Golden Spike Empire
Participate in railroad history, bird migration and iconic earth art in the quiet stretches of Northern Utah's rural Box Elder County. It starts with a visit to the Utah State Railroad Museum and finishes in a nature reserve for the land's first migrants.
Start and Finish: Salt Lake City International or Ogden-Hinckley Airport with easy access on I-15
Hours of Driving: 5–7 hours with Golden Spike auto tours. And add around two hours for the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge auto tour and a half-day to explore the remote Transcontinental Railroad Backcountry Byway.
Rolling into Ogden, Utah, on the FrontRunner Commuter Rail, author Tim Sullivan immediately sees the importance of trains to the city's history. With the driving of the last spike and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Northern Utah established itself as the Crossroads of the West. While there are multiple cities and towns with lodging options in the area, consider a base camp in Brigham City to see it all.
On this four-day itinerary, you'll explore the region's profound railroad history in Ogden (Day 1) and at Golden Spike National Historic Site, less than one hour to the northwest. Time your trip for a Saturday stop in the summer at Golden Spike (Day 2) to witness the reenactment of the last spike ceremony and the opportunity to participate in the recreation of the "Champagne Photo." In fact, May 10, 2019, marks "Spike 150," the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad. Learn more at spike150.org. Save time (and carry provisions) for two auto tours, a hike to the Big Fill and a spur trip to the incredible Spiral Jetty earth art on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. If you're well prepared and have the time, use part of today or tomorrow to set out on the Transcontinental Railroad Backcountry Byway.
To round out your trip, take your time exploring the small towns and communities in the Bear River Valley (Day 3), which can include touring the murals of Tremonton, a stop at Crystal Hot Springs and a spur adventure up the canyon to Mantua. And because Brigham City is the gateway to the world's greatest wild bird refuge (as seen on the grand welcome sign arching over the wide main street), a trip to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (Day 4) and the excellent auto tour is a must. Bring your binoculars, a picnic lunch and a sense of wonder for the ancient migrations that made this land a crossroads well before humans laid tracks.
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