallace St, San Diego, CA 92110
619-220-5422 •

Presidio of San Francisco

For 218 years, Spain, Mexico and then the United States garrisoned troops at the Presidio
of San Francisco.

An active military post until 1994, the Presidio is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Artillery and military architecture buffs will want to tour one of the nation’s finest collections of field armaments and historic buildings.

California Hwy 1, San Francisco, CA 94123
415-561-4700 •

San Gabriel Mission

Padre Junipero Serra’s fourth mission, San Gabriel, was founded strategically between San Diego and San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel on September 8, 1771, and has been an active parish for more than 245 years.

Visitors should tour the museum and follow the self-guided tours of the historic church and grounds—the same oasis that mountain man Jedediah Smith arrived at in 1826 after crossing the Mojave Desert from the east.

254 S Santa Anita St, San Gabriel, CA 91776
626-282-3181 •

Sonoma Barracks

The California Bear Flag Revolt began in June 1846 at the Sonoma Barracks. The restored barracks, across the street from Sonoma’s Mission San Francisco Solano, are a part of a park complex that includes General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s home, the Toscano Hotel, the Servants’ Quarters and the Blue Wing Inn.

Spain Street & First Street East, Sonoma, CA 95476
707-935-6832 •

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

In 1839, Swiss pioneer John Sutter received a land grant from Mexico to build a community he called New Helvetia near the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.

Today, visitors can tour Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, a living history center that includes one of the most significant historic structures in the state, the fully restored Sutter’s Fort.

2701 L St, Sacramento, CA 95816
916-445-4422 •

William S. Hart Ranch and Museum

Silent movie star William S. Hart’s Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion, built on his ranch in 1910 in Newhall, north of Los Angeles, is dedicated to Hart’s life in the movies.

Hart is famous for saying: “When I was making pictures, the people gave me their nickels, dimes and quarters. When I am gone, I want them to have my home.”

24151 Newhall Ave, Newhall, CA 91321
661-254-4584 •

Yosemite National Park

On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, protecting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove.

A national park since 1890, Yosemite was a favorite of naturalist John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt, and was originally patrolled by the U.S. Cavalry.

PO Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
209-372-0200 •


Fort Hall Replica

New England entrepreneur Nathaniel Wyeth built Fort Hall in 1832 to support his fur trade business.

The fort evolved to become a key crossroads and supply center on the Oregon Trail. Today, Fort Hall Replica, “the gateway to the Pacific,” is a living history center dedicated to Indian, fur trade and Oregon Trail history.

3000 Avenue of the Chiefs, Pocatello, ID 83204
208-234-1795 •

Idaho City

In Boise Basin, Idaho City was the “Queen of the Gold Camps,” the center of the richest gold strikes in the history of the American Northwest in the 1860s.

Today, visitors to the village can walk the boardwalks of the boomtown and visit numerous historic buildings, including the Boise Basin Historical Museum housed in the original post office built in 1867.

208-392-4159 •

Nez Perce National Historical Park

A multi-state national park, Nez Perce National Historical Park has six sites in Idaho, as well. The Spalding Site, near Lapwai, is the headquarters of the park, and has a visitors center and museum.

39063 U.S. 95, Lapwai, ID 83540
208-843-7009 •

Old Fort Boise

Originally a Hudson Bay outpost at the confluence of the Boise and Snake rivers, a small monument marks the site of the Old Fort Boise in the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area.

A replica of the old fort was built as a living history center in Parma, and includes a museum and a pioneer cabin.

Parma, ID 83660
208-722-5210 •

Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park

Built by Catholic Jesuit missionaries and local Coeur d’Alene Indians between 1850 and 1853, the Mission of the Sacred Heart at Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park is the oldest building in Idaho.

Tour the mission, a restored parish house and the historic cemetery. Exhibits interpret the history of Catholic missionary efforts in the Rocky Mountains.

3715 E 3200 N, Hansen, ID 83334

Rock Creek Station

An Idaho Historical Society living history center, Rock Creek Station and the Stricker Home were built in 1865.

An important transportation hub along the Oregon Trail south of Hansen, the historic trail stop also includes a pioneer cemetery and interpretive center.

3715 E 3200 N, Hansen, ID 83334
208-432-4000 •


Salmon is a jewel in the valley near the confluence of the Salmon and Lemhi rivers along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail on U.S. 93.

A traditional home of the Shoshone tribe, the City of Salmon is home to the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Educational Center is dedicated to the heritage and history of the region.

208-756-2100 •


Located in the richest silver district in American history, Wallace is in the Silver Valley of Shoshone County in Idaho’s northern panhandle.

Start your walking tour of the Wallace Historic District at the Wallace District Mining Museum, and continue on to the Oasis Bordello Museum and the Northern Pacific Depot Museum.

Don’t leave town without taking the Sierra Silver Mine Tour.

208-753-7151 •

Land of Yankee Fork State Park

One of Idaho’s premier historic state parks, Land of Yankee Fork State Park in Round Valley has several historic sites, including three ghost towns—Bayhorse, Bonanza and Custer—and the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge; plus the Shoshone Indian mid-1800s Challis Bison Kill site.

