Frontier trailhead towns of the Old West



During the great migration of emigrating pioneers across the America’s western frontier, certain towns became the primary staging and supply points for settlers, wagon trains, stagecoaches, cattle drives, and communications. These trailhead towns were key to the development of the nation between the Mississippi River on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska – January 2014

Some trailhead towns grew into mighty metropolitan areas (i.e. St. Louis and Sacramento – both notably are also navigable river cities), others became secondary suburbs of newly arising cities (i.e. Independence and Leavenworth as suburbs of Kansas City and Council Bluffs as a suburb of Omaha), while other have tended to fade from their mid-19th century glory days (Atchison, Nauvoo, Fort Laramie, and Abilene).


Independence Landing -Source:

Below is a list of the primary frontier trailhead towns of America’s Old West during the mid-19th century (with weblinks provided for most):



If I missed any key trails or trailhead towns associated with America’s westward expansion, please let me know and I will gladly add them. I purposely did not include the Lewis and Clark Trail as it was a trail of exploration and not an emigration or communications route.



This entry was posted in Active transportation, cities, commerce, Communications, culture, geography, hiking, historic preservation, history, infrastructure, land use, Maps, States, trails, transportation, Travel, walking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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