P. O. Box 12045
Reno, NV 89510
Jon Willers, President
Bill Bishell, Board Member
Bob Black, Vice Presdent
Ralph Theiss, Board Member


Trails West is an all volunteer organization the locates,marks and publishes driving guides to the various emigrant trails to California and southern Oregon.

Our primary activity is installing, and maintaining, distinctive steel-rail “T” markers along the many emigrant trails leading to California. So far we have placed nearly 600 markers on trails beginning in southeastern Idaho on the California Trail, extending across northern Nevada on the Humboldt River route and the Hastings Cutoff, and continuing into northern California on the Applegate, Nobles, Beckwourth, Truckee, Yreka and Carson Trails. Currently, we are making plans to mark the Johnson Cutoff, beginning near Carson City and ending near Placerville.

Usually, two field trips are scheduled each summer for placing and/ or maintaining these markers. Here’s where the work and fun begins. In order to install each marker, we have to dig a hole 24”-30” deep in ground that can be compacted and rocky. Then we anchor the marker with gathered rocks and two bags of concrete. All of this work requires digging bars, shovels, heavy lifting and lots of sweat.

Trails West volunteers fabricate each marker from the hundreds of feet of raw, rusted rail stored at one of our members back acres. Each year we organize work parties to cut, weld, and drill the two-hundred pound, five foot long, steel-rail markers needed for the coming field season. It’s dirty work for the guys and gals but the camaraderie, and sometimes a barbeque, turn it into an enjoyable event.


Anyone with an interest in the emigrant trails era can join Trails West, Inc. You don’t have to be a trail expert or trained historian. The organization welcomes members from every background–whatever your particular talents.


We have a newsletter "The Marker" which is published three times a year.