Visitors should start in Challis at the interpretive center before touring the park. 

Junction of U.S. 93 and State Highway 75, Challis, ID
208-879-5244 •


California Trail Interpretive Center

Ever wondered what it was like to cross the nation in a Conestoga wagon? Or to walk across the continent to find your bonanza of gold in California?

The California Trail Interpretive Center near Elko will answer all your questions with outstanding exhibitions and regular living history events.

1 Interpretive Center Way, Elko, NV 89801           
775-738-1849 •

Carson City Historic District

Named after famed Westerner Kit Carson by the city’s founder Abraham V.Z. Curry in 1858, Carson City quickly became a crossroads of emigrants, prospectors, soldiers and entrepreneurs following the California Trail.

Chosen as the Territorial capital city in 1861, Carson City has an extensive historic district, including the Capitol grounds, Nevada State Railroad Museum and Nevada State Museum in the former U.S. Mint, and a neighborhood of the Silver State’s 19th-century homes, which visitors can enjoy by taking the self-guided Blue Line Trail.

Day trips from Carson City should include visits to Nevada’s oldest settlement, Genoa, and the historic town of Dayton.

775-577-2345 •

Fort Churchill State Historic Park

When settlement expanded in Nevada in the late 1850s, the Army built a series of forts across the Central Overland Route in the territory to protect settlers, mail carriers, freight trains and emigrants traveling the new central route across the Great Basin.

Fort Churchill State Historic Park has an excellent walking tour of the ruins of the fort, where troops were posted from 1860 to 1869.

Silver Springs, NV 89429 • 775-577-2345 •

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park

In the shadow of the neon lights and towering casinos of the Las Vegas Strip stands Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park, an Old West living history center dedicated to the Mormon missionaries’ community built in 1855.

While the first American settlement at Vegas Springs only lasted until 1857, the settlement left behind became the humble beginnings of the internationally famous desert city.

500 E Washington Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101
702-486-3511 •

Tonopah Historic Mining Park

Interested in Old West mining history?

Take a slow drive from Las Vegas to the Tonopah Historic Mining Park on U.S. 95 and plan on stops at the ghost towns of Rhyolite near Beatty, Gold Point near Lida, and Goldfield and Belmont outside of Tonopah.

In addition to the mining park, Tonopah has a walking tour of its historic buildings.

110 Burro Ave, Tonopah, NV 89049
775-482-9274 •

Virginia City

In the desert hills between Reno and Carson City, one of the richest silver strikes in U.S. history, the Comstock Lode, rocketed Nevada from territory to statehood.

Today, Virginia City is a virtual Victorian-era heritage center, with historic sites, museums and buildings.

Don’t miss the Storey County Courthouse, Piper Opera House, Virginia & Truckee Railroad, the Comstock Mill, Ponderosa Mine Tour, Mark Twain Museum and the Comstock Fire Museum.

A great way to see the historic mining camp is aboard the Virginia City Trolley tour.

775-847-1114 •

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

After visiting the historic mining community of Ely, Nevada, located on U.S. 50 (“the loneliest road in America”), including an excursion on the historic passenger trains of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, travel southeast to a unique site from Nevada’s storied mining history—the Ward Charcoal Ovens.

The thirty-foot-high kilns were built to support the smelting operations of lead in the long-gone mining town of Ward.

Ely, NV 89315
775-289-1693 •


The Dalles

A tribal fishing center and crossroads of the Columbia River history for centuries, The Dalles developed as an American community at the terminus of the Oregon Trail and launching point for emigrant rafting parties down the river to the Willamette River Valley.

While an alternate overland route was built over the Blue Mountains and around Mt. Hood to Oregon City, The Dalles remained an important economic and transportation hub.

Today, visitors should begin their visit at Fort Dalles and then tour the world-class Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center.

404 W 2nd St, The Dalles, OR 97058
541-296-2231 • /

Fort Clatsop National Memorial

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park has sites on both sides of the Columbia River, in Oregon and Washington, as it nears the Pacific Ocean, including Fort Clatsop National Memorial, the winter encampment of the Corps of Discovery.

The centerpiece of Fort Clatsop, just south of the historic port city Astoria, is the replica of the fort that is supported by a very active ranger program with period-costumed presentations throughout the summer and a visitors center.

92343 Fort Clatsop Rd, Astoria, OR 97103
503-861-2471 •

Fort Stevens State Park

At the mouth of the Columbia River, a visitor to Fort Stevens State Park can watch the modern ships ply the Columbia River Bar, a treacherous navigation that has claimed over 2,000 ships, earning it the moniker “graveyard of the Pacific.”

Because it was an active fort from the Civil War through World War II, a tour of the park’s historic sites reveals Fort Stevens’ nearly 90 years of history.

After a tour of the park, visit Astoria’s Columbia River Maritime Museum to learn about the dramatic history of sailing and shipping on the Columbia River.

100 Peter Iredale Rd, Hammond, OR 97121
503-861-3170 /

Historic Oregon City

Oregon City welcomes visitors to its historic park, educational history center and museum, like it welcomed the trail-weary Oregon Trail travelers who survived the transcontinental trip and the final leg—the descent over the Cascade Range past Mt. Hood into the Willamette Valley.

