The Trail is like a frayed rope on the ends: emigrants started at a variety of different places such as Wayne City, Missouri, St. Joseph, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska. The route has a number of end points in California with Sacramento, California being the farthest west. The California National Historic Trail passes through the following 10 states: Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and California. The official trail is about 8,000 miles which encompasses all of the alternates and spur routes. We often say the trail is 2,000 miles from east to west not including the various alternate routes or spurs.
Where can I obtain a map and brochure for the Trail?
Trail brochures may be obtained from a number of locations. Many museums and visitor centers along the trail distribute our free brochures. Places to Go provides a sample of some of the sites along the trail that may carry our publications. See Trail Brochures to download brochures directly or email us to request one.
How do I visit or follow the Trail?
The Trail is not a clearly marked nor continuous hiking trail. Instead it is a corridor that passes through different states and land ownership. Visitors can follow segments of the original trail on public lands and approximate other sections by following the trail's Auto Tour Routes. However, many parts of the original trail are privately owned, have been lost to development, are under plow, or cross military or American Indian tribal reserves. Unless clearly marked, there is no public trail access across private property and reserves. Before entering those lands, you must locate the owners and ask their permission.To view an interactive map of the official trail visit Places to Go.
We do not currently have any teacher or student specific products. We would be happy to mail you our official map and guide brochure for your classroom. Email us with your contact information, mailing address, and the quantity of brochures you need for your class.
What year was the California National Historic Trail established?
Congress established the California National Historic Trail in 1992. The Bidwell-Bartleson Company took the first wagon train overland to California in 1841.
What is a National Historic Trail?
Much like a national park, a national historic trail is created by an act of Congress. National historic trails are congressionally designated official routes that reflect the research, review, and recommendation of many trail experts. National historic trails commemorate historic trade, migration, and other routes important to American culture.
Who owns the Trail?
The Trail is administered by the National Park Service (National Trails office), but the actual route on the ground is owned or managed by public, private, nonprofit, state, county, and local landowners. The National Trails office works with these landowners to identify the historic trail resources, provide site planning and design, map the trail, and develop educational opportunities. National Trails does not own any land on the trail.
How can I learn more about the Trail and take part in organized activities along the trail?