Riding in the ruts of the Oregon Trail

Last weekend we joined a guide and took our family for an overnight trek on the Oregon Trail organized through Historic Trails West. This experience was hands-down, the most educational and amazingly fun excursion we have done in the four years that we have been homeschooling. Three cheers for an educational field trip that even parents can enjoy!

Covered Wagon ride on Oregon Trail, Things to do in Casper Wyoming, Homeschool fieldtrip Wyoming

The day of our trek we met our guide and owner of Historic Trails West, Morris Carter, at the Historic Interpretive Center in Casper Wyoming. When we saw a man with a rugged horse trailer and a cowboy hat, we knew we found our guy. After introductions we followed Morris and his crew to the start of the trek. We loaded our overnight packs into the back of the covered wagon while Morris and Greg, another driver, hitched up the horses. The horses are beautiful creatures. Don’t let their size intimidate you, they were extremely friendly and loved attention!

Heading out on the Oregon Trail:

Once the wagon was loaded and the team was hitched, we all climbed in. I could see the anticipation building while looking at my children’s faces. When the team of horses, Mike and Mark, gave that first pull it was surreal. Being right in the ruts of the actual Oregon Trail is something my family will never forget.

Family on Oregon Trail, Homeschool Fieldtrip Wyoming, History Fieldtrip Wyoming, Covered Wagon Ride Oregon Trail

As you might expect, the trail is a little bumpy in spots (and a lot bumpy in others). Honestly, the bumps are a main part of the experience though. Who would ever feel like they were in the ruts of the real Oregon Trail if it was a smooth, flat ride over a well-maintained trail? Find your sense of adventure and climb on up!


Interactive History Lessons:

During the covered wagon ride on our first night, we were filled with wonder as we listened to Morris and Greg teach us about the history of the trail. The trail was originally used by fur traders and it was not until the Manifest Destiny movement in the early 1840’s that it was coined the Oregon Trail. All different types of people from missionaries to businessmen used the trail to travel West toward Oregon. The West became the land of opportunity. Travel typically consisted of 12-18 miles per day so the entire journey of over 2000 miles took approximately six months.

Historic Trails West Oregon Trail, Homeschool Fieldtrip Wyoming, History Fieldtrip Wyoming, Covered Wagon Ride Oregon Trail

Of course, the six-month journey across the Oregon Trail did not happen without issue. While rolling along the trail we were told of difficult circumstances and injuries that happened to travelers and their animals. Our guides did a great job of presenting situations and asking the children to think of some possible solutions. Numerous open-ended questions were asked to promote critical thinking and a deeper understanding of this period in time. Our time in the wagon was most definitely an interactive time. Morris and Greg did a fantastic job painting a picture what life would have been like if we were on the trail in the mid 1800’s.


Overnight Camp:

After riding on the trail for about 2.5 hours we rode up to our campsite for the night. The horses were unhitched and left to graze while we brought our belongings to our lodging, the tepee. Most of us had never stayed in a tepee overnight so we were very excited to trade in our usual sleeping quarters for this new experience. We were provided with thick sleeping pads as well as sleeping bags and pillows. Our tepee had plenty of room for our family of 5 to sleep in with extra room for our bags and sitting chairs.

Family on Oregon Trail, Homeschool Fieldtrip Wyoming, History Fieldtrip Wyoming, Tepee Camp, Indian Tepee


Sleeping in Tepee on Oregon Trail, Family on Oregon Trail, Homeschool Fieldtrip Wyoming, History Fieldtrip Wyoming


Dinner was simmering over the fire while we were getting situated thanks to a wonderful young lady named Nevaeh. She had steaks, baked potatoes, and the most wonderful green beans ready to satisfy our appetites. Soft rolls were ready and waiting on the table. We all sat down together to enjoy conversation and the most delicious campfire dinner. A warm cobbler was also offered for dessert. My entire family finished their dinner with delight and my kids are still talking about how scrumptious the green beans were. (All the parents out there think about how often you cook dinner without hearing a single complaint. Yep, you know that means the food was A+)!


Dinner over campfire, eating on Oregon Trail, cooking over a campfire


After dinner Greg and Neveah departed and Morris kept the fire going. We fully enjoyed gathering around the campfire to share stories and hear more about Morris’ experiences on the Oregon Trial. Morris and his daughters personally traveled the Oregon Trail in it’s entirety during the 150 year celebration so he has a wealth of knowledge not only about the history but he also has personal experience on traveling this route and caring for the animals and equipment necessary for the journey. Hearing about the handmade wagons we had been riding in and personal accounts of the trail made our time that much more special.


Camp on the Oregon Trail, Campfire stories on the Oregon Trail, Overnight Trek Oregon Trail, Overnight Trek Historic Trails West


Our camp looked beautiful under the moonlit sky and it soon became apparent that it was time to turn in for the night. We all snuggled in to our sleeping bags and had a peaceful sleep. The sleeping pads were more than sufficient and we were all extremely comfortable. We woke in the morning to the sun showing the most magnificent patterns on the tepee walls.


