Las Vegas is a forward-looking town― ancient history there is whatever happened five minutes ago. But even in Las Vegas, you can launch into the past by taking a driving tour along one of the 19th century's most important trade routes.
Called by historians "the longest, crookedest, most arduous pack-mule route in America," the Old Spanish Trail was established by 1829 as a link from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. Mexican, Spanish, and American traders traveled its 1,120 miles, carrying wool products west and returning east with California livestock. Las Vegas, with its green meadows amid the desert, became a key stopover.
On Las Vegas's history trail, you might even see traces of those early travelers. Steven K. Madsen spent 18 summers walking and driving the entire length of the route with University of Utah professor C. Gregory Crampton. Their book, In Search of the Spanish Trail, laid out portions of the route that had been forgotten. Madsen says he's seen rust-stained rocks marking spots where iron-shod horses and mules stepped more than a century before.