Tour the Visitor Center, End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, the Country Store and the Heritage Garden.

While in Oregon City, plan on extra time to visit the historic Barclay, McLoughlin and Holmes Houses, and tour downtown.

1726 Washington St, Oregon City, OR 97405
503-657-9336 • /

Oregon Trail National Trail Center

Near Baker City, the Bureau of Land Management’s Oregon Trail National Trail Center is dedicated to interpreting history through exhibits and ranger-led programs, many in period costume, explaining the history and experiences of the thousands of emigrants who made the overland journey across the country on the Oregon Trail.

22267 OR-86, Baker City, OR 97814
541-523-1843 •


Pendleton is world famous for the Pendleton Round-Up, a rodeo equally known for its action in the arena as well as its dedication to the local Indian cultures and American settlement history of the Umatilla River Valley.

Visitors will enjoy touring the Pendleton Woolen Mills, Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame Museum, Heritage Station Museum and Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.

Before leaving town, don’t miss Hamley’s & Co., a famous saddle and Western wear shop downtown, in business since 1883.

501 S Main, Pendleton, OR 97801
541-276-7411 •

Pioneer Courthouse

The oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest and second-oldest west of the Mississippi, the Pioneer Courthouse in Pioneer Square in Portland opened in 1869.

Just down the street is the Oregon Historical Society Museum, with comprehensive exhibits on the heritage, history and diverse cultures that have defined Oregon history.

700 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97204
503-833-5300 • /


Cape Disappointment State Park

On Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula at the mouth of the Columbia River across from Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon, Cape Disappointment State Park is a beautiful place to walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery.

Take a tour of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and learn about their expedition and local Native culture.

Also, don’t miss a hike out to the North Head Lighthouse, built in 1897-’98, that is still aiding ships navigating the Columbia River Bar.

244 Robert Gray Dr, Ilwaco, WA 98624
360-642-3078 •

Fort Columbia Historical State Park

East of Cape Disappointment and part of the national and state park consortium of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Columbia State Historical Park at the Chinook Point Historical Landmark was a U.S. Army Coastal Artillery fort from 1896 to 1947.

Visitors will enjoy touring the historic officer’s house, the observation station and an interpretive center.

U.S. Highway 101, Chinook, WA 98614
360-816-6230 •

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Washington, is a significant British and American outpost in the Northwest.

The English Hudson Bay Company built the fort in 1824 and until the 1840s it was the largest European community on the West Coast. The U.S. Army occupied the fort in 1849 and until 2011 maintained an Army Reserve and Washington National Guard unit at the base.

Visitors will enjoy the museum and living history programs, which tell the fascinating story of the fur trade and settlement of the Northwest.

612 E Reserve St Vancouver, WA 98661
360-816-6230 •

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

The Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park complements the park’s sites in Skagway, Alaska, in interpreting the 1898 gold rush that was the greatest mineral bonanza on the West Coast since the California Gold Rush of 1849.

The park’s visitors center, located within the Pioneer Square National Historic District in downtown Seattle, offers walking tours and living history programs, as well as a series of permanent and temporary exhibitions interpreting the history of the stampede to the Klondike.

319 2nd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
206-220-4240 •

San Juan Island National Historical Park

Located in Puget Sound, San Juan Island National Historical Park interprets the conflict that almost drew Great Britain and the United States into war over the death of a pig in 1859.

The American Camp Visitor Center and the English Camp Visitor Center provide historical interpretation of the history of the island and the international dispute over the San Juan Islands.

4668 Cattle Point Rd, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
360-378-2240 •

Steptoe Battlefield State Park

The Steptoe Battlefield State Park commemorates a May 1858 battle between Col. Edward Steptoe’s U.S. troops and a combined force of Spokane, Palouse, Coeur d’Alene and Yakama tribes.

The 160 soldiers, on a march from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Colville, were surprised by the Indians and forced to retreat through a series of skirmishes, barely escaping.

The four-acre park near Rosalia has a monument to the battle and interpretive signs telling the story of the conflict.

South Summit Loop, Rosalia, WA 99170
509-337-6457 •

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site preserves and interprets the location of a significant settlement and event in U.S. Western history.

Among the first emigrants from the Eastern United States were Methodist missionaries Dr. Marcus and Mrs. Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, who arrived in 1836.

The Whitmans’ mission was the site of the Whitman Massacre in 1847, a controversial event that dramatically changed the course of history in the American Northwest between settlers and local tribes.

After touring the mission grounds, take a short drive to Walla Walla and tour Fort Walla Walla Museum for interactive exhibits and living history programs on the fort and region’s history.

328 Whitman Mission Rd, Walla Walla, WA 99362
509-522-6360 • /

Related Articles

  • Travelers to the Pacific Coast will quickly discover the beauty of its mountain ranges, coastal…

  • True West Ultimate Historic Travel Guide Book

    Calling all True West fanatics! For 65 years, True West Magazine has inspired travelers to…

  • On May 10, 1869, the greatest commercial and transportation innovation of America’s first century was…