Cowboys , Outlaws and the Dime Novels

great train robbery

Cowboys and Outlaws

To say that literature describes the old west cowboy in different ways is a true understatement. Add television to the mix and the cowboy life is portrayed in an even wider range. Whether the cowboy was written of in the nineteenth or twentieth century makes little difference. There are many story lines attached to the cowboy…some very true and others total fabrication.Was it a romantic life, a hard and dirty job or perhaps something in between.

cattle drive structure

Cattle drive structure

In many ways the same holds true for the portrayal of outlaws. Literature has portrayed the old west outlaw from a romantic Robin Hood type character to a murderous psychopath.

There are questions to be asked. The questions are…who really was the American cowboy and what was the cowboy life really like? What was the difference between outlaws and cowboys? In some cases maybe no differences. In others, total differences. The biographies of these two type individuals often intersect. While there have been inaccurate portrayals written about both, the largest inaccuracies have probably been written about the cowboys. There was a great deal published about the subject during the latter part of the 1800′s and, in a way, literature often helped shape events. In fact, successful western literature in the latter 1800′s was similar to what sells today on bookshelves. The wild west was wild, but perhaps not as wild as often presented to sell books and movie tickets.

western ghost townsWhat Author’s of the Era Wrote

The Dime Novel depicted both outlaws and cowboys as a wild bunch. In Lewis Atherton’s book, The Cattle Kings, the author points out that Mark Twain himself described the cowboy as more gunman than ranch worker.

Roughing It

Twain worked for a time at the Virginia City Enterprise, Nevada Territory’s first newspaper.  Twain wrote glamorizing accounts of the western cowboy. Twains experience in Virginia City gave him the background to write a book, Roughing It, in 1872 which was the real start of his literary career. In his book, Mark Twain makes mention of bad men stalking the streets and moving easily from ranch to mining camp. Twain describes them as wearing long coats, cocked hats and revolvers. He goes on to further describe them as brave and reckless fellows who traveled with their life in their hands and who did their killing most within their own circles. They thought it shameful to die with their boots off.

All of this was Mark Twain’s account of the outlaw of the west. While this account stirs interest among readers, it also omits quite a bit of factual information. Nevertheless, this type of literature sold well. Twain was describing the outlaw, not the cowboy.. Although somewhat similar in appearance to the cowboy, the outlaw or bad man was an entirely different individual.

ranch bunhouse photo

Old JA Ranch Bunkhouse

The Big Bonanza

There was a book written by the senior editor of the Virginia City Enterprise, Dan De Quille. The book was encouraged by Mark Twain who urged De Quille to write a factual account of life in the Virginia City mining town. De Quille did publish his book in 1876 titled, The Big Bonanza. De Quille basically agreed with Twain’s account with the exception that he didn’t glamorize the violence. Instead, he denounced it and the men who caused it. It’s not surprising to note that Dan De Quille’s more realistic account didn’t sell as well as did Twain’s book.

According to the book, Cattle Kings, another book, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, this one written by a Joseph G. McCoy who is credited with bringing ranchers and cattle buyers together in Abilene Kansas, described the cowboy and his dress in colorful terms.

McCoy wrote that..mounted and drunken, they charged wildly through the streets, shooting up the town as they went, or rode directly through the swinging doors of saloons to demand drinks at pistol point. Literature published by both Mark Twain and Joseph McCoy, attached a code of reckless action by the cowboy in the 1870′s that gave or proposed a style of behavior for new cowboys to emulate. This was a mixing of the cowboy and outlaw culture and I think gives the wrong impression of the cowboy. It has been written however that serious individuals who entered the ranching world in the late 1870′s and 1880′s actually found this much publicized code of conduct either humorous or irritating. Although colorful, it wasn’t necessarily accurate.

xit ranch cowboys

XIT Ranch cowboys

What the Ranchers Had to Say About Cowboys

If you really want to find an accurate account of the cowboys of the old west, there is probably no better source than ranchers of the era. First of all, ranchers were not selling books. They were in the business of raising and selling cattle and anything that would disturb that process was unwelcome. Ranchers employed cowboys and at the same time laid down the rules. In fact, ranchers operated in areas far removed from the courts and oftentimes lawmen. The ranchers were in the position to make the laws and enforce them. Some ranchers were small operators and others large corporate concerns. One of the largest, the XIT in the Texas Panhandle, employed about 150 cowboys during it’s peak years.

