Oregon Trail


Experience the adventure of the greatest peacetime migration in the history of the world on this 12-day Oregon Trail expedition. Explore the reasons behind the westward expansion movement, re-live a typical day on the trail, learn of the hardships, the sorrow, the triumphs, as we retrace the steps of those courageous pioneers of 150 years ago under the guidance of a professional historian. This unique interpretive program features living history, special speakers and events, authentic meals, interpretive centers, historic sites and other activities designed to help you better understand how Manifest Destiny shaped our country’s development.

Begins in Kansas City, MO.  Ends in Portland, OR

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Tour highlights:

  • National Frontier Trails Center
  • Arabia Steamboat Museum
  • Mahaffie Farmstead
  • Fort Leavenworth
  • Kansas Museum of History
  • Hollenberg Pony Express Station
  • Fort Kearney
  • Great Platte River Road Museum
  • Chimney Rock
  • Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • National Historic Trails Center
  • Fort Caspar
  • Independence Rock
  • Fort Bridger
  • Fort Hall
  • Three Island Crossing
  • Massacre Rocks
  • Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
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Tour Itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrivals

Welcome to Kansas City. Pioneers began their journey at nearby Independence, where they purchased wagons and outfitted them for the five month journey ahead. We will enjoy a festive welcome dinner and overnight here before embarking on our own Oregon Trail Adventure. (D)

Day 2 – Beginnings

Between 1842 and 1860 an estimated 250,000 emigrants traveled this route west. We’ll begin our journey back in time with a visit to the National Frontier Trails Center situated right on the original spring where pioneers filled their water barrels for the journey ahead. From historic Independence Square, we’ll move on to Kansas City, where we’ll visit an amazing display of perfectly preserved cargo from an 1850’s steamboat wreck, supplies which were originally intended for westering pioneers. Also on the agenda is a visit to the Mahaffie Farmstead and Stagecoach Stop which stabled horses and fed commercial travelers along the Oregon & Santa Fe Trails. (B)


Day 3 – Wagons Ho!

We’ll follow the trail into present-day Kansas where early day traders found a conducive river crossing at Fort Leavenworth plus military protection as they entered Indian Country. Wagon ruts are still plainly visible on the riverbanks. We’ll tour the Frontier Army Museum which provides insights into Indian relations and American expansion as well as Army life on the frontier. Finally we’ll visit the Kansas Museum of History, one of the top state historical museums in the country. We’ll overnight in Topeka near the site where the Oregon route separated from the Santa Fe Trail. (B)

Day 4 – The Great Platte River Road

Today we’ll visit Rock Creek Station, the first major milepost on the trail, which served the Pony Express as well as pioneers. We’ll see actual wagon ruts carved into the earth by hundreds of prairie schooners 150 years ago. Living history exhibits enhance this outstanding example of a 19th century roadhouse. Our journey across the prairie also includes a visit to the Hollenberg Pony Express Station. In the 18 months preceding an 1849 War Department report, an estimated 30,000 emigrants passed through Fort Kearney, built in 1848 solely for the protection of emigrants. We’ll tour the fort and hear the reminiscences of a ’52 pioneer before overnighting in the nearby town of Kearney. (B, L)

Day 5 – Ash Hollow / Chimney Rock

Before departing Kearney we’ll visit the Great Platte River Road Museum spanning present-day Interstate 80. Sweet spring water made Ash Hollow a major stopover on the Oregon Trail a welcome respite after negotiating the treacherous Windlass Hill where wagon ruts remain to tell the story of the arduous lowering of wagons down the steep incline. Further west, Chimney Rock – perhaps the most famous landmark along the trail – served as a gauge of the distance already covered and as a sign of the mountainous terrain to come. Tonight we’ll enjoy a prairie cookout and evening program in the shadow of Chimney Rock. We’ll overnight in Gering, NE. (B, D)

Day 6 – Fort Laramie / Register Cliff

This morning we’ll visit Scotts Bluff National Monument before moving on to Wyoming (we’re one-third of the way!). Established in 1834 by fur trappers, Fort Laramie became a major military post along the Oregon Trail. The living history exhibits and interpretive tour of the fort provide a deeper understanding of both the westward expansion movement and the Native Americans who staked their lives on preventing it. Wagon wheel ruts are still visible at nearby Guernsey State Park; and Register Cliff, which rises 100 feet above the prairie, reflects names and hometowns of thousands of pioneers who passed by in the 1850’s and 1860’s. We’ll end today’s leg of the journey in Casper, Wyoming. (B)

Day 7 – Oregon Wagon Train

This morning we’ll pay a visit to the outstanding National Historic Trails Center and Fort Caspar, a faithful replica of the military post built here in 1858. Although it had only a brief lifespan, its location marks a crucial crossing (by either bridge or Mormon ferry) of the Platte River by westering pioneers. The plains of central Wyoming are little changed from 150 years ago when the pioneers approached the Continental Divide. We’ll experience our own wagon ride here in authentic Conestoga wagons that retrace the actual route of our predecessors. We’ll overnight again in Casper. (B,L)

Day 8 – South Pass / Continental Divide / Mormon Handcart Museum

Pioneers embarking on the hazardous Oregon Trail knew at the outset that they had to begin late enough in the spring to have grass for the livestock, but early enough to cross the mountains before the first major snowfall. Those fortunate enough to reach Independence Rock by the Fourth of July knew that they had accomplished both goals. The occasion was one of celebration, a pause to rest the livestock, wash off the trail dust and of course, carve their names on the rock. We’ll end our day in Evanston near the Wyoming/Idaho border. (B)

Day 9 – Fort Bridger / Fort Hall

This morning we’ll pay a visit to Fort Bridger, Wyoming’s oldest permanent settlement Established in 1842 by mountain man Jim Bridger, the fort served the Overland Stage, Pony Express and Union Pacific as well as the weary Oregon Trail emigrants. Then we’ll follow the beautiful Snake River into Idaho where we’ll visit the recreated Fort Hall (we’re two-thirds of the way there!) and the Bannock County Historical Museum which presents the Native American side of westward expansion. A special treat awaits us here: an authentic Dutch Oven Dinner such as the pioneers might have prepared over a campfire. Tonight we overnight in Pocatello. (B, D)


Day 10 – Three Island Crossing

Some of the most hazardous crossings and precipices of the journey occurred when the pioneers and their stock were the most worn out. Add to that the reaction by the Indians that the pioneers were not just passers-through but permanent settlers, and the task becomes nearly unbearable. Today we’ll visit two of the final obstacles: Three Island Crossing and Massacre Rock Pass, each with its own living history interpretation. Our overnight will be in Baker City, OR. (B)

Day 11 – Trail's End

Journey’s end is in sight as we move on to Flagstaff Hill, site of the impressive 23,000 square foot Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Probably the most comprehensive interpretive center on the trail, this outstanding facility with its state-of-the-art exhibits and living history interpretation, will complete the experience of our tour. The Lewis & Clark Trail merges here as we follow the Columbia River, stopping at the Dalles where pioneers made the choice of paying exorbitant prices to float their wagons the final 60 miles or following the Barlow Road past the south side of Mount Hood. Oregon City, our home for tonight is the official end of the trail. We’ll celebrate new-found friends and a fresh awareness of a major influence on the course of American history with a festive farewell dinner tonight in Oregon City. (B, D)

Day 12 – Departures

Sadly we bid a fond farewell to our Oregon Trail adventure as we board our departing flights for home.  Airport transfers are included (B)

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Happy Trails!