Welcome to the Southern Trails Auto Tours
Use this page to do some “trail-blazing” of your own. You’ll discover the historic trails that helped mold this nation, and experience the cities, towns, states, state and national parks, and the immense lands and horizons of the Great American Southwest and the Golden West. Go adventuring!
Discover America’s Great Southwest…
IOWA & NEBRASKA
1) Council Bluffs, IA – I-80 and I-29. On the Mormon Battalion Trail. Two historical markers and a walking path at the Iowa School for the Deaf are located at the sites of the 1846 Grand Encampment of Mormon Pioneers and the Mormon Battalion Mustering Grounds. The Mormon Battalion were enlisted during the Mexican – American War and marched a 2,000+ miles trail across the American southwest to San Diego. The Kanesville Tabernacle has exhibits and a film on the journey and achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
Go to: ChurchOfJesusChrist.org/VisitkKnesvilleTabernacle.
Omaha, NE – I-80. The Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters features interactive exhibits, artwork, reconstructed settings, artifacts and a film on the Mormon Trail pioneers, the Mormon Battalion, and the Historic Winter Quarters of 1846-48.
Go to: ChurchOfJesusChrist.org/VisitMormonTrailCenter.
2) Springfield – US 65 and I-44. On the Butterfield Overland Trail. Springfield today has great attractions that bring alive the Old West, the Civil War and the history of transportation. The History Museum on the Square features six main galleries in the historic downtown area. The C-Street Historic District is a haven for shoppers with art galleries, boutiques, antique stores, entertainment and local eateries. Other heritage attractions include the Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks, Railroad Historical Museum, the Route 66 Car Museum and the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. At the home of Bass Pro Shops, visitors won’t want to miss Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium featuring lifelike displays of wildlife the world over and thousands of fish in huge aquariums. There are also many local wineries, micro-breweries and distilleries in the area.
Go to: SpringfieldMO.org.
3) Rogers – I-49. On the Butterfield Overland Trail route. Rogers offers today’s trail travelers memorable museums and trendy shopping surrounded by breath-taking Ozark scenery and historic sites. Favorite local museums in the area include the Daisy Airgun Museum, the Rogers Historical Museum and the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. The inspiring Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art combines art and architecture with the natural beauty of nature trails. The nearby Pea Ridge National Military Park is the nation’s largest intact Civil War Battlefield. War Eagle Cavern on the shores of Beaver Lake offers wonderous sights including an underground waterfall. Families will enjoy the splash fun at the Rogers Aquatics Center. Shoppers can choose from the brick-lined streets of Historic Downtown Rogers with its gourmet restaurants and charming boutiques, or Pinnacle Hills Promenade, the area’s top destination shopping center.
Go to: VisitRogersArkansas.com.
4) Fort Smith – I-540, I-40, and I-49. On the Butterfield Overland Trail and the Beale Wagon Road. Once an historic “Social Club”, today Miss Laura’s Visitor Center is a good place to start any tour with information on all the great places to visit. The Fort Smith National Historic Site features the parade grounds and restored buildings of the famed fort of the War with Mexico and the Civil War and along the historic Trail of Tears. The park includes the historic barracks, commissary, the courthouse of Judge Parker, jail buildings and gallows. The Fort Smith Museum of History has over 40,000 artifacts chronicling the city’s history. The Fort Smith Trolley Museum features railcars and even a touring 1926 electric streetcar. More extensive and scenic rail tours are offered by A & M Railroad Excursions. The Park at West End is in the downtown area and Creekmore Park, located a little farther east, are picturesque parks offering seasonal fun for the whole family. The area also includes four wineries and three casinos.
Go to: FortSmith.org.
5) Oklahoma City – I-40, I-35 and I-44. On the Fort Smith – Santa Fe Road and on the Beale Wagon Road. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum brings to life the histories and cultures of the American West with an outstanding collection of fine art, artifacts and programs. The Oklahoma History Center showcases the state’s unique history from the late 1600s to today. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum features state-of-the-art technology, hands on exhibits and an inspiring memorial. The Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum celebrates the character and spirit of Oklahoma. Other great attractions include the 45th Infantry Division Museum, the Museum of Osteology, and the Oklahoma Museum of Art, which features one of the world’s largest collections of Chihuly glass. The Science Museum of Oklahoma features eight-acres of hands-on exhibits for the whole family. The Bricktown Entertainment District offers a fun mix of heritage, dining and entertainment connected by the scenic Bricktown water taxi service.
