The California Trail was a route that American travelers and settlers took when going from the eastern states of USA to the modern-day state of California. When the people started the route to go to California, California was not yet a state of USA and had mostly Native American inhabitants.
This suddenly changed in 1848 when gold was discovered in California. This led to the famous California Gold Rush which lasted from 1848 to 1855. During this time, nearly 300,000 people used the California Trail to reach the golden state and try to strike it rich by mining gold.
The California Trail began at Missouri, the same as the Oregon Trail. And it followed much of the first half of the Oregon Trail. It passed through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and finally, California.
The first half of the Trail took travelers from Missouri to Wyoming. It was from Wyoming onwards that the Trail followed many different routes to California. In all, the California Trail ran for almost 3000 miles, making it a lot longer than the Oregon Trail which was 2000 miles long.
It was a very hard journey along the California Trail. It was even harder than the Oregon Trail. The most commonly used type of vehicles was covered wagons. The Trail passed across Rocky Mountains, rivers, barren valleys and many other mountain ranges.
One of the hardest parts of the journey was the Great Basin area where drinkable water became scarce and travelers had a hard time finding any wood to burn. Moreover, the travelers usually had to go through the deserts of Nevada and then face the formidable mountain range of Sierra Nevada. It was precisely because of such hard path that many different routes of the trail came into being as the travelers tried to find an easier way of California.
Traveling from Missouri to California took many months. So anyone making the journey had to be well-prepared. Usually the journey along the California Trail was made on covered wagons. These were pulled by oxen and carried important provisions such as food, tools and weapons.
The weapons had to be used in order to hunt along the way or for protection. The tools had to be used to clear up the path and to make it possible for wagons to continue moving on the route. Travelers also gathered food along the way by fishing, hunting and other means.
The greatest danger on the California Trail was the journey itself. It was a very hard and a very long journey. Along the way, people fell sick or ill with diseases like cholera. Some Native American tribes helped the travelers while others attacked and killed them.
The travelers also had to drive their wagons carefully in order not to meet any accidents and had to guard themselves against bitter weather conditions. All this resulted in the deaths of many travelers although as more and more people traveled along the California Trail, it became much safer.