Westward-bound emigrants entered Idaho after crossing Thomas Fork Valley. They soon encountered the climb and decent of Big Hill, witnessed nature's curiosities at Soda Springs, and discovered willing traders at Fort Hall.
In 1843 wagons first rolled past Fort Hall to face the harshness and desolation of the Snake River Plain. Dust, sagebrush, lava rock, mosquitoes, a burning sun, cold nights, and a concerned Native American population made the journey an arduous one. Yet, these pioneers continued on and helped to establish an ocean-to-ocean nation.
Prior to the discovery of gold, California-bound emigrants followed the main Oregon Trail to Raft River before turning south on the California Trail. Gold seekers soon opened new routes in an attempt to reach their destinations sooner. Hudspeth's Cutoff (1849) directed traffic west from Soda Springs. The Salt Lake Alternative (Hensley's Cutoff, 1848) enabled travelers to obtain supplies in Salt Lake City before continuing their journey. These routes joined in the City of Rocks area and headed west through Granite Pass.
As their numbers increased, lands along the trail became barren of grass and wood, and water sources often became tainted. Consequently, alternate routes were explored and utilized. The South Alternate (1843), Northside Alternate (1840's), North Alternate (1850),
Goodale's Cutoff (1852), Lander Road (1858), and Kelton Road (1869) all became heavily utilized by emigrant and early Idaho settlers.