Pack your bags and head West for adventures filled with fun and history.


A highlight of a scenic road trip to Yellowstone National Park is seeing the diverse wildlife of the park, including the bison herd.
Courtesy Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress


Road tripping across the West has come a long way from the four-to six-month do-or-die Conestoga wagon trains that crossed the country from Missouri to Oregon in the 1840s. But don’t get me wrong; the West is still a vast place with thousands of miles of backroads, byways, scenic routes and yes, dirt roads, to explore. Here travelers can rewind and renew themselves in the majesty and history of the region. 

Now, if you have four to six months to explore the West, good for you! We know that most travelers might have a week to two weeks for a summer adventure, so for 2023 we have created eight trips across different regions of the Western U.S. Each of these can be done all at once or those who live in the area might divide the trip into several long weekends.

So get out your maps and True West Travel Guide; pack your bags and make some reservations. It is time to explore the small towns, historic sites and natural wonders along the West’s byways and highways and experience firsthand where history happened.

Arizona Adventures

Discover the historic towns of the Grand Canyon State on its scenic back roads.

Grand Canyon Railway
Williams, Arizona
Courtesy Grand Canyon Railway


Copper Queen Hotel
Bisbee, Arizona
Courtesy Bisbee Visitor Center


Prescott Frontier Days
World’s Oldest Rodeo, Prescott, Arizona
Courtesy Miller Photography


Summertime is a wonderful time to explore Arizona. The Grand Canyon State’s small towns, historic sites, natural wonders and scenic highways provide endless travel opportunities. 

The first tour, from the mountains of Prescott to Flagstaff to Williams to the Grand Canyon, travels some of the most beautiful highways in the state. 

Once in Prescott, slow down and enjoy the pace of the historic city and its access to scenic routes, like 89A which switchbacks up and over the mountains through Jerome, Cotton-wood, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. Book a weekend in a historic hotel or cabin and enjoy the mountains and the Verde Valley. 

In southern Arizona, milehigh Bisbee offers the cool climes of the Mule Mountains with a historic central district that makes the old mining town a perfect place to call home for a week while exploring the diverse environs of Cochise County. 

Arizona also has some of the best back roads in the West, but check with the local U.S. Forest Service office for rules, road conditions and access due to weather and fire restrictions.

Bucket List

  • Prescott: This is a great city from which to start a tour of northern Arizona. Book a room at the historic Hassayampa Inn within walking distance of the shopping district around the Courthouse Plaza, Whiskey Row and Sharlot Hall Museum. Ask the Chamber for directions to the old mining town of Crown King.
  • Jerome: At the end of a beautiful drive on State Route 89A from Prescott over Mingus Mountain, Jerome is a spectacularly located historic mining town. Today its narrow streets are packed with art galleries, unique restaurants, hotels and inns.
  • Cottonwood: In the Verde Valley below Jerome, Cottonwood’s historic downtown should not be missed. Make time to visit Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle national monuments, downtown Clarkdale and Fort Verde State Historic Park.  
  • Flagstaff: The mountain city is home to Northern Arizona University, Museum of Northern Arizona, Lowell Observatory and the spectacular San Francisco Peaks.
  • Sedona: In the heart of Red Rock country, drive scenic 89A through Oak Creek Canyon.  
  • Williams: The historic Gateway to the Grand Canyon, Williams is a perfect place to enjoy a weekend along old Route 66, take the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim and tour Bearizona, a unique wildlife park. Schedule time to explore the historic “Mother Road” from Williams to Ash Fork, Seligman, Peach Springs and Kingman.
  • Bisbee: The county seat, Bisbee was once one of Arizona’s largest copper camps. Today, it has become a year-round tourist destination. Whether with an overnight at the Copper Queen Hotel or at the Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court, Bisbee is a fun town to use as a home base while exploring all of the natural wonders and territorial towns of Cochise County, including Tombstone, Douglas, Benson and Willcox.
  • Benson: A gateway city to Cochise County, the town is a popular stop for visitors to Kartchner Caverns State Park. 
  • Douglas: Book a night at the historic Gadsden Hotel and take a tour of the Slaughter Ranch at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Tombstone: The state’s most infamous Territorial mining camp is known internationally for the Earp-Clanton gunfight behind the O.K. Corral. Tour the Tombstone County Courthouse State Historic Park, Boothill Graveyard, historic Allen Street, the Birdcage Theatre and the Gunfighter Hall of Fame.

Best Websites:;;


The Heart of Idaho

Discover the beauty and history of the Gem State from its capital city to the Bitterroot Mountains. 


Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Educational Center, Salmon, Idaho
Courtesy Idaho Tourism


Boise Basin Museum
Idaho City, Idaho
Courtesy Boise Basin Museum


The vistas and natural beauty along the scenic highways of central and eastern Idaho are stunning and awe inspiring. From the high desert valley of the state capital of Boise, the trip northeast to Salmon is on an interconnected route of some of Idaho’s most beloved byways. Along sections of the Lewis and Clark, Ponderosa Pine, Salmon River and Sawtooth scenic byways, the traveler will discover history and hospitality in small towns plus natural wonders and outdoor adventures from day hikes to horseback riding, from flyfishing to river rafting. 

Bucket List

  • Boise: Relax in the state’s capital city and tour some of the state’s best museums, including the Idaho State Museum, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and the Museum of Mining and Geology.
  • Hailey/Ketchum/Sun Valley: Known for its world-class skiing in Sun Valley, historic Hailey and Ketchum welcome summer visitors to enjoy the beauty of their mountain towns. Ketchum’s Trailing the Sheep Festival will celebrate its 27th year October 4-8, 2023.
  • Idaho City: At what was once Idaho’s “Queen of the Gold Camps,” visitors can walk the boardwalks and tour the Boise Basin Historical Museum housed in the original post office built in 1867.
  • Land of Yankee Fork State Park: The park is just outside Challis at the crossroads of Idaho 75 and U.S. 93 and is home to three ghost towns, Bayhorse, Bonanza and Custer, plus the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge. 
  • Old Fort Boise: A small monument in the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area marks the site of the old fort, originally a Hudson’s Bay outpost at the confluence of the Boise and Snake rivers. 
  • Salmon: The mountain town sits near the confluence of the Salmon and Lehmi rivers along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail on U.S. 93. Salmon is home to the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Educational Center, which is dedicated to the heritage and history of the region. 
  • Stanley: The crown jewel of the Sawtooth Valley, the year-round destination for nature and outdoor enthusiasts sits at the crossroads of Idaho’s scenic highways 21 and 75. 

Best Websites:;;


Missouri and Arkansas 

Discover the Gateway to the West states from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Fort Smith, Arkansas. 


United States Marshals Museum
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Courtesy U.S. Marshals Museum


Bass Reeves Statue
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Courtesy Fort Smith CVB


Jesse James Farm Museum
Kearney, Missouri
Courtesy Missouri Tourism


Many travelers who vacation in Missouri and Arkansas in the summer head to the ever-popular resort communities of Lake of the Ozarks and Branson in Missouri and Hot Springs and Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. But summer is also a fun time to discover the history and heritage of the two Western gateway states. 

In Missouri, the big cities of St. Louis and Kansas City have a lot to offer. From Gateway National Park near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to the Trailside Center in Kansas City, travelers can follow the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail across the state. 

North of Kansas City, St. Joseph sits on the banks of the Missouri River and welcomes summer visitors to immerse themselves in the town’s history. Independence and Kearney are part of the greater Kansas City metro area and should not be missed while vacationing in the area.

Driving south from KC to Arkansas, take Interstate 49 to Carthage and Joplin, Missouri, before crossing the state line to Bentonville, Arkansas, and the summer resort community of Rogers and Beaver Lake. 

Continue south on Arkansas Scenic Highway 71 through the Ozark Highlands, the Boston Mountains and Ozark Nat-ional Forest to history-rich Fort Smith. 

Bucket List

  • St. Joseph: Known best as the trailhead for the Pony Express, St. Joseph boasts an historic district that will inspire the imagination and remind visitors of the importance of Missouri’s Western frontier towns to American history. Start a tour at the Pony Express Museum, then take time to visit the St. Joseph Museum, Patee House Museum and Jesse James Home, Robidoux Row Museum, Wyeth-Tootle Mansion and Kemper Museum of Art. Book a room at the Whiskey Mansion Inn and stay for a long weekend.
  • Kearney: At this wonderful community just northeast of Kansas City, don’t miss the chance to visit the Jesse James Farm & Museum.
  • Independence: In one of the great Missouri cities that launched thousands of emigrants westward on the Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails, visitors tour a historic district and the National Frontier Trail Museum. 
  • Kansas City: The western Missouri city has something for everyone, but Western history fans shouldn’t miss Westport Landing, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the Kansas City Museum and Nelson-Atkins Art Museum.
  • St. Louis: Western history aficionados must visit St. Louis’s Gateway to the West National Park, the iconic Gateway Arch and the Park’s Museum of Westward Expansion. 
  • Carthage: America’s “Maple Leaf City” is a popular stop for cross-country Route 66 cruisers. Learn about the hometown outlaw legend Belle Starr at the Carthage Civil War Museum.
  • Bentonville: The northeastern Arkansas city is known for the Bentonville History Museum, Museum of Native American History and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
  • Fort Smith: Enjoy a long weekend in the historic city touring the Fort Smith National Historic Site, including the barracks and Judge Isaac Parker’s famous courtroom. The United States Marshals Museum is one of the most important museums to open in the U.S. in the past decade.

