This interesting road trip will recall the days of the Old West, where cowboys and shoot-outs were commonplace. The entire road trip is designed as a lengthy, but complete, loop, so that it doesn’t matter where you begin. For the purposes of the written description, I will begin in Oklahoma City, OK, since it is the location of the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum, a great place to start since it provides all the background necessary to appreciate the trip.
Stop #1 – Oklahoma City, OK
The National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, showcases the era of westward expansion in America, and some of its major characters. American Indian life is also exhibited, as well as thousands of artifacts and memorabilia. Highlights include the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Western Art Gallery, which includes the work of famous American artists, such as Frederic Remington, and the Visions of the West gallery, which includes an authentic replica of a street in the Old West.
From Oklahoma City, take Interstate 35 North to Wichita, KS, then US Rte 54/400 West to Mullinville, KS. At Mullinville, continue on US 400 West to Dodge City, KS. (310 miles)
Stop #2 – Dodge City, KS
Dodge City was an uproarious town in the late 1800’s, known affectionately as "Hell on the Plains". It has been immortalized by two of its sheriffs, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. It is perhaps most remembered for Boot Hill, its cemetery in which many a would-be gunfighter met his end. Fort Dodge is just out of town and can be visited, as well.
From Dodge City, travel East on US 54 to US Rte 283 North, then West on Interstate 70 to Oglalla, KS.
Then take Rte 26 West to Scott’s Bluff, NB (453 miles)
Stop #3 – Scott’s Bluff National Monument, NB
Less a cowboy site and more a Westward Expansion attraction, Scott’s Bluff refers to an area of sandstone promontories which marked an important stop along the Oregon Trail. The area is visible for miles so provided a landmark for these early settlers. It was also the last major stop before the arduous journey into the Rocky Mountains.
From here, take Rte 71 North to US Rte 20 East to US Rte 384 North into South Dakota and on to Deadwood, SD. (226 miles)
Stop #4 – Deadwood, SD
Deadwood was a haven for gunfighters and other colorful personalities in the late 1800’s. Wild Bill Hickok was killed during a poker game here. The town celebrates its history during the "Days of ’76", in late July, with a parade, rodeo, and other events.
Note: Extend your trip several days and visit the other major attractions in the area, such as, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
From here, continue West I-90 to Sheridan, WY, then take Rte 14 West to Cody,WY. (362 miles)
Stop #5 – Cody, WY
"Buffalo Bill" Cody was one of the West’s most recognized characters. He was a Pony Express rider, Army Scout, and finally, a showman who traveled the United States romanticizing cowboys and displaying their incredible skills with guns. He founded the town and is immortalized in numerous venues in the area. In particular, check out the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a museum which brings this era to life.
From Cody, travel East on Rte 14, then South on Rte 120 to US 20 East to Casper, WY. Here take Interstate 25 South to Cheyenne, WY. (410 miles)
Stop #6 – Cheyenne, WY
Cheyenne also had a notorious reputation as a wild, unruly place. It was known as "Hell on Wheels" in the east. As capital of Wyoming, the "Cowboy State", which has long pictured a cowboy on horseback on its license plate, Cheyenne preserves its past with several museum devoted to this period in American history and with its celebration of "Frontier Days", in late July, which features the world’s largest outdoor rodeo.
From here, head South on Interstate 25 to Walsenburg, in southern Colorado. Then travel West on US Rte 160 to Durango, CO. (484 miles)
Stop #7 – Durango, CO
Durango, Colorado is a quintessential western town that had its heyday during the gold and silver booms, but now serves as a gateway to several spectacular tourist areas. The downtown area has many Victorian buildings which herald its earlier prominence and the town still hosts numerous rodeos as a reminder of its cowboy days.
Note: Extend your trip while in the vicinity, and stop off at Mesa Verde National Park, just west of the city, or take US 550, which runs from Durango to Silverton, CO, known as the Million Dollar Highway for its breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains which it traverses. For those who are afraid to drive the winding, cliff side route, the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a different way to experience these precipitous mountains. It is about a 9-hour round trip.
After your visit in the Durango area, continue West on Rte 160, then take US Rte 666 South to Gallup, New Mexico. Here, turn West on Interstate 40 to Holbrook, AZ. Then take Rt3 77 South to Tucson, AZ. Next, head East on Interstate 10 to Rte 80 South to Tombstone, AZ. (573 miles)
Stop #8 – Tombstone, AZ
Tombstone is one of the most famous Cowboy towns in the United States. It was here, in the "Town too tough to die," that the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral" occurred, which pitted the notorious Clanton Gang against Wyatt Earp and his group. The event is reenacted daily at 2:00 PM. This town also has its Boot Hill Cemetery and is home to the famous Bird Cage Theater.
Travel back up Rte 80 to Interstate 10 East to El Paso, Texas.(290 miles)
Stop #9 – El Paso, TX
El Paso is included in this itinerary because it was here that John Wesley Harding, one of the last of the true cowboys and gunslingers, met his end.
Next, travel East on Interstate 10 and then East on Interstate 20 to Abilene, TX. (455 miles)
Stop #10 – Abilene, TX
Abilene is used in this trip basically as a way station because of the long last leg back to our starting point. The area was once populated by millions of buffalo, but now the economy is tied to the cattle industry. There are a few historic sites in the vicinity.
To return to the starting point of trip, take Interstate 20 East to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, then pick up Interstate 35 North to Oklahoma City. (351 miles)
The entire trip covers a total of approximately 4,000 miles and requires a minimum of 17 days, without extensions.