The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail traces the 1,300-mile path forged by the Pioneer Company in 1846-1847 and followed by more than 70,000 Mormons seeking freedom from religious persecution.
At the time, the Mormon faith was only 17 years old. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was established in New York in 1830 by Joseph Smith. Smith said he had seen visions of gold tablets that he transcribed into the Book of Mormon.
Smith attracted many followers, but as his church grew, so did opposition to it. Smith moved the church to Ohio, Missouri, and eventually Nauvoo, Illinois, seeking a peaceful home for his religious community.
But people in Illinois objected to the church’s rapid growth and its practice of polygamy. Mormon homes and farms were burned, and Smith was arrested and killed in his jail cell on June 27, 1844.
Brigham Young assumed leadership of the church and made plans to move the congregation further west. He chose the Salt Lake Valley, and charged the Pioneer Company with forging a trail across the Rocky Mountains to the church’s new home.
Along the way, the pioneers built bridges, located ferry crossings over rivers, and left behind markers to guide those that would follow. You can still see the ruts of their wagons and visit key sites and museums that commemorate this historic journey.