America's Scenic Byways

Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway

119 miles - 3 hours to drive the byway, or a day to visit

Travel through history along the Western Trails Historic and Scenic Byway. Drawn by the forgiving terrain and fertile land along the Platte River, tens of thousands of the nation's pioneers traveled through this valley on their way West. The Oregon and Mormon Trails, the Pony Express, stagecoaches and steam locomotives, outlaws and immigrants all followed, making this passage the Main Street of America in the 1800s. The byway, the present day Nebraska Highways 26 and 92, follows this historic route.

The trail begins in Ogallala, once known as the Gomorrah of the Plains, a rowdy city where cattle drives ended and "cuttin' loose" began. Some of the most colorful characters in western history passed through Ogallala, and many never left. You can visit some of these 'tough guys' at the Boot Hill Cowboy Cemetery. Earlier travelers through the area are buried along this route at the Ash Hollow State Historical Park a few miles down the road. Home to the remains of prehistoric rhinoceros, mammoths, and mastodons, and other ancient mammals that once roamed the Great Plains, Ash Hollow also shows the signs of the more recent passing of immigrants whose wagon wheel ruts are etched in the plains.

Losing track of time is easy to do among the history of the Western Trails Byway, but for some, Chimney Rock marked the end of traveling over the plains and the beginning of the Rockies. "Towering to the Heavens," as one early pioneer described it, Chimney Rock was the most recognized road sign along the trail west and one you could not miss. Another road sign along the trail west is Scott's Bluff. Rising 800 feet above the valley floor, Scott's Bluff is named for a fur trapper who died there in 1828, and is the site of many impressive geologic formations.

These sights were forever etched into the minds of the people who traveled this area so many years ago, and after traveling in their footsteps along the Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway, you will find them forever within you as well.