Educational Travel: End of the Oregon Trail Museum

Historic Oregon City marks the official end of the Oregon Trail. It’s also home to the best Oregon history museum you’ve probably overlooked. Only minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon City and its End of the Oregon Trail Museum is easy to access via car or MAX, but often becomes overshadowed by other excellent Portland attractions for kids. The museum includes a wonderful indoor exhibit hall, a country store selling pioneer-era toys, candies, and garb, and gardens in the summer months. Families can also get information on area historic home tours.


After checking in at the front desk in the country store, visitors are directed to the three main exhibit halls, where docents take you through the space. This is not a traditional tour, where guides are speaking to you all the time, but rather leading you and helping you along. In the first building, for instance, is a hands-on pioneer-era store, school, and wagon supply area, where kids are encouraged to play for a while. Young kids will like the school and store area, and older kids will love creating their own Oregon Trail supply list, then physically collecting the required items (bags representing flour, bacon, and coffee, medicines, tools, and the like) and fitting them into an actual wagon bed. All supplies must come in under 1000 pounds, so we kept track on our phone calculator.


When they’ve played their fill in the first building, visitors are led to a hands-on activity (candle-making during our visit) and then to a 30 minute film depicting life along the Oregon Trail. All our school-aged kids were interested in the film, but very young children may want to opt out. The docents then lead families through to the third building, where the talking portion of the tour includes information on the Oregon City land office (where all Oregon Trail travelers had to ‘check in’ to get their land) and Oregon City history (it was the first capital of Oregon, and boasts additional firsts, such as the first hotel west of the Rockies, etc). The docents do a great job of keeping the talk engaging, with many questions directly to kids and many stories kids are interested in. You can stay here as long as you like (the docents will gamely keep answering questions) or can head outside to run around on the lawns, check out the gardens, and shop in the store. Free hot chocolate and coffee are offered in the store post-visit.


Date last visited:

January 2014

Distance from the interstate:

10 minutes from I-5, right along I-205.


$9 for adults, $5 for children 5-17. Kids under 5 are free.


Summer: 9:30 am to 5 pm. Winter: 11 am to 4 pm.


No food services are on-site. Pack a picnic lunch; picnic tables are available outside.


The museum is located at 1726 Washington St., Oregon City. From I-5, take I-205 to Oregon City.