Moonlit camp at Historic Trails West, Overnight Trek Oregon Trail, Overnight Trek Historic Trails West, Moonlight over tepees

Morning at Camp:

Well rested and excited to start our day, we dressed and headed outside. Morris had coffee cooking over the campfire and cold beverages ready as well. Breakfast consisted of roasted potatoes, bacon, and eggs. The kids enjoyed helping cook breakfast for the group. We sat around the table together one last time for fellowship and food.


Making breakfast over campfire, Campfire breakfast on the Oregon Trail, Overnight Trek Oregon Trail, Overnight Trek Historic Trails West


Unfortunately, after breakfast it was time to pack up and head out of camp. The horses were hitched while we gathered our things and put them in the back of the wagon. Morris generously offered to take a few photos of our family before we hit the trail. There’s no electricity at camp so we aren’t all dolled up but I think we’re a pretty good looking crew none the less.


Covered wagon family photo, family photo of covered wagon on Oregon Trail


Riding back to our starting point on the Oregon Trail was humbling. Morris had our two younger children sit in the front with him and they absolutely loved it. They even got a short lesson on how to drive the horses. We are so grateful for this small glimpse into our nation’s history. Reading from a textbook is one thing but getting out on that trail made this period in time come alive for my family.


Kids driving horses on Oregon Trail, Covered wagon ride on Oregon Trail, Historic Trails West Casper Wyoming


Morris from Historic Trails West was very easy going and made the entire experience effortless. I am extremely impressed that he touched on many of the aspects of the Oregon Trail that we researched and used many keywords that solidified our learning. We also learned many aspects that we hadn’t heard of before taking his tour. He was spectacular with the children and they are already asking when we can go back.

In addition to the overnight trek, Historic Trails West offers trips anywhere from 2 hours to 5 days in length. While we decided to book our trip based on our homeschooling efforts, this is an experience for everyone. Take a tour with your family or get a group together and share the fun. Visit www.historictrailswest.com for more information. 

Do you have an outstanding homeschool or historical fieldtrip idea or you can share with us? Let us know in the comments!

47 thoughts on “Riding in the ruts of the Oregon Trail”

  • Wow! That’s an amazing field trip for sure! Looking forward to adding this to our list when we visit that area.

    • Terri, this is the ultimate homeschool field trip! Educational and fun at the same time. I love getting a glimpse of what others went through and this experience was perfect for that!

  • Wow! What an amazing adventure! The pictures were amazing and made me feel like I was riding along. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thank you for your kind words Christa! I was hoping that I could capture the experience in a way that brings it to life for others.

    • Katy, this was history in the best possible way! History has never been my favorite subject but when I get to experience it like this and hear personal stories from someone, I really enjoy learning. Plus, my kids and husband loved it too!

    • Ashley, I would strongly recommend going out there and experiencing it in some capacity! I love that Historic Trails West has rides anywhere from 2 hours to 5 days. Truly something for everyone!

    • Arianny, yes! History has so much more meaning when you can bring it to life and experience it for yourself!

  • What an awesome experience! Talk about learning about history by living it. I have a feeling your sturdy wagon probably fared better than the ones crossing the country back then, but that makes it even more eye-opening!

    • Riding in I thought they were cute but once we got up to them they seemed giant! They were beautiful too. So many photos of them on my camera!

    • Ina, we loved how unique the experience was. We haven’t done anything like it in all of our travels. The fact that the wagon was homemade was just icing on the cake!

  • What an awesome adventure!! We live in Idaho and could easily get over to WY to do this! Thanks for the awesome run-through! It has just been added to our list of things to do with our son!

    • Susan, I’m so glad to hear that you added it to your must-do list! It was such an amazing experience and my boys can’t stop talking about it. Who doesn’t love a ride, a campfire, and sleeping in a tepee?!?

    • Micky, I strongly recommend it for all families! My nine year old says it’s one of his best days ever. He wants to go on the three day next time so he can pitch his own tepee!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it Verla! It was such a treat to have this experience with my entire family. It was extremely educational and a lot of fun too!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about our experience Tonya! Hopefully you’ll get to experience it for yourself soon and get it off the bucketlist!

    • Thanks Alison! Riding in the actual ruts of the pioneers and learning right along side my children was priceless!

    • Hi Kelly! One of the best parts of this experience was that it fit perfectly into our homeschool studies. Experiences that are fun and also education are a win-win!

    • Deborah, it was an awesome experience. My kids are constantly asking when we can go back and do the 3 day trip!

  • SOO Fun! I love these kind of experiences. Great photos too. I bet your dinner in the Dutch Oven was delicious too.

    • These are the best kinds of experiences! Hands-on learning at it’s finest. Our dinner was delicious, everything tastes better when cooked outside. And especially when you didn’t have to go grocery shopping!

  • I had no idea you could do this! How fun!! Ok, and seriously, please tell me you went home and showed your kids the old video game. ..

    • We haven’t had time yet, but we’re definitely going to be playing the video game on rainy days this summer. I feel like we have to!

    • Sarah, this is such a great opportunity for kids! They learn so much and they don’t even realize it. The guide was excellent with our children and that totally made the experience.

    • Jennifer, if you can ever fit it into your schedule I would strongly recommend it. We’ve never found anything like it and it was truly an experience that the whole family enjoyed!

  • Hey there! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great work!

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