This field trip to the monuments right at South Pass follows about 3 miles of maintained county roads and less than 1 mile of original two-track wagon trail to the South Pass interpretive site at the Continental Divide. Most visitors should turn around at that site and return to Wyoming Higway 28. The old wagon trail continues west and rejoins Highway 28 about 5 miles beyond the South Pass exhibits, but the trail is extremely rough and often is impassible. Proceed at your own risk.
High clearance vehicles recommended. Do not attempt to turn onto the original wagon trail segment when the road is wet or when rain threatens. Road is closed in winter. Detailed maps of the area are available from the Rock Springs and Lander Field Offices of the Bureau of Land Management.
Directions: From South Pass Rest Area, continue south on Wyoming Highway 28 for 0.7 mile, watching on the right for a sign indicating the Big Sandy entrance to the Bridger Wilderness. Do not follow the sign, but instead continue another 0.2 mile on the highway and turn left (southeast) onto Oregon Buttes Road, Fremont County 445, a well-maintained dirt road. Zero your trip odometer, then continue southeast across the cattle guard and under the power lines.
Cross a second cattle guard and continue to odometer reading 2.8 miles, slowing where the road begins curving to the right. Look for the old wagon trail crossing Oregon Buttes Road at the curve; it can be hard to see when approaching from the north. Turn right (west) onto the two-track. If the two- track appears too rough for your vehicle, park here and hike about three-fourths of a mile to the South Pass monuments.
You are now on the original corridor of the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails at South Pass. The two-track you are driving is original wagon trail that has been slightly modified by modern vehicle traffic.
On the right side of the road at odometer reading 3.6 miles is a BLM interpretive exhibit about South Pass. A short distance beyond, on the right, stands a small monument commemorating Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, missionary women who crossed the pass with their husbands in 1836. (Historians now agree that the missionaries actually crossed the divide near the Little Sandy on what became the Lander Road route.) Also nearby is a stone monument erected by Ezra Meeker, a covered- wagon emigrant who returned years later to mark and promote protection of the Oregon Trail.
Click here for a 360-degree view of South Pass from the Meeker monument.
Editor’s note: Directions to the South Pass monuments and overlook sites are from the National Park Service’s National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide Across Wyoming, pp.64-66. Used with thanks.