Go to: VisitOKC.com.
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6) Sherman – US 82 and US 75. On the Butterfield Overland Trail. The lifelike displays at the Harber Wildlife Museum feature big game animals and African artifacts. Visitors to the nearby Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge can view nature up close with 338 species of birds, 36 species of mammals and 60 species of reptiles and amphibians. The Sherman Jazz Museum is a “must-see” for any Jazz enthusiast with collections from Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and many more. A Touch of Class Antique Mall on the historic Sherman Downtown Square is an antique shopper’s dream with 38,000 square feet and three floors of treasures and the Grayson County and Outlaw Trails Museum. The Sherman Museum, housed in a historic Carnegie Library, features the Texoma Time Traveler exhibit, Dino Days, and more. During summer months, the Splash Pool waterpark offers cool fun for the whole family. Also, check out 903 Brewers, an award-winning microbrewery.
Go to: ShermanTX.org.
7) Fort Worth – At the crossroads of I-35W and I-20. Just off the Butterfield Overland Trail route. The American West comes alive with the twice-daily longhorn cattle drive down the streets of Fort Worth’s National Historic Stockyards District. The Stockyards has rodeo every Friday and Saturday night at the 1908 Cowtown Coliseum, the recreated Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show on Saturday afternoons, plus authentic western fashion and stores and delicious barbecue. For nightlife, nothing matches Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk, for concerts, dancing and fun. Fort Worth’s Cultural District features world-renowned museums with collections ranging from American masterpieces to modern to Michelangelo’s first painting, at the Kimbell. The Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors women of the West — the only museum of its kind. Downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square is a 35-block shopping district with the three-story Chisholm Trail Mural in the central Plaza. Fort Worth also has 10 other great shopping districts including Clearfork for luxury brands and Tanger Outlet.
Go to: FortWorth.com.
8) Galveston – On the Gulf of Mexico south of Houston on I-45. On the historic Texas Lower Road. Galveston Island features 32 miles of relaxing beaches, family-friendly attractions, Texas Seaport history, including the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, plus great dining and picturesque lodging, and one of the largest concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country. The Bryan Museum has an outstanding collection of artifacts, artwork and documents relating to Texas and the American West. Other historic buildings include the 1861 Custom House, 1892 Bishop’s Place, The Grand 1894 Opera House and the 1895 Moody Mansion. The Galveston Island Pleasure Pier ranks among the top-five seaside amusement parks. Moody Gardens features the Aquarium Pyramid, the Rainforest Pyramid, the Discovery Pyramid with interactive exhibits for kids, a Ropes Course and Zip Line for thrills. Other great attractions include Schlitterbahn Water Park, Galveston Naval Museum, the Galveston Railroad Museum, and the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum.
Go to: Galveston.com.
9) San Antonio – At the crossroads of I-35 and I-10. On the historic Texas Lower Road. The Alamo Mission founded in 1718 was the site of the 1836 Texas Revolution. Today, the 4.2-acre complex features interactive tours and exhibits, reenactments and the scenic Alamo Gardens. A short walk leads to the world-famous San Antonio River Walk, a 15-mile urban waterway surrounded by great restaurants, historic districts and great shopping. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which along with the Alamo is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas, includes Spanish Mission compounds built in the 18th Century. Market Square is a three-block outdoor plaza offering visitors the sights, sounds and flavor of Old Mexico. The San Antonio Museum of Art displays ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, while the McNay Art Museum specializes in 19th and 20th Century art. The Briscoe Museum of Western Art houses art and artifacts reflecting the history of the American West. The Witte Museum is dedicated to telling the stories of Texas from prehistory to the present. SeaWorld San Antonio provides unforgettable marine life encounters, a water park and thrill rides. Six Flags Fiesta Texas has coasters, a water park and nightly entertainment that includes fireworks.
Go to: VisitSanAntonio.com.
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10) Santa Fe – I-25. On the Santa Fe Trail, Cooke’s Wagon Road, the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail, the Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail and the Old Spanish Trail. Santa Fe has been the hub for many trails and travelers since the 17th Century. Today the city is a mecca for art, culture, unique shopping treasures, and delicious New Mexican cuisine. The Downtown Plaza area has the look and feel of a classic Spanish Plaza with the New Mexico History Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, great shopping, dining and local Native artisans all within easy walking distance of each other. The Museum Hill area features the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. The Railyard and Guadalupe Districts feature contemporary art galleries and great restaurants in the classic setting of 19th century depot buildings.