Best Websites:;;;


Montana’s Yellowstone Country 

Explore Montana’s Yellowstone Country and historic and mountainous southwestern Montana. 


Trail Riding, OTO Pop Up Ranch. Scott Baxter, OTO Ranch, Courtesy


Lower Falls, Yellowstone River
Yellowstone National Park


The historic towns and peaks of the southwestern part of the Big Sky State have something for everyone. Hallmarks of Montana travel are the long, beautiful drives across the nation’s fourth-largest state, with scenic byways leading off in almost every direction from interstates I-15, I-90 and I-94. 

Bozeman is a lively city to make your first headquarters for a tour of Montana, especially if you are arriving in the state via Yellowstone National Park. From Bozeman, the Montana visitor will quickly discover that southwestern and northwestern Montana offer a lifetime’s worth of adventure and historic sites to tour. A scenic loop from Bozeman goes as far west as Wisdom, just outside Big Hole Battlefield National Monument, along scenic highways State 84, 287, 41, 278 and 43. 

Driving to the northwest from Bozeman, visit Butte, the state capital of Helena and Great Falls, home to the world-class C.M. Russell Museum

Bucket List

  • Bozeman: Home to Montana State University, Bozeman has a walkable downtown entertainment district and plenty of lodging, making it a good headquarters for visiting the western part of the state. Don’t miss the Museum of
    the Rockies.
  • Livingston: The Northern Pacific Railway city has a lively historic downtown with good restaurants. Like Bozeman, it is a popular gateway town to Yellowstone. Don’t miss the Livingston Depot Center in the former NPRR station.
  • Emigrant: In Paradise Valley, adjacent to the Yellowstone River and surrounded by the Gallatin National Forest, don’t miss a chance to visit the Old Saloon and Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa.
  • Gallatin: The gateway to the northwest entrance to Yellowstone, Gallatin offers summertime rafting, a very popular activity for visitors to the national park.
  • Ennis: The quaint town is well-known for fly-fishing, its summer music in the park series and a Fourth of July parade and rodeo. 
  • Wisdom: At this gateway town to Big Hole National Battlefield, don’t miss a chance to visit Conover’s Trading Post on Highway 43. 
  • Virginia City: In the summer, book a room in the historic mining boomtown and immerse yourself in early Montana history.
  • Butte: The historic town played a major role in Western mining history. Don’t miss the World Museum of Mining. 
  • Helena: The capital of Montana, Helena is home to the Montana Historical Society, a destination for historians from around the world who are writing about the state and the West.
  • Great Falls: Charles M. Russell called Great Falls home, and today the C.M. Russell Museum is one of the state’s premier art museums. 

Best Websites:;;


North Dakota’s Trailblazers

Experience the history of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the Great Plains State.


North Dakota State Historical Museum
Courtesy North Dakota Tourism


Theodore Roosevelt Cabin
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Medora, North Dakota


Theodore Roosevelt, Medora, 1885
Photo Courtesy True West Archives


If North Dakota is famous for its winters, it is equally famous for its glorious Northern Plains summers that are perfect for travel and tourism, camping and fishing, wildlife viewing and starry nights. Travelers to the Peace Garden State will enjoy the long, wide open vistas from any direction as they drive to the centrally located capital city of Bismarck. 

Before hitting the road west to North Dakota’s Badlands and Upper Missouri River Country, prime yourself on the state’s history at Bismarck’s North Dakota Heritage Center and Mandan’s Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. 

When traveling in North Dakota, enjoy the welcoming small towns, state parks and natural beauty. Interstate 94 is the primary route from Bismarck to Medora, but for the rest of the vacation, the route follows scenic U.S. highways. 

