The Most Traveled Trail in Idaho
Spanning 2,170+/- miles long, the Oregon Trail extended from Oregon's rugged coast, through the Rocky Mountains, to the flat Prairies of Missouri. Still to this day, the Oregon Trail stands as a historic landmark and a prominent point of mass migration across North America. The trail also paved the way for major highways, including US‑20, which cuts across southern Idaho's arid, volcanic terrain contrasted by whitewater rivers and isolated mountain ranges. The landscape has continued transforming into beautiful lush fields and vineyards that thrive in the otherwise barren, gray-green sagebrush plains. Little else has changed since pioneers faced insurmountable challenges crossing the country along the Oregon Trail.
For the better half of ten years, the stretch of land from Three Island Crossing to Boise was the primary route used on the Oregon Trail. Migrants who could not cross the Snake River had to follow the south side of the Snake River along a path known as the South Alternate. Explore the same trails and grassy plains that 400,000+/- pioneers traveled and gain a first-hand perspective on the experiences of Oregon Trail migrants and the area's native inhabitants at numerous markers throughout the state. Updated with plenty of visitor services and historical markers, take the opportunity to explore Idaho in all its beautiful and rugged countryside. Consider checking out some of the options below to get started.
Oregon National Historic Trail Scenic Byway
The Oregon Trail Scenic Byway follows the original trail starting at the crossing of the Snake River alongside Glenns Ferry to Bonneville Point, southeast of Boise. The distance of the byway is 89+/- miles and can take up to 8+/- hours depending on renowned stops, including Three Island Crossing State Park interpretive center and various markers along the way. Aside from the trails off the byway, the paths are either paved or manageable gravel roads.
The Oregon Trail Scenic Byway splits into two parts, 1: the loop that leads to the south side of the Snake River and ends on the northern portion of the river at Three Island Crossing State Park Interpretive Center, or 2: country roads that follow the Oregon Trail from Glenns Ferry to Bonneville Point. Find access to several locations for hiking, horseback riding, or camping along the route; carved by wagons and pioneers.
City of Rocks National Reserve | Almo
Established in 1988, the City of Rocks National Reserve spans approximately 14,300+/- acres full of scenic, geologic, and historical significance. Situated four or so miles west of Almo and around 15+/- miles southeast of Oakley, the City of Rocks is named for its skyline of rocky peaks resembling a cityscape. Regarded as a milestone along the Oregon/California Trail, the area is used today primarily for incredible rock climbing opportunities, camping, hiking, horseback riding, birding, and more. Don't miss Camp Rock, where travelers passing through left signatures and learn more through interpretive signage throughout.
Oregon Trail Historic Reserve | Boise
Located in Southeast Boise, The Oregon Trail Historic Reserve encompasses 77+/- acres of original trailheads pioneers used to travel to trading posts in Boise, gathering essential supplies to continue west. The reserve lends way to gravel pedestrian trail pathways that follow trail ruts as they head along the rim of scenic Boise Valley to the start of the descent. Hikers may enjoy delightful views of the Boise River from atop the rocky cliffs leading to the "City of Trees," otherwise known as Boise. Additionally, the reserve is home to a stone monument containing a bronze, 36-inch round "Old Oregon Trail" medallion.
Big Hill | Montpelier
East of Montpelier in Idaho, Big Hill was known to be one of the steepest descents along the Oregon Trail. A feat for pioneers who had just crossed the scorching Wyoming desert; the descent was so steep that the travelers had to tie their wagon wheels together to prevent wagons from slamming into the back of the oxen on the way down. Find wagon-wheel ruts this day along roadside pullouts on U.S. Highway 30 marked by mileposts 440.1, 441.7, and 454.5.
Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve | Arco & Carey
Known for some of the deepest open rift cracks in the world, Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is an ocean of incredible topography surrounded by sagebrush and cinder cones. The National park features dormant volcanoes, lava fields, and historical monuments preserved from the Oregon Trail. Just north of the park lies Goodoff's cutoff, an alternative route to the original trail used to avoid hostility and provide a safer journey; granted, travelers could beat the desert heat. The 230-mile route heads north from Fort Hall toward Big Southern Butte, past Arco, through the northern portion of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, southwest towards Camas Prairie, and eventually ending at Fort Boise.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument | Hagerman
This 4,000+/- acre park features fossil-rich grasslands and some of the most incredible geology in the state. Located in Hagerman, this serene piece of land also crossed paths with remnants of the Oregon Trail.
Pioneers who traveled the area encountered steep terrain and loose, sandy soil, leading to deep ruts carved by cargo-hauling wagons. The tracks can still be found along Bell Rapids Road and viewed from the Oregon Trail Overlook.
Three Island Crossing State Park | Glenns Ferry
Located just two miles off Interstate 84 at the Glenns Ferry exit, Three Island Crossing State Parks offers plenty of campground space with access to hookups, cabins, multiple picnic areas, and a historical interpretive center focused on Oregon Trail history and education. Tour the beautiful grassy pathways alongside the winding Snake River, and check out original wagon ruts and Conestoga replicas. Known as one of the most dangerous river crossings, pioneers had to travel across deep, fast-flowing waters notorious for holes that could over-turn wagons or journey a more desolate route south along the Snake River.
Massacre Rocks State Park| American Falls
Situated on the Snake River, Massacre Rocks State Park offers year-round recreation, including miles of hiking trails, world-class disc golf courses, beautiful picnic areas, incredible rock climbing routes, and plenty of rich history. The remarkable landscape was once shaped by the prehistoric Bonneville Flood, rolling and polishing the huge boulders that blanket the park. Additionally, the park was a well-known stopping point along the Oregon Trail and a site to remember the challenges pioneers faced. Discover a series of interpretive wayside exhibits on Oregon Trail history and check out Register Rock, a large boulder that travelers etched their names into as they passed.
Geyser Park | Soda Springs
Famous for its Geyser and several mineral springs, including Octagon Springs, Hooper Springs, and Lover's Delight, Soda Springs remains the home to the only captive Geyser in the world. The Geyser erupts miraculously every hour on the hour and was released when drillers seeking hot water for mineral baths tapped into an artesian well. Since being discovered by passing travelers on the Oregon Trail, Geyser Park has since developed into a site with interpretive exhibits that paint the area's historical beginnings.
Milner Historic Recreation Area | Burley
Located 9+/- miles west of Burley, Idaho, on the south side of the Snake River lies the Milner Historic Recreation Area. Grassy paths and picnic tables line the serene Snake River. The site offers many recreation opportunities, including four miles of Snake River shoreline, a boat launch, interpretive exhibits, picnicking, wildlife viewing, restroom facilities, and camping just down the way. Travel north of the west entrance to find an interpretive shelter and hiking trail leading to 100+/- year-old wagon ruts.
National Oregon/California Trail Center | Montpelier
Just before the Wyoming border lies the National Oregon/California Trail Center in downtown Montpelier; the interactive center features a unique and historically accurate perspective of what it was like to travel the Oregon Trail, complete with a simulated wagon train adventure. Hop aboard a covered wagon as the center's guides lead you westward, and a live cast of "pioneers" tell stories that bring the scene to life. Enjoy time spent at the mercantile or gathering at the wagon train at what was otherwise known as the Clover Creek Encampment, a resting stop for travelers to replenish food and water.
Fort Hall Replica Museum | Pocatello
Originally built-in 1834 by Nathaniel Wyeth, Fort Hall served as a critical trading post on the Snake River before travelers continued westward into the desert. The original Hall was demolished in 1863 and replaced by a replica stands as a memorial to Fort Hall's historical impact and offers visitors the opportunity to dive into the history of the 19th century. Check out first-hand accounts of travelers' experiences at Fort Hall and learn about the ecological composition of the area.