Go to: SantaFe.org.
11) New Mexico’s El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail – The historic “Royal Road of the Interior” runs from Mexico City north to Santa Fe on or just east of I-25. In the Las Cruces area visitors get a feel for settlement along the trail at the Mesilla Plaza and Historic District, the Mesquite Historic District and the Dona Ana Village Historic District. At the nearby Fort Selden Historic Site visitors can walk a portion of the historic trail. North of Truth or Consequences is the Fort Craig National Historic Site. Socorro is the home of the San Miguel Mission founded in 1598. Halfway between Socorro and Belen at Exit 169 is the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge with nature trails and a visitor center. The Albuquerque area includes the historic Gutierrez-Hubbel House and the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. South of Santa Fe is the La Bajada Mesa, one of the best preserved and historically significant portions of the trail. A great place to end…or start your trail journey is at the festive Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of Governors with history, artisans and fine dining nearby.
Go to: caminorealcarta.org.
12) Tucson – I-10. Explore a unique blend of Mexican, Spanish Colonial, Wild West and even modern aerospace history in Arizona’s second-largest city. Following the Anza Trail south along I-19, you’ll discover Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, built in the 1700s by Spanish missionaries. If the Wild West is more your style, check out the attractions and stunt shows in the historic town of Tombstone or Trail Dust Town. And flying enthusiasts can’t miss the Pima Air and Space Museum—along with the nearby 390th Memorial Museum and the largest aircraft boneyard in the world—and the Titan Missile Museum. In downtown Tucson, the arts are on display not just at the Tucson Museum of Art, but around town in the form of large, stunning murals. Outside of town, adventurers will find great hiking trails in the Sonora Mountains. And if you can’t make up your mind on whether to experience nature, history or art, head to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where you’ll find a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history and art gallery.
Go to: VisitTucson.org.
“Must see” Southern Arizona Parks – Southeast of Willcox on AZ 186, hit the trails at Chiricahua National Monument and gaze in wonder at the park’s 100-foot-tall rock spires, which formed over 27 million years ago. At Kartchner Caverns State Park, southwest of Benson on AZ 90, you can tour a living limestone cave with the world’s largest stalactite formation. Split east and west of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is the best place to see giant saguaro cactus that reach as high as 50-feet and can live more than 200 years.
Go to: VisitArizona.com.
13) Phoenix – I-10 and I-17. On the Butterfield Overland Trail, the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail, and Cooke’s Wagon Road. Arizona’s capital city is a showcase of modern art, ancient culture and vibrant nightlife. The world-renowned Heard Museum showcases Native American culture and art and has live performances such as the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest. Half a mile south, explore an extensive collection of classic and contemporary art at the Phoenix Art Museum, or go north to see over 800 instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum. If you’re up for some nightlife, there’s no better spot than Roosevelt Row, a walkable art district featuring galleries, studios, street art, boutiques, bars and restaurants. And no auto tour would be complete without a visit to the Penske Racing Museum. In nearby Scottsdale, Old West history meets shopping mecca, where Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art beckon visitors alongside shops, boutiques and restaurants.
Go to: VisitPhoenix.com.
14) Flagstaff – I-17 and I-40. On the Beale Wagon Road and Route 66. With its ponderosa pine forests, winter ski resort and mountain town-meets-college town vibe, Flagstaff pleasantly surprises visitors with its 7,000-foot elevation. Take a walk, bike or grab a Segway to tour the Historic Downtown and Railroad District, featuring Riordan Mansion State Park, unique stores, creative galleries, and craft breweries operating in historic buildings. If you love stargazing, this Dark Sky-certified town is also home to the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered in 1930. Visitors can peer through six different telescopes and enjoy multimedia shows, interactive exhibits and demonstrations. Nature buffs can’t miss a visit to The Arboretum at Flagstaff, nestled in 200 acres of the Coconino National Forest, and host to festivals, concerts, plant sales and workshops from May to October. And northeast of downtown are two cultural destinations worth a stop: The Northern Arizona University Art Museum, with a large collection of ancient Asian pieces, and the Arizona Historical Society’s Pioneer Museum, featuring exhibits and artifacts from the Old West including wagons, equipment and a locomotive.
Go to: DiscoverFlagstaff.com.
