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Exploring: Pony Express

Pony Express Trail, Scenic Journey Back Through Time 

April 3 1860, the first rider sets forth and the Pony Express begins. Almost 140 years later the Pony Express Trail still provides a fantastic way to see the countryside as these early riders did.

Take some time to explore this area. The Pony Express Trail stretches 133 miles from Fairfield to Ibapah Utah. It winds through different regions of terrain. From the brown colors of the desert to the red and green hues of the more alpine regions, this trail will please the senses. When stopping at the desert stations one can smell t
ponyexpress.jpg (60160 bytes)he sage in the air. If you close your eyes and imagine you can almost hear the sound of hoofbeats.  The beauty of this region is it's lack of civilization.  The land stretches out to the horizon unspoiled by the hand of man.

The Pony Express was the idea of William H. Russell, backed by his partners Alexander Majors and William B Waddell. These fellows built or refurbished stations along a trail stretching from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA. Starting with 80 riders, 500 horses, and 150 stations the Pony Express could deliver mail in 10 days. Riders would cover between 75 to 100 miles per day, switching horses at the stations along the way. For risking their lives the riders were paid 100 dollars a month. Most were very young and thin and wiry in stature.

Beginning out of Fairfield the trail is paved until you cross Highway 36. Every time I have driven this trail I have fallen into continuing straight on over 36, this trail leads up into the Onaqui Mountains. You have to turn left on 36, drive about a ľ mile and turn right. About a Ĺ mile in you will come to the first of the interpretive sites along this trail.

The Pony Express ran until Oct 28 1861, the Trans-Continental telegraph line was the doom of the Pony Express. One of the biggest claims to fame of the Pony Express was the delivery of Lincolnís inaugural address to California in 7 days and 7 hours.

There are remnants of the stations scattered along the trail and at the Lookout Pass station there is a pet cemetery. The wife of the station master could not have children and buried herponeyexpress2.jpg (50215 bytes) beloved pets in a small cemetery. At the Simpson Springs station there is the remains of a house built with stone from the first station house. This house was built by a homesteader named Alvin Anderson. He constructed it for his wife, but she died in childbirth before ever living here. The plaques at the stations provide some history on the area but are repetitive.

This trail is fairly popular until the Simpson Springs station, after this you will not see too many other vehicles. We didnít see another car for the last 50 miles of the trail.

At every station was a station master (in charge of all operations), blacksmith, and spare rider. These stations were not a very luxurious place to live, although scenic the amenities were rather squalid. Ponyís were jockeyed between stations.

poneyexpress3.jpg (46575 bytes) The Pony Express Trail continues all the way into Nevada, be prepared to spend at least 5 hours or much longer to travel the entire distance. This trail could be navigated by any type of vehicle including passenger cars, allow extra time for travel in any non-four wheel drive autos.

The Camping

There are numerous places to camp along this trail. Simpson Springs has an organized campground with restrooms and water. There are numerous other established camping spots on BLM land. Please only camp in spots where it is evident people have stayed before. If you camp in the backcountry be sure and take out all your trash and any you find. This area is popular with the four-wheeler and motorcycle crowd, be prepared to wake up to the noise of a two stroke if you camp early on in the trail.

Four Wheeling

This region of Utah is a favorite with the riders of quadís, motorcycles, and trucks. The rolling hills are composed of anything from sand to gravel. Steep hills off the Pony Express Trail can challenge every type of off road transportation. I have taken my Tacoma up some of the near vertical hills off this trail, when you canít see anything but the hood of your truck you know itís steep.


This is an awesome day trip, but be prepared. The stations the riders relied on are no longer there. I rolled into Wendover with a quarter tank, if your truck does not get very good gas mileage you will want to bring some extra fuel along. Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, a breakdown could mean walking for quite a while. This trail is best done one-way, I-80 via Wendover is the best way back home.

Enjoy your time outdoors in Utah!

Nearby Areas:

Notch Peak

Mineral Mountains

Willow Canyon




cover   Utah Atlas and Gazetteer
by DeLorme (Editor)

Book Description
Rely on the Utah Atlas & Gazetteer for the utmost in trip planning and 
backcountry access. Contains topographic maps with unbeatable 
detail, plus gazetteer information on great places to go and things to do. 
Scale equals 1:250,000 or 1"=4 miles. Contour Interval is 300'. Each 
page covers 37 miles... Read more

Utah's National Parks: Hiking, Camping, and Vacationing in Utah's Canyon Country: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands

Utah Camping: The Complete Guide to more than 400 Campgrounds (Foghorn Outdoors)

Camping Utah (Camping)

Utah Camping Guide : The essential handbook for ...

Backcountry Adventures: Utah: The Ultimate Guide to the Utah Backcountry for Anyone With a Sport Utility Vehicle

Backcountry Moab - Where The Tours Don't Go

Exploring Canyonlands and Arches National Parks 

Hiking and Exploring Utah's San Rafael Swell

Utah Underground: Guide to Real Fun

Travel Smart: Utah

Hidden Salt Lake City and Beyond: Including Park City, Deer Valley, Alta and Snowbird

Get the 2005 Trailer Life Directory for 50% off the cover! 


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