Was the Cowboy Armed or Unarmed?

Contrary to many of the Hollywood westerns, many ranchers didn’t carry firearms and had rules against their ranch hands carrying guns. Carrying a six shooter was the exception rather than the rule. One of the reasons mentioned for this was the idea that an armed man sent an unspoken message. An armed man would be much more likely to be involved in some sort of violence than an unarmed one. The sometimes controversial “code of the west” prohibited the shooting of an unarmed individual. Most ranch owners simply felt that a sixshooter could only lead to trouble and especially so when mixed with alcohol. This was something detrimental to running a cattle business and was highly discouraged.

The famed Texas rancher, Charles Goodnight, presents a good example of ranching law and order. In the book, Cattle Kings, Goodnight was said to have ordered his cowboys to keep their differences under control while working his long cattle drives. He stipulated that his outfit would hold an immediate trial and hanging of anyone found guilty of committing murder. This reportedly worked effectively for Goodnight. As far as he was concerned, the cowboy could go settle his differences, but not while working on one of his drives. While working on the ranch itself, Goodnight forbade drinking, gambling and swearing.

The above mentioned book also describes how a ranch manager by the name of John Clay handled differences among his employees. Clay was known to settle differences by persuasion. This usually worked. Clay was said to have carried a firearm only once when unruly cowhands ran off one of his supervisors. Again, firearms on the ranch was an exception.

Teddy Roosevelt, when spending time ranching in the Dakota Territory, wrote of his experience and concluded that people had little to fear about murder in the west as long as they minded their business and stayed out of barrooms. Barrooms of the old west being the natural habitat of outlaw and alcohol. Regarding cowboys, Roosevelt pointed out their rough language but contended that it was little different than when any group of all males got together. There was no mention made of shooting up the town.

The Real Bad Men of the West

While the cowboy certainly was spirited, he was also a very hard worker. Many old west cowboys of the late 1800′s were mere teens. Working cattle drives was difficult work and required good physical conditioning. To understand the physical conditioning required to carry out the cowboy’s job, just visit one of the many rodeos held throughout the country and you can see for yourself what was involved.

When cattle drives ended at rail heads such as Abilene, Kansas and later Dodge City ,Kansas, there was a lot of steam to be let off and the cowboys had their pay. You could say it was a time of planned rowdiness. This type of activity was in stark contrast to the western outlaw who would be more apt to target the cowboy.

Again, the ranching industry was involved with the criminal element as well. The western outlaw or gunslinger really came to the forefront after the American Civil War. This was the era of the James Gang, the Daltons, Sam Bass, Butch Cassidy and others. In the case of the James Gang, much of their violence was attributed to lingering hatred from Civil War days, although that is an arguable point. What is significant is that none of the stories about the above mentioned outlaws had a good ending.

sam bass round rock texas

Outlaw Sam Bass who was shot and killed in Round Rock, TX

The Rustler Outlaw

The biggest bane to the cattle rancher was the rustler. Cattle associations were established to, among other things, deal with rustlers and old west outlaws.

Cattle associations went as far as employing range detectives who many times themselves had prior brushes with the law. Cattle associations themselves were responsible for violence when it came to the rustler, or alleged rustler, such as in the case of the Johnson County War in Wyoming. Rustlers were dealt with severely and quickly and in some cases the ranchers may have hung the wrong person in the rush for justice.

Vigilance Committees

The more you read about the subject of lawlessness in frontier or cattle towns, the more you realize that it was a short lived event. Many old western towns had vigilance committees that dealt with the criminal element their own way. The criminal element the committees were targeting were not drunken cowboys having a good time after trail drives. From vigilance committees came formal law enforcement and often times the two operated simultaneously. It was true that the great majority of murders committed in the old west were between members of the lower element. One reason was that if a rancher or land owner, someone of rank within the community were killed by a gunman, certain retribution was sure to come.

great train robberyWhen one gunman killed another gunman, many in the community were actually glad there was one less outlaw. Stagecoach and train robberies of course did effect law abiding citizens and it took little effort to organize a posse to go in pursuit. In addition to this, if you happened to rob a bank or a train you could be assured to have the Pinkertons on your trail brought in by banking associations.