Bucket List

  • Bismarck: Relax in the state’s capital city and tour the North Dakota Heritage Center, Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame, Lewis & Clark Riverboat and the United Tribes Cultural Arts and Interpretive Center.
  • Mandan: The state’s leading living history center is at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, which includes General Custer’s quarters, Cavalry Square, On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Village and Five Nations Arts Gallery.
  • Dickinson: West of Bismarck on Interstate 94, is the gateway city to North Dakota’s Badlands. Spend a weekend there and take a tour of the Dickinson Museum Center.
  • Medora: A centerpiece of summer tourism in North Dakota, Medora is home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Pitchfork Fondue and the Medora Musical, North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Chateau de Mores, Billings County Museum and the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. 
  • Watford City: Visitors to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park take U.S. 85 north to the welcoming town of Watford City, a great place to stay while exploring the area. 
  • Williston: Just east of the Montana border off U.S. 85, the city is a destination site for followers of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. Count on spending a couple of days touring the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center, Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site and Fort Buford State Historic Site.
  • Minot: From Williston, U.S. Highways 85 and 2 lead to Minot, a crossroads of three scenic prairie highways, U.S. 2, 52 and 83. The North Dakota State Fair is held every July in Minot, which is also home to popular Scandinavian festivals. 
  • Lake Sakakawea: The towns of Garrison, New Town, Riverdale and Pick City are all great places to visit while enjoying the 180-mile-long lake.

Best Websites:;;


Texas to Oklahoma

Follow the Quanah Parker Trail across the Southern Plains of Texas and Oklahoma.


Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Canyon, Texas
Courtesy The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress


In 2014, a leadership team in Borden County, Texas, that included members of the Comanche Tribe dedicated the first 22-foot, 700-pound metal arrow to mark the Quanah Parker Trail across 52 Texas Plains and Panhandle counties. The 88 majestic waypoints thread together the history of the region, the Comanche people and the Texas frontier communities of the Plains region. The website is the best place to start before embarking on a tour, but check locally for access to the arrows, as some are on private property.

A good place to start the tour is in Lubbock, home of Texas Tech University. Stay at the Cotton Court Hotel and enjoy local restaurants, museums, the arts district and live entertainment.

Interstate 27 is the quickest way north to Amarillo, but why not slow it down and drive east on U.S. 62/82 to Crosbyton, Dickens and Guthrie, home of the famous 6666 Ranch and the popular Four Sixes Supply Shop? North from Dickens, Texas Highway 70 is a scenic route north to Caprock Canyons and Palo Duro Canyon state parks.

Canyon, Texas, is home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest museum dedicated to the history and culture of the region. Nearby Amarillo is a must stop when visiting the Texas Panhandle, with good restaurants and museums.

From Amarillo, I-40 leads east to Shamrock, Texas, a great old Route 66 town, and U.S. 83. Go south on U.S. 62 to Lawton, home of Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center.

Visitors who would like to learn firsthand about Oklahoma’s Indian heritage and complex territorial and state history should tour Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma History Center and the First Americans Museum.

A traveler on the Quanah Parker Trail from Texas to Oklahoma will soon discover the hospitality and small-town charm that make the states favorite destinations for Old West visitors.  

Bucket List


  • Lubbock: “The Hub City” is an enjoyable place to call home for a few days while exploring the region’s history. Great restaurants, entertainment, an arts district and world-class museums—including the National Ranching Heritage Center, the American Windmill Museum, the Museum of Texas Tech University, the FiberMax Center for Discovery and the Buddy Holly Center—are all worth a tour. 
  • Crosbyton: Take time to drive east of Lubbock to the town of Crosbyton and tour the Crosby County Memorial Museum’s exhibits on the cultural history of the region.
  • Amarillo: The Panhandle City is a perfect place to stay while exploring the heritage of the region. Schedule time to visit the American Quarterhorse Museum, Battle of Adobe Walls historic site, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon State Park.


  • Cache: In Comanche County west of Lawton, Quanah Parker’s final home, the Star House, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is undergoing major renovation to save it for posterity.
  • Lawton: When following the trail of Quanah Parker north from Texas to Oklahoma, schedule a tour of the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center in Lawton. 
  • Oklahoma City: The state’s economic, cultural and political hub is a great place to start a week-long tour of the Sooner State.
  • Duncan: Don’t miss a tour of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center north of the Red River off State Highway 7.
  • Fort Sill: From Duncan, take U.S. 81 north to State Route 7 to Fort Sill, home of the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum. The interactive history facility boasts 38 buildings and curates over 235,000 objects at the 142-acre Historic Landmark.

Best Website:;;;

Utah the Beautiful 

Discover the natural wonders, national parks and historic towns of the Beehive State.


Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Moab, Utah


Trail Riding, Red Cliffs Lodge
Moab, Utah
Courtesy Utah Tourism


Southern Utah is a wonderful place to slow down and enjoy the small towns, historic sites and local, state and national parks and monuments which are around every curve of the highways that wind and twist through the mountains, canyons and valleys of the region. Heed the signs of bad weather: many of the best roads in the area are red dirt roads and you don’t want to get stuck in the mud or a flash flood in a canyon or creek.

