California National Historic Trail - CA, CO, ID, KS, MO, NE, NV, OR, UT, WY

The California National Historic Trail is an incredible 2,000 miles long and recounts the journey of over 250,000 people who made their way to California during the 1840s and 50s searching for gold, prosperity, and a better life. It was the greatest mass migration in American history. The trail runs roughly from Independence, MO to Sacramento, CA, and spans ten states - California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Passport sites and interpretive centers exist along the route in several states. A modern-day auto route is also available for those wanting to trace the trail by car.

City Of Rocks National Reserve

Located in south central Idaho, City of Rocks National Reserve has been nicknamed the "The Silent City" for its unique rock spire formations that attract hikers, campers, and adventurers. Natural processes are continually working on the granite to create arches, panholes, and many other characteristics that make this an interesting place to explore. Fishing, mountain biking, and auto touring are also popular here.

The Reserve encompasses nearly 14,500 acres of land at the south end of the Albion Mountains and is free to visit. The Visitor Center is located in the town of Almo just outside of the Reserve.

Craters Of The Moon National Monument and Preserve

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a collection of volcanic features created along the Great Rift volcanic rift zone - a 50-mile zone containing various volcanic structures and landforms. The Craters of the Moon Lava Field is the largest of its type in the lower 48 states and is famous for its caves and striking features, like the 700-ft. tall Big Cinder Butte, one of the largest basaltic cinder cones in the world.

Get your bearings at the Visitor Center before heading out along Loop Road to explore the park. If you have the time, get a cave permit to explore some of the caves in the park. Otherwise, take a hike up Inferno Cone, take a walk along Devil's Orchard Trail, or explore some of the spatter cones along the way. Loop Road is only 7-miles long and won't take you too long, but if you really want to get into the backcountry and have a high-clearance vehicle, consider driving through the Bureau of Land Management Monument and NPS Preserve.

The park is open nearly all year, but closes in mid-November to prepare the road for cross-country skiers. The Visitor Center and bookstore re-open in early January.

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument protects one of the richest sites in the world of Pliocene-aged fossils. These fossils are between 3-4 million years old and the site contains a variety of animal fossils, including otters, a prehistoric canine called the bone-crusher, the Hagerman Horse, the American mastodon, and the ancient peccary. Local ranchers began noticing fossils here in the late 1920s eroding out of the rocks along the Snake River. Before long, paleontologists had found the largest single quarry of Equus simplicidens, an ancient predecessor to our modern-day horse.

Visitors to the Monument will find all of the fossils located in the Visitor Center as there are no excavation sites open to the public. In addition to fossils, visitors can enjoy scenic overlooks of both the Snake River and the Oregon Trail, hike along the Emigrant Trail which runs alongside the visible remains of the Oregon Trail, and also enjoy seasonal Ranger-led programs and activities. There is no fee to visit the park or the Visitor Center.

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail

During the last Ice Age between 12,000 and 17,000 years ago, scientists believe up to forty torrential floods moved from Montana down through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail marks the various sites and remnants of these great Ice Age floods. Dry Falls in Washington is particularly impressive. These former falls are now just a 400-foot cliff that's 3.5 miles wide - four times larger than today's Niagara Falls. For a list of state parks and places to visit along the Trail, click here.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail - PA, OH, WV, KY, IN, ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA

The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail marks the historic journey by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark along 4,900 miles of wilderness from Pennsylvania all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. The Trail connects 16 states - Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon - and includes museums, landmarks, exhibits, and Visitor Centers along the route. For a complete list of markers and things to see and do, click here.

Minidoka National Historic Site

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order relocating 120,000 Japanese-Americans into war relocation centers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Minidoka was one of those camps, and Minidoka National Historic Site interprets what life was like during its occupation. Begin your visit at the Visitor Center where you can pick up a map, get your NPS passport stamped, view exhibits, and watch a short park film. Then, set out on the 1.6 mile self-guided trail, locating the historic structures and learning about life at Minidoka.

If you have the time, you might want to visit other nearby NPS sites in the area like Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve, City Of Rocks National Reserve, and particularly Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, which is only 40 miles away. The park is open sunrise to sunset every day, and there is no fee to enter the park.

Nez Perce National Historical Park - ID, MT, OR, WA

The Nez Perce National Historic Park highlights the Native Nez Perce peoples of the inland Pacific Northwest. During their 4,900-mile journey, Lewis and Clark's expedition spent more time with the Nez Perce than any other group. The Park consists of 38 sites, which together tell the story of these Native Americans.

The main Visitor Center and Park Headquarters are located in Spalding, Idaho. Other popular sites and activities include finding petroglyphs in Buffalo Eddy in Washington, visiting Canoe Camp in Orofino, ID to see how canoes were carved out, and several historic battlefields. Nez Perce National Historic Park includes sites in four states - Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Oregon National Historic Trail - ID, KS, MO, NE, OR, WA, WY

Beginning in Independence, Missouri and ending some 2,130 miles later in Oregon City, Oregon, and passing through seven states along the way, the Oregon Trail was the passage west for many settlers looking for a new life. The Oregon National Historic Trail marks the stories, landmarks, and landscapes of this incredible 4-month long journey made during the mid-1800's.

Today, there are several ways to experience the trail, with the most popular being by car. Maps citing various markers in each state are available to help you plan your journey . Of course, you don't have to travel the entire 2,000 miles to enjoy the trail, but for the purists who like to collect NPS Passport Stamps, you will find them at various Visitor Centers along the route here:

- Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center - Idaho
- Craters of the Moon National Historic Site - Idaho
- Three Island Crossing State Park - Idaho
- Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission State Historic Site - Kansas
- Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historical Site - Kansas
- Marysville Chamber of Commerce & Convention & Visitors Bureau - Kansas
- Harry S. Truman National Historic Site - Missouri
- Trailside Center - Missouri
- Alexander Majors House Museum - Missouri
- National Frontier Trails Museum - Missouri
- Scotts Bluff National Monument - Nebraska
- Homestead National Monument of America - Nebraska
- Flagstaff Hill/National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center - Oregon
- McLoughlin House - Oregon
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site - Washington
- National Historic Trails Interpretive Center - Wyoming
- Martin's Cove - Wyoming
- Fort Bridger State Historic Park - Wyoming
-Fossil Butte National Monument - Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park - ID, MT, WY

Yellowstone National Park

Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park became America's first National Park and also the first in the world. The park is enormous, covering 3,468 square miles, which offers visitors a variety of ways to enjoy the scenery. Yellowstone's most popular features are its geysers, the most famous being Old Faithful. Yellowstone is situated on the Yellowstone Caldera - America's largest super-volcano - which is responsible for the geothermal activity in the park.

Besides viewing the geysers, other popular activities in Yellowstone include hiking, backpacking, camping, cross-country skiing, biking, horseback riding, fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing. Yellowstone's reintroduction of the gray wolf to the park is one of the park's successes in recent years. Other popular wildlife include bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, pronghorn, and many more.

Yellowstone National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1978 and was America's first to receive such a designation. It is also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. Yellowstone is a busy park - one of America's busiest - and receives more than 4 million visitors annually, so plan accordingly. Yellowstone has ten Visitor Centers scattered throughout the park to explore, and it shares borders with Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Read more about winter in Yellowstone National Park here.

Yellowstone National Park Old Faithful