Step into the captivating past at Wyoming’s South Pass City, where time stands still. This historic mining town, nestled just north of the legendary Oregon Trail, welcomes you with open arms. Explore its rich heritage through a visitor’s center, 17 restored historic structures and more than 30 period room exhibits. Established in 1867 during the gold rush, South Pass City holds historical and cultural significance. Experience the Carissa Gold Mine or try your luck at panning for gold in the river, embracing the challenging allure of the past. Beyond its mining history, South Pass City played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. In a bold and encouraging act, one of its representatives introduced the women’s suffrage bill, leading to Wyoming becoming the first state to guarantee women their inherent right to vote and hold office in 1869.
Preserved as a treasured piece of history, South Pass City invites you to embark on an exploration of American history. Afterward, delight in the picturesque picnic areas and nature trails that envelop the historic site. Discover Wyoming’s true essence as you uncover the resilient and approachable soul of South Pass City.
For more information on Wyoming, visit TravelWyoming.com.
Towering over the southernmost part of the Owyhee desert are the Owyhee Mountains, a rugged range extending from Southwest Idaho to northern Nevada. The elevation varies from 2,000-8,000 feet (600-2,400 meters) above sea level. Nearly a half-million acres are protected by the U.S. government, making it one of the largest strongholds of undeveloped wilderness in the country.
When miners discovered silver in the mountains surrounding Hayden Peak, the once-sleepy settlement of Silver City transformed into a booming mining metropolis. Then, it was home to eight saloons, two hotels, six general stores and Idaho’s first-ever newspaper. When mines closed in 1942, the city faded into a boarded-up ghost town. Today, Silver City is one of the last towns from Idaho’s silver rush that hasn’t been developed or destroyed by wildfires. It looks nearly the same now as it did over 150 years ago … and it’s open to the public. Visit in late spring, summer or fall.
Past the rugged mountain peaks and ghost towns, three rivers cut through the Owyhee desert. Each of them is a crucial source of freshwater to 200-plus species – including trophy bass and world-famous brown trout – that call this place home.
For more information on Southwest Idaho, visit VisitSouthwestIdaho.org.
A unique and exciting event in the Great American West is South Dakota’s Indian Horse Relay Races! Leading riders and teams from seven Nations covering Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming and Canada battle it out on the racetrack.
Indian relays began approximately 400 years ago, when the sacred horse was introduced to the Plains. Today’s Indian Relay competition is an organized sport with governing associations, rules and prize money. Races are broken into heats, with four to six teams lined up on a racetrack. Each team has three horses, one rider, two horse holders and a horse mugger. The mugger is responsible for catching incoming horses in between exchanges, while the holders calm the horses before and after runs.
You can find an annual tour of Indian Relays organized by the Horse Nation Indian Relay Council (HNIRC), headquartered in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
- May 20-21 (Fort Pierre, South Dakota)
- June 24-25 (Crow Agency, Montana)
- July 29-30 (Evanston, Wyoming)
- August 5-6, 2023 (Pine Ridge, South Dakota)
- August 12 -13, 2023 (Lower Brule, South Dakota)
- August 18-20 (Crow Agency, Montana)
- September 22-24 (Casper, Wyoming)
Check back here for the 2024 event schedule.
For more information on South Dakota, visit TravelSouthDakota.com.
There are countless ways to experience the history that shaped the American West when you visit Sheridan County. Less than an hour from downtown is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Other important Indian Wars battle sites – including Fort Phil Kearney, the Wagon Box Fight and the Connor Battlefield – can be visited on a half-day tour.
The Brinton Museum, located on the 620-acre Quarter Circle A Ranch, offers a view into the life of Bradford Brinton, a Western art collector who was a patron of many of the most celebrated early Western artists. Also in Big Horn is the LeDoux Saloon, where Ernest Hemingway spent time during the 1920s (when it was known as the Last Chance Saloon).
The Trail End State Historic Site is a Flemish revival-style mansion built by former Governor John B. Kendrick. The Sheridan Inn, constructed in 1892, was conceptualized and developed by Buffalo Bill Cody. Cody auditioned new members for his legendary “Wild West Show” from the front porch. In the Bighorn Mountains at over 10,000 feet is the Medicine Wheel, an ancient ceremonial Indian site still used today for cultural and ritualistic events by the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Tribes.
For more information on Sheridan, visit SheridanWyoming.org.
Embark on a captivating journey through the rich history of the area, shaped by the Black Hills Gold Rush. Discover how gold was discovered in 1874, igniting a population surge of gold hunters and mining camps. Today, you can still experience this rush by visiting various sites in the Rapid City area that showcase the profound impact it had on the region.