Outlaws, gunmen, rustlers and others were simply detrimental to business and settlement. The American west was all about business and settlement. It is for this reason that the criminal element was dealt with firmly and swiftly, whether it be by a sheriff, a vigilance committee or the Pinkertons. Sometimes all three working together. To be sure, lawlessness in the frontier town ended more sooner than later.

The dime novels often paint the life of the cowboy and the outlaw with the same broad brush. This is especially true about the carrying and use of firearms. While this portrayal might spice up the mundane, hard working life of the cowboy, there was no similarity between cowboy, outlaw or gunslinger.

The cowboy could be rowdy as Teddy Roosevelt pointed out, but he would be more inclined to be pulling practical jokes and bragging rather than to break the law. Were there bad cowboys? Certainly. Ranchers were quite aware of this. Did some cowboys become outlaws later? Yes. An interesting fact taken from Dodge City Kansas records of 1872 says a lot about the cowboy. It was 1872 that the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reached Dodge City making it an important cattle drive rail head. During that year there were a total of twenty-five murders that occurred during fights. Out of the total of twenty-five only one involved a cowboy.

See additional Trips Into History and Western Trips Articles on the Links Below…

The Saints Roost Western Museum in Clarendon, TX

See the Famous Goodnight Ranch House in Goodnight, Texas

Visit Historic Round Rock, Texas

Museums and Venues to Add to Your Next Trip Itinerary

The National Ranching Heritage Center – Lubbock, TX

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum – Oklahoma City, OK

The XIT Museum – Dalhart, TX

King Ranch Museum – Kingsville, TX

Saints Roost Museum – Clarendon, TX

Black American West Museum – Denver, CO

The Rex Allen Museum – Willcox, AZ

Desert Caballeros Western Museum – Wickenburg, AZ

The Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame – Hobbs, NM

(Article copyright Trips Into History)


A Day at Muir National Historic Site / Plan Your Trip

A visit to the John Muir Historic Site is a must visit for anyone visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of San Francisco’s attractions are located on it’s peninsula or across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. The John Muir Historic Site is located in Martinez, California, about a 36 mile drive to the east and northeast of the city. To drive there will take a special effort but the drive is very well worth the time.

john muir home photo

John Muir Home

Directions from San Francisco is as follows : Eastbound I-80 (Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge) to eastbound Highway 4. Exit at Alhambra Avenue, turning left at bottom of the ramp. Cross beneath highway. The park is immediately on your left.

At one point in his life, John Muir lived in Martinez, California and worked as a farmer. Some may not be aware of this fact since Muir is best known as being a preservationist and the founder of the Sierra Club. Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar Scotland and migrated with his family to Wisconsin in 1849.

The John Muir National Historic Site is located in Martinez, whose land at one time was part of a large land grant doled out by the Spaniards and Mexicans. Large land grants were awarded throughout the Spanish and Mexican ruled territory.  The original Martinez land grant covered some 17,000 acres and reach as far as the San Francisco Bay.

muir historic site martinez california

Solarium in Muir Home

Dr. John Strentzel

Dr. John Strentzel, a noted horticulturist in Alhambra Valley, near Martinez and father-in-law of John Muir. was the owner and builder, in 1882, of the Victorian Italianate mansion which you can now tour. Later, this mansion served as the home of John Muir.

When the Strentzels resided in the mansion, John Muir and his wife resided in a Dutch Colonial home about a mile from the mansion. Muir was very active in his father in-law’s fruit orchard. When Dr. Strenzel passed away in 1890, the Muirs moved into the larger home.

This land in the Alhambra Valley was utilized as orchards. This small area of northern California had an ideal climate for orchards. Industry came to the area about the time of Muir’s death in 1914. This really marked the start of the decline of the orchard industry. California grew very fast during the mid to latter half of the twentieth century and the land increased greatly in value. As a result, much of the orchard land was sold to make way for development. What were once orchards is now dotted with homes, a story familiar to most of the area east of San Francisco and Oakland.

The Mansion

When John Muir died in 1914, his wife had passed away previous to that time, the original furniture from the mansion was removed by Muir’s two daughters. The National Park Service, with the help of Muir’s daughter Helen, refurnished the home with period furniture.