15) Grand Canyon National Park – Grand Canyon adventures begin at the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village, accessible by free shuttle from Tusayan, north of Williams on AZ 64. The traveler-friendly South Rim features hotels, restaurants, a general store, laundry and shower facilities. You’ll also find incredible scenic views, which you can experience by foot, bike, car or shuttle. More adventurous visitors can opt to tour the Canyon by mule, horseback, helicopter or train. The less crowded North Rim offers a quieter experience but is closed due to weather from October 15 – May 15. On the west side, the West Rim is best known for the Skywalk, a glass-bottom walkway 4,000 feet above the Canyon floor. Visitors can also enjoy rafting the Colorado, horseback riding and zip lining at Hualapai Ranch.
Go to: VisitArizona.com.
“Must see” Northern Arizona Parks – North of Chambers on US 191, you’ll find Canyon de Chelly National Monument on Navajo Nation Tribal Lands, with multi-hued canyon walls that showcase hundreds of ancient pueblo ruins. Petrified Forest National Park, on I-40/US 66 west of Chambers, features the world’s largest and most colorful collection of 200-million-year old petrified wood and fossils. Glen Canyon and Lake Powell, north of Flagstaff on US 89, is one of the most popular lakes in Arizona set amid deep canyons and spectacular scenery.
Go to: VisitArizona.com.
16) Kingman – I-40. On the Beale Wagon Road and Route 66. Every visit to Kingman should start at the Historic Powerhouse in Historic Downtown Kingman. Built in 1907, today it houses the Kingman Visitor Center, along with the Historic Route 66 Museum and the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum—filled with giant murals, life-sized dioramas and authentic artifacts bring to life the early days of travel on “The Mother Road.” Over at the Historic Railroad Depot, the Kingman Railroad Museum displays railroad artifacts and model train layouts, and the nearby Locomotive Park displays famed steam engine #3759. Showcasing the history of the area, the Mohave Museum of History and Arts features exhibits covering prehistoric times and the towns mining and ranching history. And if you’re a fan of local brews be sure to stock up on award-winning vintages at Cella Winery and enjoy a tour and tasting at Desert Diamond Distillery.
Go to: GoKingman.com.
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17) Cedar City – I-15. On the Old Spanish Trail. Visitors can experience the days of the Old Spanish Trail, pioneers and iron ore miners at Frontier Homestead State Park Museum featuring historic buildings, wagons and artifacts, period reenactors and interactive exhibits. Nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument features a 2,500-foot deep basin with canyon walls in vivid, multi-colored hues. Cedar City can also serve as the gateway and “base camp” for visits to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Dixie National Forest. Kanarra Falls is a beautiful slot canyon hike with stunning waterfalls. The plays of William Shakespeare and other classics are performed nightly from June through October at the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival at the Beverley Center for the Arts. The Southern Utah Museum of Art displays the work of regional artists and a permanent collection of National Park paintings. Brian Head Resort offers snow-skiing and family-friendly winter fun from November through April and summer mountain biking, hiking and special events on the weekends in the summer.
Go to: VisitCedarCity.com.
18) Las Vegas – I-15 and US 93 and US 95. On the Old Spanish Trail. More than 150 years ago a spring-fed creek flowed through the Las Vegas Valley which created an oasis in the desert half-way between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. At the world-class Springs Preserve visitors can experience museums, including the amazing Nevada State Museum, galleries, outdoor events, a colorful botanical garden, and interpretive trail system at the birthplace of Las Vegas, named by the Spanish for “the meadows.” At the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park trail travelers can see a multitude of artifacts, a Visitor Center, and a Spanish Trail marker inside this historic adobe fort. Nearby Las Vegas landmarks include the colorful Fountains of Bellagio, The Las Vegas Strip with its dazzling array of themed casinos, and the nightly sight and sound sensation of the Fremont Street Experience. For incredible views of the Strip and Nevada desert there is the Stratosphere Tower, the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck, and the High Roller, the world’s biggest observation wheel. Specialty museums include the fascinating 30-acre Clark County Museum, the Mob Museum, the Neon Museum with classic Las Vegas neon signs, the National Atomic Testing Museum, and Madame Tussauds – Las Vegas Wax Museum. Family attractions include SeaQuest Las Vegas, Wet and Wild Las Vegas, Cowabunga Bay Water Park and Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage Casino. Nearby outdoor adventures include Hoover Dam and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Go to: VisitLasVegas.com.
