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Applegate Emigrant Trail

Hiking Trail or Trailhead
Reinactors have come in their covered wagons from Winnemucca to Surprise Valley on the Applegate Trail. Shown here crossing the playa into Cedarville. – Jean Bilodeaux

Relive the life of early pioneers who explored the Northern Sierra Cascade as you travel along the historic Applegate Emigrant Trail. Fragments of this historic trail can be seen near the highways that intersect the old route. Historic trail markers made of steel rails from old railroad ties standing about four feet high, have been placed at some sites that have been designated as historically significant. Each marked site along the trail has an interpretive plaque that provides information about the history of that specific location.

I had an opportunity to go on a field trip to several of these trails a few years ago. Local historian Dick Silva told numerous stories about the early pioneers and explorers at various sites along the trail. I have great memories of the trip.

Applegate Emigrant Trail starts between Surprise Valley, CA and Ashland, OR. Hitting the lush greenery and abundant water of Surprise Valley after traversing the deserts of Nevada, caused the pioneers to name the area Surprise Valley. Also known as the South Road, this National Historic Trail was laid out by the Scott-Applegate party in 1846 and served as a popular southern route of the Oregon Trail. From the trail's beginning near Nevada's Humboldt River, emigrants followed the Applegate on their way to Grants Pass and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Contemporary accounts of the trek describe the hardships of the terrain and encounters with Native Americans at such places as Bloody Point, Surprise Valley, and Fandango Pass. Numerous sites in both states are marked and portions of the trail are accessible from highways or roads. There is an Applegate Emigrant Trail Monument off Hwy. 97 at the California/Oregon border.

For more information, stop by the Modoc County Historical Museum or Klamath County Museum before setting out on your trek. Read more about this famous trail by visiting the Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail - Fandango Pass (No. 546 California Historical Landmark) nomination.

To guide you to the accessible trails and interpretive sites, attached is a small map that shows where the trail intersects highways. You can also obtain a larger map at

Eco-Friendly Notes

Please respect private property. The Applegate Emigrant Trail crosses public and private lands. Do not go onto private property without receiving permission from the property owner. Always close gates when you open them and remember to "Tread Lightly."

Pet Friendly Notes

If you bring your pets, please keep them on a leash and be aware that you are in an outdoor setting with different wildlife, such as snakes. Be sure to protect your family friend.

Nearby Places