For history buffs or anyone that has an interest of trains - visiting Golden Spike National Historical Park is a must visit when traveling thru northern Utah. Located in Promontory, Utah the Golden Spike National Historical Park highlights one of the most important events in American history - the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the United States. On May 10, 1869, a ceremonial Golden Spike was driven into the railroad tracks to celebrate connecting the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. Today, the National Park Service operates a wonderful sight commemorating this historic event, here is what to do and see when visiting Golden Spike National Historical Park.
VISITING THE PARK
First off - a quick warning, this site is in the middle of nowhere, so bring some snacks and drinks and plan on a couple hours visiting this site. As we were heading south into Utah on our road trip from Washington State, this made for an easy addition to our travels and was completely worth it! We absolutely loved visiting Golden Spike National Historical Park, not only for gaining another National Park passport stamp but the park is well maintained and offers a fun and entertaining way to learn about this interesting piece of American history.
Arriving to Golden Spike National Historical Park, outside the Visitor Center you will see a large white obelisk. This was the first monument erected at the sight to honor the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Today it has been moved to sit on display in front of the Visitor Center. Continuing into the Visitor Center spend some time viewing the informational exhibits and relics that are on display. Then head outside to view the site where the Golden Spike ceremony originally took place. Today, while the Golden Spike is no longer in the tracks, a polished wooden railroad tie lays in the track commemorating the historic event. Each year, on the May 10th anniversary as well as on Saturdays thru the summer, a re-enactment of the Last Spike takes place. In addition, in the summer months, Golden Spike National Historical Park offers a daily event where you are able to view replicas of the steam locomotives (the 'Jupiter' and the 'No. 119'), that were onsite during the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
JUPITER & NO. 119 LOCOMOTIVES
Today, about 1.7 miles of the original track have been re-laid outside the Golden Spike National Historical Park Visitor Center. During the summer months, the working replicas of the 'Jupiter' and 'No. 119' are driven from the nearby Engine House to the railroad track near the Visitor Center where guests can gather to watch the arrival. We made sure to be outside ready and waiting for the 10am and 10:30am arrival of the trains. Once the trains arrive, rangers are onsite providing information about the trains and are able to answer questions. Walking around and getting an up-close look of the trains is also allowed once the trains have parked. Getting to watch the trains arrive was an absolute thrill and was a highlight of our time in Utah for our son - he still talks about visiting the Golden Spike trains! In fact, he enjoyed seeing these trains so much - he now wants to be a train driver when we he grows up!
Try and time your visit based on the train schedule listed below (Click Here to double check current times).
Train Schedule for the Jupiter and No.119:
10:00 AM - Jupiter Arrival
10:30 AM - No. 119 Arrival
3:50 PM - No. 119 Departure
4:30 PM - Jupiter Departure
After enjoying the 'Jupiter' and 'No.119', for those that want to take in a bit more history of the area, there are two self-guided auto tours that are available in the park. The West Auto Tour is 7 miles long, the East Auto Tour is a 2 miles long - both offer opportunities to drive along the transcontinental railroad grade.
Interested in planning your own trip to Golden Spike National Historical Park in Utah? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!
One Day visiting Golden Spike National Historical Park: Upon arrival, look for white obelisk outside the Visitor Center. Then continue into the Visitor Center to explore the information exhibits and relics that are on display. Head outside and look for the railroad tie that marks the spot of the original Golden Spike. Be sure to be outside for the train arrivals at 10 & 10:30. Drive East Auto Tour (2 miles) and West Auto Tour (7 miles).