romance of life on the frontier to the fierce conflicts (both imagined and real) between new and Native Americans, this part of the US is steeped in a rich history that helped forge much of the country we currently see.
Today, many of the states that made up this interesting part of America have become amazing places to visit in their own right, but there are some parts of the US that still maintain that rustic cowboy feel that the film industry has helped make a part of our conscious.
As the traditional Old West comprises all the states west of the Mississippi River, some of the stops on this list would be difficult to link together due to massive distances. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot pick and choose what you do, or even just select one as a part of a more general multi-centre holiday to the USA.
Saddle up and prepare to ride out into the sunset for a trip to remember.
The Navajo Nation, Arizona and Utah
Covering 27,000 sq miles and occupying parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation reserve is a place packed with sensational scenery and rich history.
From the Arizona section of the nation, you can take a self-guided cultural tour of the reservation. During this trip you will learn about the fascinating past of the Navajo, experience their traditions and even try the authentic food of these people.
For a more scenic trip, head over to Monument Valley in Utah, which is also placed within the reservation. The landscape in this national park is somewhat Martian, with huge sculptures of red stone jutting out of the terrain in the most peculiar fashion.
The moment you step onto the beaten soil of The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, you will feel as if you have been transported back to the Old West. To channel your inner outlaw, take a horseback ride through this magnificent park and see the incredible rock formations up close and personal.
Within the park [rep – maybe change one of the second two] you can even spend the night within a sacred hogan dwelling – a shelter that has huge spiritual significance for the Navajo people.
Calico is probably as close to an Old West mining town as you are likely to see today – even if it has been restored numerous times since 1881.
Located in the desolate beauty of the Mojave Desert – a mighty attraction in itself – this old silver mining outpost was bought and restored by Walter Knott in the early 1950s. Despite a few more recent additions, there are many original buildings here still, including two saloons and a post office.
While strolling through the village will no doubt inspire thoughts of the American frontier, there are also plenty of activities in Calico that will take your Old West experience to the next level. To get a real feel for the life of a miner, take the Silver King Mine Tour deep underground and explore the tunnels of Calico. You can also try your hand at panning for gold or take the scenic off-road tour around the area to learn about the history of the town.
As the ‘ghost town’ is located in a regional park, there are plenty of places to camp if you fancy a cowboy style bivouac under the California stars.
The O.K. Corral, Arizona
Head on down to the aptly named Tombstone, Arizona to visit the site of one of the most famous gunfights in the Old West: the O.K. Corral.
Witness a re-enactment of the battle that saw lawmen Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday pit their shooting skills against notorious outlaws Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne.
Although the actual gunfight only lasted around 30 seconds, its impact and infamy have become synonymous with the Wild West, making the Arizona site a must for anyone wanting to explore this part of America’s culture.
To get a better insight into the event, you can visit one of five displays and museum exhibitions including a life-sized set of models that show the placement of each gunfighter according to Wyatt Earp’s detailed maps of the incident.
The town of Tombstone is also reported to be the most haunted place in the entire Old West and you can take a tour every weekend to learn the eerie backstory to this once-lawless place.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
A place of astounding beauty, Yellowstone offers you the chance to experience old America in its purest form. The park has remained relatively untouched since 1872, so you can explore the real Old West before it became populated and industrialised.
The amount of natural phenomena that occur here makes it a brilliant place to visit no matter what your travel objectives are. In fact, the majority of the planet’s geysers call the park home, including Old Faithful – one of the most reliable and popular geysers in the world.
Yellowstone even has its own version of the Grand Canyon, complete with a majestic water fall: the Lower Falls. This feat of nature is a stunning thing to take in and you can complete an eight-mile hike that takes you to both sides and the edge of the falls – the views are sensational, but not for the faint of heart!
In terms of fauna, let’s just say that this park certainly puts the wild in Wild West. Yellowstone is home to a unique species of bison, which would have patrolled the plains in their thousands back in frontier times. Due to over-hunting and human encroachment, this majestic beast has found itself close to extinction in recent times, but they are now thriving in the protected boundaries of the park. You can see around 3,000 bison in the park Other animals within here include various species of bear, beavers, bats, wolves and birds.
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