Washington palms are on both sides of the mansions entrance. These are members of the only native species  in California. There is also a Canary Island palm that grows next to the Muir house.

Touring the Muir Home

The first thing you want to do when visiting this historic site is to begin at the visitor center and watch the twenty minute film.

The Muir Home tour will show you the West Parlor (the formal parlor) , the Library, the Kitchen and Dining Room, the East Parlor and the Hall and Upstairs area. The second floor contains a series of bedrooms including that of John Muir’s, bathrooms and Muir’s Study and Study Annex.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Visit to San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill

Visit Old Town Sacramento / The Steamboats

California and the Old Spanish Missions

The Adobe Structure

There is an adobe structure on the property. This adobe structure was built on the property in 1849 by Don Vicente Martinez, the son of the commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco. The adobe which you can see today was never lived in by John Muir and his wife but was the home at one time of Muir’s eldest daughter Wanda and her husband.

muir orchards and grounds

Hiking trail at Muir National Historic Site

Touring the Grounds

When you follow the trail through the historic site, in addition to the Muir Home and the Martinez Adobe, there is plenty to see. The three separate areas include the Victorian garden, the orchard and the natural area by Franklin Creek. There is a self cell phone tour of the grounds. You may also wish to explore the hills where John Muir hiked with his two daughters. Mount Wanda is open daily sunrise to sunset and many enjoy picnics on this hill. Seasonal wildflower walks, camp fire programs, bird walks and full moon walks are available on Mt. Wanda. The visitor center will have information on all activities.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)



Visit the Historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot / Brownwood, Texas

santa fe train depots in texas

Around the country, particularly in the American Southwest, there are some excellently restored Santa Fe Railroad stations. The Santa Fe station in Brownwood, Texas is a good example. In Brownwood, the old Santa Fe Depot was also a famed Harvey House. The depot and the Harvey House were in two separate buildings connected by a loggia.

old santa fe railroad depots

Old Santa Fe Depot, Brownwood, Texas

The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was instrumental in opening up the American southwest to tourism. Transporting the first tourists to the Grand Canyon is just one example. Their old railroad depots generally had a particular architectural style and of course the famous Santa Fe logo and signage.

Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad

The Fred Harvey name is forever connected with the Santa Fe Railroad for it’s many Harvey House hotels and Fred Harvey Dining Rooms.

In the early days of the passenger railroad service dining cars were essentially non-existent. So that passengers could have meals, the train would stop about every 80-100 miles. Passenger trains, trying to stay on a schedule, would allow the passenger perhaps one hour to eat a meal. If he or she was lucky the eatery might be located at the station. If not, they would have to search around town for a place to eat. Finding a decent restaurant, ordering your meal, eating it, paying for it and making it back aboard the train all had to be accomplished generally in one hour. Hopefully the train passenger did indeed find a good restaurant and hopefully made it back to the train before it left the station.

santa fe railway locomotive

Santa Fe Locomotive

The above scenario is what Fred Harvey went out to fix. Harvey had traveled regularly on trains and knew all too well the comfort problems of passengers. He also had a background in the restaurant business going back to the time he emigrated from Scotland.

Harvey eventually worked out an arrangement with the railroad to build dining halls and hotels, typically connected to or very nearby the depot. Fred Harvey gained a reputation for fresh meals at reasonable prices. He was aided greatly by the railroad in being able to ship in fresh vegetables. Fred Harvey Dining Rooms were staffed with Harvey Girls who went through a thorough character interview before being hired. There are many who have said that Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad civilized the southwest. Thanks to Harvey’s partnership with the Sante Fe Railroad, the Fred Harvey Company grew into a very profitable chain of restaurants, hotels and other businesses serving the growing  tourist trade.

The Santa Fe Railroad Station and Harvey House in Brownwood, Texas

The Santa Fe Railroad depot in Brownwood was built in 1909. The Harvey House Dining Room and Hotel was built adjacent to it in 1911. The brown bricks used in it’s construction were brought in from Coffeeville, Kansas. It’s also important to note that the Santa Fe Railroad buildings in Brownwood remain one of the few still intact in Texas. The railroad initiated passenger service to Brownwood in 1885 and utilized two different wooden structures until the brick depot was constructed. The current structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the heyday of railroad travel, Brownwood saw as many as fifteen trains per day pass through town. Service continued all the way to 1964 with as many as four trains per day.

