Tag Archives: National Historic Trail

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Overview

If the names of Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock sound familiar, it is perhaps because you grew up playing The Oregon Trail computer game on a Macintosh in the early 1990s.  The massive 800-foot tall sandstone cliffs enclosed within Scotts Bluff National Monument were once the unofficial one-third mark along the historic trail, as well as a landmark along the California Trail, the Mormon Pioneer Trail, and the short-lived Pony Express Trail.

Echo at Scotts Bluff

Highlights

Museum, vistas, historic trail, only road tunnels in Nebraska

Must-Do Activity

While we recommend the hike to the top from the visitor center, you should probably also drive up there, because these are the only three tunnels dug for a road in the entire state of Nebraska.

Best Trail

Saddle Rock Trail leads from the parking lot at the visitor center 1.6-miles up the 800-foot tall bluff through a tunnel carved in the sandstone for great views of distant Chimney Rock National Historic Site (an affiliated NPS unit), another prominent Nebraska landform noted by early emigrants.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Pose with the oxen sculptures pulling a wagon up Mitchell Pass in front of Scotts Bluff.

Where the Oregon Trail went

Peak Season

Summer, but watch for prairie rattlesnakes

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/scbl/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$5 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is not a campground within the monument, but the adjacent cities of Scottsbluff and Gering have RV parks.

You can also drive to the top (there are three tunnels)
The only road tunnels in Nebraska are in this National Monument.

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The trail on top of Scotts Bluff.
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Enjoy views of Scottsbluff, Nebraska and the North Platte River from atop the cliffs.
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Scott in the tunnel on Saddle Rock Trail.
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Drive east to Chimney Rock National Historic Site for another Nebraska landmark on the Oregon Trail.

Explore More – Did the U.S. Army abandon Fort Mitchell before or after completion of the transcontinental railroad?

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Big Hole National Battlefield

Overview

Big Hole National Battlefield is located in southwestern Montana, part of the larger Nez Perce National Historical Park, which spans four states.  Back in 1877, following violent clashes with white settlers, five bands of the Nez Perce tribe left the Wallowa Valley of Oregon and were followed east by the U.S. Army.  After the remaining 800 Nez Perce went over the mountains bypassing an Army blockade at Lolo Pass, they stopped to rest in the Big Hole Valley.  A surprise attack by the U.S. Army on the morning of August 9, 1877 led to bloodshed on both sides, with Nez Perce warriors forcing the troops to retreat, capturing a Howitzer cannon, and allowing their women and children to escape towards Yellowstone National Park.

Big Hole

Highlights

Overlook from visitor center, interpretive film, trail to site of Nez Perce Camp

Must-Do Activity

Start at the visitor center for the 26-minute film and an overview of the battlefield.  You are in for a treat if you happen to be around for a presentation by Dr. Bob Brown acting as Major Charles Rawn to describe his historic connection with the site.

Best Trail

The National Park Service visitor center overlooks the battlefield for orientation, and a paved road leads down to a trailhead to access the site of the attack (Nez Perce Camp), and a more strenuous climb to the Siege Area, army trenches, and the Howitzer capture site.  Interpretive booklets are available for only $1.00.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Montana is known for its Big Sky, which can be quite beautiful when pierced by the tale teepee poles set up at the site of the Nez Perce camp.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but winters are long and snowy in this part of Montana, making summer the best time to visit.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/biho/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and the Nez Perce Camp Trail is wide and flat enough to allow for wheelchairs.

Camping

None in the park, but campgrounds and dispersed camping can be found in nearby Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest.

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This monument was erected where U.S. Army troops were pinned down by sniper fire and dug trenches that are still visible today.
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The North Fork of the Big Hole River runs through the battlefield.
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The Howitzer capture site is at the end of a steep hike with great views.

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Explore More – How long was the journey between Wallowa Lake, Oregon and Bear Paw Battlefield in northeastern Montana where 432 Nez Perce were finally captured?

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City of Rocks National Reserve

Overview

In the high desert of southeast Idaho stands a collection of granite spires that served as a welcome rest stop along the California Trail.   At the height of the gold rush in 1852, some 50,000 pioneers passed this site in a single year.  Many left their names painted in axle grease, still legible on Camp Rock and Register Rock.  Today it is a popular destination for rock climbers from around the world, but also has 22 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

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Highlights

Rock climbing, Register Rock, Window Arch, primitive camping

Must-Do Activity

Rock climbers flock here from around the world to take on the granite spires that inspired emigrants on the California Gold Rush Trail to name it City of Rocks.  The grippy granite is fun for any skill level to clamber around on and easily accessible from all campsites.

Best Trail

Trails snake through this area leading to different climbing routes, especially around Elephant Rock, which is a great place to watch other climbers.  Keep watching the skies, too, as a variety of raptors (and pigeons) enjoy the thermals here.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Window Arch is a great place to watch the sun come up, just try not to wake up campers in the neighboring sites.

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Peak Season

Summer, since it is very cold at this elevation (7,000 feet) in other seasons.  Autumn briefly turns aspen leaves yellow.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ciro/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Free to enter and only $12.72 to camp per night (so bring exact change)

Road Conditions

A dirt road winds through the park and is accessible to passenger vehicles.

Camping

78 primitive campsites located off the dirt Emery Canyon Road, with several nice sites sit right next to Window Arch.  For more upscale accommodations try the Lodge and Bunkhouse at nearby Castle Rocks State Park.

Lots of fins

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One of the more famous inscriptions
Emigrants on the California Trail passed right through here.

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Explore More – How many billions of years ago did the oldest granite here form?

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