19) San Diego – I-8 and I-5. The Mormon Battalion followed a number of Southern Trails and created Cooke’s Wagon Road to California during the Mexican – American War. The Mormon Battalion Historic Site is located in Old Town State Historic Park, south of Presidio Park and the I-8/I-5 interchange. Visitors may take a guided interactive video tour that highlights the faith, service and sacrifice of the Mormon Battalion volunteers during their 2,000+ mile journey from Council Bluffs, IA to San Diego in 1846 – 47. After the tour visitors can see historic artifacts, get a photo of themselves and their group, and enjoy demonstrations of gold panning and brickmaking. Old Town San Diego State Park also includes other historical attractions and restaurants.
Go to: ChurchOfJesusChrist.org/VisitMormonBattalion.
20) Bakersfield – CA99, 58 and 178. On the Butterfield Overland Trail. The Bakersfield Museum Trail is a 15-mile route connecting the city’s four main museums. Kern County Museum has curated the state’s rich heritage with over 60 historic buildings, the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science with a large collection of fossils, the California Living Museum, home to endangered California animals and plants, and the Bakersfield Museum of Art offering a visual arts spectrum. Visitors can enjoy the all-American Bakersfield Sound at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace featuring the country music star’s memorabilia, a restaurant and a live country music performance theater with the top acts of today. The Downtown Arts District showcases local performing and visual arts, and the Downtown Antique District features inviting malls and boutiques offering nostalgic collectables and the last operating Woolworth’s lunch counter in the nation. Outdoor adventures include the Kern River Parkway Trail with 30 miles of scenic bike trails and whitewater rafting tours on the Kern River.
Go to: VisitBakersfield.com.
21) Fresno – CA 99, 41and 180. On the Butterfield Overland Trail. Visitors can sample California’s fertile Central Valley at Simonian Farms Old Town that also features antique exhibits, a Route 66 Shooting Gallery, and an Old West Saloon with daily wine tasting. Forestiere Underground Gardens is a fantastic underground retreat built in the early 1900s featuring living quarters and fruit-bearing vines and trees growing beneath the earth’s surface. The Fresno Chaffe Zoo houses a variety of animals in native habitats, including a rain forest and Sea Lion Cove. Other unique attractions include the Meux Home Museum home of a Civil War surgeon, the Kearney Mansion Museum home of California’s “Raisin King”, and the Arte Americas Art Gallery. Great places to take the kids include the Island Waterpark, the family-friendly Rotary Storyland Playland Amusement Park, and the Shinzen Japanese Garden. Fresno is also the Gateway to Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park 55-miles east on US 180, and Yosemite National Park 92 miles north on US 41.
Go to: VisitFresnoCounty.org.
22) Santa Cruz – CA 1, 9 and 17. On California’s Mission Trail. The Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park on Mission Hill features the only surviving building of the 12th California Mission founded in 1791. The adobe building has been restored to the days when it provided housing for Native American families in the early 1800s. The park grounds include a patio, gardens, exhibits and excellent views of the city. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a seaside amusement park featuring a classic wood roller coaster, a beautiful old-time carousel, food, and games. Visitors can opt to take a self-guided historic walking tour. Wildlife viewing from the historic Santa Cruz Warf includes seabirds, seals, sea lions, and other mammals Pet a friendly shark at the nearby Seymour Marine Discovery Center and learn more about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. West Cliff Drive is a scenic, three-and-a-half mile stretch of coastline and is home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, hidden beaches, and Natural Bridges State Park and Beach.
Go to: VisitSantaCruz.org.
23) Sonoma Valley – Take US 101 north of San Rafael to CA 37, east to CA 121 at Sears Point, and north to CA 12. On California’s Mission Trail. Sonoma is the last and most northerly of the chain of Spanish missions built by Franciscan padres, and is unique in that it was the only one built after Mexico’s independence from Spain. The San Francisco Solano de Sonoma Mission was completed in 1823. Today the mission has been restored as a part of the California State Parks system and features a museum, lots of atmosphere, a gift shop, and is on the picturesque Sonoma Plaza. The Plaza is the perfect place to start or end a day of touring and features old adobe storefronts, sunlit courtyards, historic landmarks and a pleasing mix of restaurants, boutiques, galleries, tasting rooms and hotels. Sonoma Valley is known as the birthplace of California’s wine industry and today is home to over 100 wineries. Wine tasting tours are offered by group, by trolley, by bike or by Segway. Sonoma’s early days are on display at the Sonoma Barracks, Sonoma State Historic Park and the General M.G. Vallejo Home. Scenic outdoor hiking tours include Jack London State Historic Park, Bartholomew Park and the Sonoma Overlook Trail.
Go to: SonomaValley.com.
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