The California Trail Interpretive Center, just outside Elko, NV, is a great place to get out and stretch your legs while learning about the history of the area.
On our way out to California from Utah, we made a short stop at the California Trail Interpretive Center, just outside the city of Elko, NV. After a long stretch of time in the car, everyone was ready to get out and stretch their legs, use the bathroom and have some lunch. Thankfully we were able to do all three!
Address and Hours
1 Interpretive Center Way
Hunter Exit 292
Elko, Nevada 89801
Open 7 days a week, 9am-5pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.
What is the California Trail Interpretive Center?
The California Trail Interpretive Center is owned and operated by the Southern Nevada Conservancy, which is a non-profit organization that works with the Bureau of Land Management to provide information to visitors about the people to traveled through the area on their way to California.
According to the website, “between 1841 and 1869, up to 250,000 people sold their belongings, packed wagons, and set out for California. The California Trail Interpretive Center offers dioramas and interactive exhibits that immerse the visitor in the trail experience of those who endured the 2,000 mile trek.”
What is there to do at the center?
When you go to the California Trail Interpretive Center, be prepared for an immersive experience. There are life size replicas of wagons, dioramas, artifacts, videos, activities and more. You can climb into a wagon and get a feel for how big (or small) they are, including how many supplies and food the average family had to bring with them.
With a few exceptions, such as climbing onto the dioramas, the entire center is available to help you gain a better understanding of the history of the area and people who lived in and traveled through it.
If you want to get outside and explore the area around the center, there are a few trails that help you do so. You can get more information about the trails by visiting their website.
Other fun ways my kids got involved with the center:
- Scavenger hunt: Grab the paper and pencil available at the main desk.
- Dressing up: There is a large box of pioneer era clothing to try on near the wagon displaying the food and other essentials needed.
- Activity booklet: Next to the scavenger hunt papers, there is a stack of activity books about the center. Take a couple to keep the kids entertained in the car.
- Travelers log: You can add your name to the list of visitors who have come before you.
- Stamps: There is a small area near the bathrooms where you can stamp paper with the date and a picture of the center. Then take the paper with you as a memento of your visit.
[15+ Screen Free Travel Activities for Kids]
How long should we plan to be there?
I would plan on about 1-1.5 hours. This is assuming you have kids old enough to read and are interested in checking out the many plaques and signs throughout the center.
Our Overall Experience
The California Trail Interpretive Center is a great place to stop. They have clean bathrooms, plenty of space to explore and we learned many new things about life on the trail. There are picnic tables outside, so we had a place to eat our lunch before getting back into the car. It was family friendly and not crowded at all, although I’m sure there are times it might be (field trip, tour bus, etc). In all, I would recommend this center.
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