Oregon Trail Loop
<<Read Time: 4 minutes>>
Fort Laramie/Register Cliffs/Guernsey State Park/Oregon Trail Ruts/Quebec 01
Roundtrip drive time: 4 hours 15 minutes. Can be split into two days with an overnight at Guernsey State Park if desired.
Broke an axle on your wagon? Need to trade for supplies? Died of Dysentery? Anyone who has played the classic Oregon Trail or one of its many reboots will enjoy the chance to get a glimpse of the real-life history behind the trail that saw thousands of emigrants in the mid-1800s. This itinerary hits regional highlights and would be best taken in with an overnight in Guernsey or camping at Guernsey State Park. If you only have one day, we recommend skipping Guernsey State Park and venturing to Quebec 01 on a different day.
(Drive time: 1 hour, 45 minutes)
Heading east on Hwy 85 (just north of Cheyenne), head toward Torrington. Take a left on Hwy 26, pointing yourselves toward Lingle, WY (home to a historical marker the Oregon Trail. Watch for signs if you’d like to stop). Continuing northwest on Hwy 26, your first official stop will be Fort Laramie National Historical Site.
What began as a fur trading fort in 1834, developed into a major military post by 1849 until its abandonment in 1890. Today, the fort is run by the US National Park Service (no entrance fee). Visitors can learn about life at the fort and the history surrounding it – pioneers heading west on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails stopped to restock on supplies and get medical help. The transcontinental telegraph, the Pony Express, and several stages fed through here. The location was site to treaty signings, hub of trading, and a resting place for tens of thousands of people moving west.
(Drive time: 25 minutes)
After digging into frontier life at the fort, plug “Register Cliff Monument State Historic Site” into your GPS and choose a route. What takes roughly 25 minutes by vehicle was a full day’s journey for the wagon- and cart-toting pioneers. Carving a party’s information on the large sandstone cliff was a rite of passage for the travelers and a well-known (literal) landmark along the trail. The human spirit is palpable as you stand at the base of the cliff and hunt for the oldest dates on the wall. The monument is run by Guernsey State Park and has no entry fee.
(Drive time: 10 minutes)
Hop back in the car and search “Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site.” The sandstone in the area lends once again to capturing history. Thousands of wagon wheels passed over this stretch of land and wore down ruts up to five feet deep in the soft stone! Just a short walk from the parking area, visitors can imagine what the pioneers must have been thinking as they maneuvered all their worldly possessions across Wyoming. There are no fees to access the site (also overseen by Guernsey State Park). There are picnic shelters and a restroom available to the public.
(Drive time: 15 minutes)
Next stop: Guernsey State Park, just to the north of the town of Guernsey. Entrance fees run $6-9 per vehicle, giving you access to the reservoir, seven campgrounds (overnight camping is an additional fee, make reservations here: https://wyoparks.wyo.gov/index.php/reservations-guernsey), hiking trails, and a museum. The museum, open May 1 to September 30, was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is a great example of what Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program set about to accomplish during the Great Depression. Part of the hiking trail system, historic picnic shelters and the “Castle” were also products of this program. A great stop for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
(Drive time: 50 minutes)
Make your way back to Hwy 26, and head west. You will intersect you with I-25, where Cheyenne is less than an hour and a half drive south. Chugwater might be a great food stop along the way - Buffalo Lodge always has Chugwater’s internationally acclaimed chili on the menu or the Chugwater Soda Fountain is the oldest still-operating soda fountain in Wyoming and offers homemade soups and sandwiches, perfectly complimented by a handcrafted, old fashioned shake or malt.
(Drive time: 20 minutes; Final stretch to Cheyenne: 30 minutes)
If you still haven’t gotten your fill of history, you can make a stop at Quebec 01 Missile Alert Facility State Historic Site just off I-25 ($2-6/person, kids 11 and younger are free) to see a decommissioned IBCM launch capsule 60 feet underground and the living facilities where the missileers and support staff stayed during their deployment to the field (Drive time: 20 minutes). Then, it is a quick 30-minute drive back to Cheyenne!