The Santa Fe Railroad station and Harvey House now serves as home to the city’s Visitor’s Center and Brownwood Store. The Brownwood Visitor’s Center will give you all the information you need to explore Brownwood, Texas and learn about the history of the Santa Fe Railroad as it relates to the city. The Brownwood Store is a great place to search for Texas themed gifts and books.

Be certain to tour the old Harvey House which will give you an idea of how people traveled during the golden age of railroads.

Today’s old Santa Fe Railroad station and Harvey House in Brownwood, Texas is also used for events and weddings.

See these additional Trips Into History and Western Trips articles on the links below…

The Old Harvey House in Slaton, Texas / Now a B&B

The Santa Fe Railroad and Santa Fe, NM

Historic Dining Cars of the Santa Fe Railroad

Some excellent reference material on the subject of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey include…Appetite For America : Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West – One Meal at a Time by author Stephen Fried. Also, Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by author Richard Melzer.

santa fe train depots in texas

Another view of the large train depot Harvey House building

Getting There

Brownwood, Texas is located about a two hour and fifty minute drive west/southwest of Dallas and about a one hour and twenty minute drive southeast of Abilene, Texas . It is the county seat of Brown County.

The Santa Fe Railroad Station in Brownwood, Texas, is located on the block bounded by Washington Avenue on the north, Adams Street on the east, the Santa Fe main line on the south, and Depot Street on the west.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)


Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

As most western travelers know, the state of Utah is fortunate to have many unique National Parks. One of those unique National Parks is Bryce Canyon.

bryce canyon hoodoos

Some of the magnificent spires

Bryce Canyon sits on the spectacular edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, a place where intricately carved towers and archways of stone shimmer in a dazzling array of color. Because the park is on a plateau it really isn’t a canyon but it is marvelous.

The Geography of Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon’s rock is composed of layers of sediment deposits. Millions of years ago the area of Bryce Canyon was a lake. The sediment was deposited over these millions of years. Today,  the Paria River has exposed the layers.

Geography changes. The region shifted about 15 million years ago resulting in a series of plateaus. The Paunsaugunt Plateau is quite large and the Paria River gradually eroded away the plateau’s edge to form beautiful Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon took it’s name from an early pioneer to the region. Ebenezer Bryce. came over from Scotland, married a local girl then moved southwards in steps, building sawmills as he went. In the mid 1870s Bryce and his wife reached the Paria River, where they along with some of his relatives settled for a several years.

bryce canyon national park hoodoos

A colorful Bryce Canyon scene

Bryce Canyon National Park was founded in 1924. The area was remote. European tourists to America didn’t venture there thus the first guest houses were built about the time the park was established.

The good part of this is that Bryce Canyon became an area of largely unspoiled beauty. The park is known for it’s enormous scientific value since plenty of historic information is trapped in its pinnacles & spires. It’s been determined that the rim recedes by about a foot every 50 years

The Hoodoos Of Bryce Canyon

The rock scenery at Bryce Canyon is commonly referred to as “Hoodoos“. Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of basins and “broken” lands.

Because the rock was laid down in layers, the hardness tends to vary. When water runoff trickles across the rock, some parts erode quite fast whereas other parts hold firm.

This variation in erosion speed causes the formation of pinnacles, or “hoodoos” of stable rock. In some places the water seeps down through cracks & eats out holes beneath the surface. When the side rock erodes away, an archway is left behind.

It is only a matter of time before the arch of the rock collapses. This results in another colorful pillar.

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is open all year round. Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is a treat regardless of the season of the year. During the warmer months hiking is quite popular. Look up at some spectacular formations. Sunset Point & Inspiration Point  are a must for any visitor. Summer months can cause temperatures in the bottom of the canyon to soar. It is very important to be prepared for the heat by packing plenty of water for your journey.

As mentioned above, the park is open all year. For those who love the winter outdoors it is possible to cross-country ski in several areas of the park. You can also go snowshoeing instead of hiking on some trails. In winter the roads are opened between snowfalls, allowing a different perspective of the park. Snow capped pinnacles stand out sharply against the background of white snow and dark green trees. In winter the roads are opened between snowfalls.

