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Cherokee and Smoky Hill Trails

The Cherokee Trail owes its name to groups of Cherokee Indians who used it during their treks from Oklahoma to the gold fields of California in 1849 and 1850. Parts of it had been previously used for years by various Indian tribes in their migrations, trappers and traders, and military expeditions. At times parts of it were known by other names, such as the Trappers' Trail, the Territorial Road, and the Smoky Hill South Trail. In later years, the trail was used by stage lines such as Barlow & Sanderson’s Stage & Express Line, A. Jacobs and Company, and the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Company. The trail ran from Bent’s old fort in Southern Colorado, and Fort Bridger in Western Wyoming.


In 1865, a new branch of the Smoky Hill Trail, from Lake, (just east of Limon, Colorado) to Denver was surveyed for the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Company Line. It was to go into operation that same year between Denver and the Missouri River. The branch passed north of today’s Elizabeth, Colorado to Hill Top, (later changed to Hilltop), then north and northwest, where it intersected with the Cherokee Trail at Pine Grove’s 20 Mile House (Pine Grove was later renamed "Parker"). From there, it followed Cherry Creek towards the 17, 12, 9, and 4 Mile Houses on into Denver. This branch became known as the Smoky Hill South Trail. It offered far better wood and water supplies along the trail than the Middle Smoky Trail it replaced. The coming of the railroads spelled the end of its use for interstate commerce, but it was used locally for many more years.


In 1986, the Smoky Hill Trail Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker at the triangle formed by the original intersection of Hilltop Road and Flintwood Road at Hilltop. In 1997, the marker had to be relocated due to new road construction and it was placed at the current 20 Mile House site.


Information used in this update, prepared by Larry T. Smith, was taken from The Smoky Hill Trail by Margaret Long, The Cherokee Trail by Lee Whiteley and Guide Book to Historic Sites in the Parker Area by F.B McLaughlin.

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