Popular Overland Migration Routes

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Download our US Migration Map showing popular migration routes our ancestors followed.

Boston Post Road—Served as a mail-service trail between Boston and New York in the 17th century.

Braddock’s Road—Military road that became the first overland route through the Allegheny Mountains.


California Trail—Nearly 40,000 people caught gold fever in 1849 and traveled overland to California to find the precious metal. The trail coincided with the Oregon Trail until it crossed the Rockies.

Fall Line Road—A popular road from Pennsylvania and Maryland to the Carolinas before 1750, it broke off from the King’s Highway (see below) at Fredericksburg, Va., and followed the fall line through Virginia, the Carolinas and into Georgia.

Forbes Road—First a military road to get General John Forbes’ troops from Harrisburg to Fort Duquesne (later Fort Pitt and then Pittsburgh) during the French and Indian War, it provided a westward route for settlers from eastern Pennsylvania and New England.


Great Valley Road—Migrating families to western Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee made this the most traveled road in colonial America. King’s Highway—Formed by old post routes, the continuous highway helped colonists travel from Maine to Georgia.

Mohawk Trail—Major route for hundreds of thousands of pioneers making their way west; precursor of the Erie Canal, New York Central Railroad and the New York State Thruway.

Mormon Trail—Between 1847 and 1869, about 85,000 Mormon pioneers traveled along this 1,400-mile route from Nauvoo, Ill., to what became Salt Lake City.

Natchez Trace—The only way to get to the Old Southwest before 1806, running from Lexington, Ky., to Natchez, Miss.

National Road—Also known as the Cumberland Road or National Pike, this route for westward-bound settlers never quite met its goals. It had reached only from Wheeling, WV, to Vandalia, Ill., when the railroad eliminated the need for it.

Oregon Trail—Along what was perhaps the most important migration trail, more than 350,000 pioneers—mostly from Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois—journeyed the 2,000 miles from Independence, Mo., to the Columbia River region of Oregon from 1841 to 1869.

Upper Road—An important migration route to the Carolinas from Fredericksburg.

Wilderness Road—Thousands of pioneers followed this route to settle in Kentucky and the lower Ohio Valley.

Zane’s Trace—A way for migrating settlers to cross the Ohio River.