See these Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

The Great Sand Dunes / A Colorado Adventure

Getting There

A visit to Bryce Canyon National Park can also be combined with visits to Utah’s Zion National park and south of that the beautiful Grand Canyon. Traveling from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon will take you over the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, another fun attraction to stop and tour.

bryce canyon vacation

Greenery against the beautiful rock formations

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)






The Reasons You’ll Totally Enjoy A Rocky Mountain Vacation

When it come to major tourist regions in the U.S., the Rocky Mountain region is at the top of the list. Visitors to the Rocky Mountains enjoy hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, rock climbing and much more. Add to this some of the most historic towns in the western U.S.

colorado rocky mountainsA 3,000 Mile Long Mountain Range

The Rocky Mountains stretch from old Mexico north through the United States and into Canada. The total length of this tremendous mountain range is over 3000 miles. The states that are part of this mountain chain include parts of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, & Wyoming. Stories of early adventurers like Lewis & Clark, John Fremont and Kit Carson exploring the Rocky Mountains are legendary.

The Rockies are home to many scenic campgrounds, historic sites, ghost towns, gold prospecting sites, and of course national parks. Some of the historic towns you’ll want to put on your trip planner include:

Cripple Creek, Durango, Cortez and Silverton, Alamosa, Colorado.

Taos, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico

Laramie, Cheyenne, South Pass City, Wyoming

Virginia City, Bannack Ghost Town, Gold Creek, Bozeman, Missoula, Custer Battlefield, Montana

great sand dunes

Great San Dunes National Park

The National Parks of the Rockies

National parks and monuments provide you with the opportunity to explore nature at its best. From the diversity of beautiful wildlife to the endless possibilities in their miles of trails. There are several world famous national parks in the Rockies, including Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, & Glacier.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Without a doubt, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to head for a vacation in Colorado. Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails. They range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs.The road system of Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors access to diverse ecosystems characterizing the higher regions of the central Rocky Mountains. The roads take visitors through lowland meadows and aspen groves, along swift-flowing rivers and up through sub-alpine forests to more than 12,000 feet in elevation.

Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 square miles in north central Colorado. The east gate is at Estes Park and the western gateway is at Grand Lake.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado. This is in the southern part of the state relatively close to the border with New Mexico.

This geologic wonderland contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range over 13,000′ in elevation as seen in the photo above right. Among the trees you will see are spruce pine aspen and cottonwoods.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park  is located in the far northwest corner of Montana on the Canadian border. The Great Northern Railway, popularly referred to as “The Empire Builder”,  played a major role in the parks awareness to the general public having built it’s rail line from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA along it’s southern border.

In 1932 Canada and the United States declared Waterton Lakes National Park (founded in 1895) and neighboring Glacier National Park (founded in 1910) the world’s first International Peace Park. While administered separately, the park’s two sections cooperate in wildlife management, scientific research, and some visitor services.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

What It Was Like To Travel On The Old Butterfield Stage Line

Garryowen and George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry

Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

bannack montana ghost town

Bannack, Montana ghost town

Annual Rocky Mountain Festivals and Events

The Telluride Film Festival is a popular and prestigious annual event that attracts some of the biggest stars in Hollywood to a small Colorado town.

The Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous

The Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous (RMNR) is an annual celebration of life on the pre-1840 American Western frontier. The event is both re-enactment and living history, based on the fur-trade rendezvous that was held in the Rocky Mountains by the early fur trappers.  For detailed information regarding this annual event see website…

Cody Nite Rodeo

Wild West Family Fun in Cody, Wyoming every night June 1st through August 31st 8:00 PM. Come early, meet the clowns & bullfighters, get your photo taken on a live bull or try your hand at riding a mechanical bull.

fort garland colorado

Infantry barracks at old Fort Garland, Colorado

Living History Program at Nevada City, Montana

The Outdoor Living History Museum in Nevada City, Montana, has one of the largest collections of Old West Artifacts outside the Smithsonian. The museum site  displays a hundred 1863 to early 1900 structures, and about 70 living history interpreters. Living history weekends are held Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Spectacular vistas, scenic highways and historic sites and towns are all part of the Rocky Mountains and the old west. The above mentioned historic sites, national parks and annual events are just a small sample of what awaits you on your next trip to the great and scenic Rocky Mountain region.

(Article copyright 2015 Trips Into History)