National park and monument enthusiasts who have the time, can check off the following on an extended trip to the region: Zion, Cedar Breaks, Bryce, Grand Staircase Escalante, Capitol Reef, Bears Ears, Natural Bridges, Canyonlands and Arches. Don’t forget to schedule extra time for extraordinary hikes, beautiful sunsets and photo opportunities. Southern Utah is definitely a majestic land you will want to return to and experience in all seasons.  

Bucket List

  • St. George: A relaxing place to visit and tour on the way to Zion National Park, the southwestern Utah town is well-known for its enjoyable climate and outdoor recreational amenities.
  • Cedar City: Over a mile high, the city is one of the largest in southern Utah and for decades has been known as the “Gateway to the National Parks.” Schedule time to tour the historic Union Pacific Depot, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Brian Head Resort. 
  • Mt. Carmel: Don’t miss a chance to visit the Maynard Dixon Living History Museum between March and November; winter hours are very limited. 
  • Kanab: Once a popular location for Hollywood Westerns, Kanab is on U.S. 89, just north of the Arizona border, and is a cool place to stay while exploring the area.
  • Escalante: Enjoy driving Scenic Utah Highway 12 from near Panguitch to Escalante and then take the hike to nearby Calf Creek Falls. 
  • Blanding: If you are looking to get away from big crowds and enjoy the outdoors, this is your town. It’s a jumping-off place from which to enjoy the Bears Ears and Natural Bridges national monuments, Goosenecks State Park and backcountry driving, hiking and backpacking. 
  • Moab: Tour the Museum of Moab before venturing out to drive three scenic byways and visit Canyonlands and Arches national parks and Dead Horse State Park. 

Best Website:;;


Gateways to the Wonders of Wyoming

Discover the West from Cheyenne to Yellowstone Country.


Lake Marie, Snowy Range
Carbon County, Wyoming
Courtesy Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress


Cody Stampede Parade, Cody, Wyoming
Courtesy Wyoming Tourism


Visitors travel to the Cowboy State for its real Western pioneer and Indian culture, endless vistas of snow-capped mountains, historic towns with charming hotels and Western bars, natural wonders such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and scenic byways and highways. Summertime also means fun-filled local celebrations with prestigious rodeos and Western parades. 

Bucket List

  • Big Horn Mountains: A circle tour of the mountain and valley region should start in the eastern slope town of Buffalo. After a tour and overnight stay at the historic Occidental Hotel, drive west on scenic U.S. Highway 16 to Worland then north on U.S. 16/20 to Greybull. From Greybull you can go north to Lovell and take scenic U.S. 14A across the Big Horns, or turn east on scenic U.S. 14 through Shell Canyon to historic Sheridan on the east. 
  • Devil’s Tower: Located in the northeastern corner of Wyoming, the national monument is a very popular destination for visitors to the nearby towns of Sundance, Hulett, Moorcroft and Gillette.
  • Cheyenne: The capital city is a great place to stay while exploring the nearby beautiful Medicine Bow National Forest and historic towns of Saratoga, Encampment and Rawlins. Every summer the city hosts the largest outdoor rodeo in the world, Cheyenne Frontier Days.
  • Laramie: Built along the banks of the Laramie River, the city is home to the University of Wyoming, the American Heritage Center and the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site. 
  • Thermopolis: Stay a night and soak in the famous hot springs at the historic crossroads of U.S. Highway 20 and State Highway 120.
  • Cody: See the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a Smithsonian style complex of five museums; book a room downtown at Buffalo Bill’s Historic Irma Hotel; and relax for a long weekend touring the local natural wonders and museums. 
  • Jackson: From this world-renowned Western destination enjoy the beauty of Grand Teton National Park and the neighboring communities of Moran and Dubois.
  • Moran: Known as the gateway to Grand Teton National Park, Moran was named after the famous Western artist Thomas Moran, who visited the region on the Hayden Survey in the 1870s.
  • Dubois: Immerse yourself in the Old West in downtown Dubois. Book a room at one of the town’s hotels as your headquarters for adventure, within short driving distance of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
  • Lander: Start a tour of the historic city at Museum of the American West. Also take time to visit nearby Fort Washakie, home of Sacajawea’s gravesite, and explore the region on the “Circle the Continental Divide” Driving Loop.
  • Pinedale: Don’t miss a chance to visit the Museum of the Mountain Man at this gateway town to the Wind River country. 

Best Websites:;;

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