|California Trail crosses through northern Nevada|
For decades, pioneers traveled the Oregon Trail from the East to new lives in the West. It is indeed the most prominent of all roads leading to Pacific Ocean Country.
But another trail was equally important in carrying hundreds of thousands of pioneers to greener pastures: the California Trail.
|Map of the California Trail|
Most emigrants traveled the Oregon Trail through to southern Idaho when California-bound travelers cut away to head for the Golden State. Their route took them across northern Nevada before turning south to California.
Because crossing the lofty Sierra Nevada Mountains was difficult, some early travelers went as far south as Bakersfield, California. The first few groups of pioneers had to abandon their wagons in what is now Nevada; this was as early as 1841. In the next several years, guides searched for new routes across the Sierra Nevadas, finally finding one that was doable by wagon when there was no snow on the ground.
The Donner party learned the hard way that wagons couldn’t make it across the pass with snow on the ground. Today, modern travelers can cross what is known as Donner Pass in just a few minutes of freeway driving.
|Rest area lies on California Trail|
The California Trail attracted growing numbers of pioneers every year, but trail traffic really escalated with the discovery of gold in California in 1848. That year, 25,000 people traveled by wagon train to California; this was more than had come in all the years previously.
Soon, 50,000 people were coming to California this way.
Travelers can follow the California Trail in comfort by driving Interstate 80 across northern Nevada, dipping south to Reno and then continuing on to San Francisco via Donner Pass.