Start your gold rush experience at the Journey Museum & Learning Center, where you’ll explore exhibits on geology, pioneer history, and how the gold rush impacted the Lakota people. Witness the creation of Black Hills Gold jewelry with a tour at the Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold Factory, where artisans are still handcrafting Black Hills Gold into iconic grape leaf designs.
Discover the underground wonders of the area at Black Hills Caverns with a guided tour and try your hand at gemstone mining. Or follow the historic Rockerville Flume trail, which weaves you through stunning views and into historic tunnels, and reveals pieces of the remaining flume used during the mining boom of the 1880s.
For more information on Rapid City, visit VisitRapidCity.com.
Tucked away next to the Missouri River in northeastern North Dakota, the tranquil plains of the 1800s became home for the most iconic trading posts in the West. Fort Union Trading Post was a vital location for seven different Northern Plains Tribes and Westerners. Strategically situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, Fort Union became a crucial hub for commerce and cultural exchange.
Trappers and traders from various backgrounds converged here, exchanging furs, goods and stories. The fort was renowned for its diverse workforce, with individuals from numerous ethnicities and cultures working side by side. Written records describe relations there as a “bastion of peaceful coexistence” where over 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 in merchandise traded hands. (That’s over $2.6 billion in present day standards.) Today, you can relive this activity with living history interpretations including blacksmithing, weaving and even teepee-building. Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site stands as a well-preserved reminder of the pivotal role played by trading posts in shaping the history of the American West.
For more information on North Dakota, visit NDTourism.com.
Vast, unspoiled and wild, Montana represents the very best of the American West. With over 147,000 square miles of jagged mountain peaks, sparkling waters, charming small towns and rich history, there is adventure around every corner.
Visitors that decide to travel east will have an unexpected and wholly different kind of Montana experience. Rugged badlands, winding rivers, quiet mountain ranges and vast prairies make up the tapestry of eastern Montana. Medicine Rocks State Park, filled with otherworldly rock formations, has been drawing visitors in for thousands of years. The park earned its name because it was a place of “big medicine” where Indian hunting parties conjured up magical spirits.
Or discover Montana’s largest state park, Makoshika State Park, named from the Lakota phrase meaning “bad land” or “bad spirits.” Today, the pine- and juniper-studded badlands formations are home to the fossil remains of such dinosaurs as tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops.
Whether you’re looking for wide-open roads, Old West cattle-trading towns, Native American battlefields or ethereal landscapes where dinosaurs once roamed, eastern Montana is the place to explore.
For more information on Montana, visit VISITMT.COM.
Red Wall Country is adjacent to the Middle Powder River at the southeastern end of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming. It is an area rich in history of Native people, cattle barons, homesteaders and outlaws. The area lies within the BLM’s Middle Fork Powder River Recreation Area. The landscape was the setting of tales of Indian trails and warfare, Dull Knife Battlefield, Hole-in-the-Wall, Outlaw Cave and the Johnson County War. It is a land of colored canyons and hidden valleys of breathtaking scope. It is an iconic landmark of the American West.
The Hole-in-the-Wall was the site used in the late 19th century by the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, a group of cattle rustlers and other outlaws that included the Logan brothers, Black Jack Ketchum and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.
The area was remote and secluded, easily defended because of its narrow passes, and impossible for lawmen to approach without alerting the outlaws. From the late 1860s to around 1910, the pass was used frequently by numerous outlaw gangs. Eventually, it faded into history, with gangs using it less often. Today’s travelers can reach the area in the comfort of their car and enjoy the views and vistas.
For more information on Johnson County, visit JohnsonCountyWY.com.
Sun Valley is known today as a winter escape for the rich and famous, but the area is rooted in Western culture. For over 150 years, sheep ranching has been a key part of Sun Valley’s identity. Sheep ranching was once such a major economic driver that the sheep population in 1918 boomed to 2.6 million, making Idaho more densely populated with sheep than humans.
Today’s numbers are much smaller, but the tradition lives on. The sheep still make their seasonal pilgrimage 1,000 miles (1,609 km) up the mountain into the Snake River Valley in the spring and retrace their steps come autumn back to the Wood River Valley. The return is celebrated each year at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival.
Further north in Idaho, Wallace and the surrounding area is the richest silver mining district in the world – earning the nickname “Silver Capital of the World.” The mining area was founded in 1884 after the discovery of silver, gold and other metal. Mining remains a large part of the economy, blending Wild West mining history with modern-day techniques, as it continues to produce silver and stay in harmony with the area’s sprawling mountain landscape shared by outdoor recreationalists.
For more information on Idaho, visit VisitIdaho.org.