Have you ever heard of Golden Spike National Historical Park aka Promontory Point Utah?
I hadn’t either! It is part of the National Park Service. On our way back from Yellowstone National Park, we saw a sign off to the side of the road that said Golden Spike National Historical Park, this was in Utah.
We’re the type of people that when we have a destination in mind, including home, we don’t usually make unplanned stops. This time it was still early enough in the day, we were in the area, and so we decided that we would jump off the highway and check it out!
Let’s explore all the fun things to see and do at the Golden Spike National Historical Park.
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What is Golden Spike National Historical Park?
Golden Spike National Historical Park honors the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The last spike was driven into the track in 1869 connecting the east to the west coasts. The spike was “Golden.”
Where is Promontory Point Utah – Golden Spike National Historical Park”
The Gold Spike National Historical Park is a little less than an hour and a half from Salt Lake City. It is really far off the main highway! (About 28 miles off of the highway.) There are also no other touristy sites in the vicinity, so it will take some commitment to make this stop part of your trip.
In 1869, reporters and railroad officials stated that the railroad was completed at Promontory Point Utah. This is false information that has continued throughout our history. Promontory Point Utah is actually 35 miles south of the Golden Spike National Historical Park.
When visiting the site, you will want to make sure you enter Golden Spike National Historical Park into your GPS and not Promontory Point Utah. We did not have any trouble getting a GPS signal.
The transcontinental railroad is a huge part of Utah history.
Two of my kids had programs this year about the Golden Spike. They taught us through song about how the railroad connected the east coast to the west coast! Check out the song provided by the Utah 4th grade program song lyric script.
Basically, both workers from the east and west were working hard to finish the track to connect the United States. On May 10, 1869, in Promontory Point(according to the reporters) the final spike was put in place. As a celebration, a golden spike was used!
2019 was the 150th anniversary of this great event. Reenactments are common every single day, but in honor of the 150-year celebration, a special reenactment was performed.
For your viewing pleasure, you can watch part of the celebration! This is provided by the special website that was created for this, called Spike 150.
Plan Your Visit to Golden Spike National Historical Park
Should I Plan a Special Visit
Yes, planning a visit to Golden Spike National Historical Park is worth it, if you live in Utah. This is a great Utah state historical site to explore. If I was coming from out of state I would not necessarily go out of my way to see Promontory Point unless I had a train enthusiast with me, held a National Park Pass, and wanted to get to as many parks as possible, or if I had a trip planned and was near the area.
What to Expect
Golden Spike National Historic Site is located in the Great Desert Basin. It is far from civilization. If you take a look on Google Maps, you’ll see that the park is nowhere near neighborhoods or amenities. It’s 90 miles from Salt Lake City, 50 miles from Logan, and 50 miles from Ogden.
When we went, there were two sites pretty much across the street from each other. The main site housed the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center includes an area where you can watch films (these were dated), and a gift shop, and a museum that has items from the era as well as stories.
Outside the museum is a pathway leading to the point where the tracks were joined. The second site, the engine house, holds train cars.
How Much Time Do I Need at the Golden Spike National Historical Park?
I do not think you would need more than an hour to see everything in the visitor center and reenactments.
Junior Ranger Program
We enjoyed the junior ranger program available at Golden Spike Historical Park. The program is for kids 6-12. They can participate in activities that will take about 30 minutes to complete. It mostly involves learning all about the history of the transcontinental railroad.
Replica trains Juniper and No. 119 come rolling on display at 10 AM and 10:30 AM. There is a demonstration at 1 pm. At 4 pm the Trains are taken back to the engine house.
We visited the engine house and got to see the trains up close. The trains are large and colorful! You can go up into one of the trains. If you have a little one that loves machines, this will be a great stop for him or her.
There are reenactments of the Golden Spike ceremony held daily. If you want to see the reenactments, arrive between 11 AM and 1 pm. This is when the reenactments are performed. We arrived just when the last reenactment of the day was wrapping up! We missed out, and so if you plan a bit better, you’ll be able to see what we didn’t.
After the visitor center, you can jump in your car and take an auto tour. The west auto tour is seven miles long and is home to the “10 Miles of Track, Laid in one Day” sign where the Central Pacific Railroad built 10 miles and 56 feet of track on April 28th, 1869.
The east auto tour is two miles long and allows you to see cuts, fills, and culverts.
I recommend you don’t do this with littles. If you have little ones, I would stick with the museum, the surrounding area, and the engine house. But if you have older children or adults who love history, the tour helps give context to how amazing it was to finish the transcontinental railroad. It was an amazing feat!
I’m glad we went. I think it’s important to learn about the laborers, the engineering, and the other historic components of the railroad. This was a major event in our country’s history and was celebrated in cities across the country. We came away with a greater appreciation of the significance of Promontory Point Utah and the first transcontinental railroad.
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If you are looking for fun things to do in Utah with Kids we have you covered. There are great activities for all seasons. You can spend your Spring Break in Utah, Fall Break in Utah, or even enjoy all the things to do in winter in Utah. If you are up for a Utah National Park road trip, you can visit Zions National Park, Bryce Canyon National Parks, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. There are so many amazing hikes in Utah and great places to camp.