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Roads, Trails,
and Paths



List of Routes

Internet Resources

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     The Appalachian Mountains, an older and smaller range than the Rockies, stretch nearly 1,500 miles from northeastern Alabama to northern Vermont and through which there are few natural passes.  This natural barrier considerably hindered early migration into the interior of North America.  By 1750, however, colonial fur traders, explorers, and land speculators had begun to cross over the Appalachians into Kentucky and Tennessee and return to eastern communities with tales of vast and rich lands to the west.

     The first migrants to cross the Appalachians soon discovered that the mountains were not the only obstacles to westward settlement.  Other factors were the Native-American inhabitants and the ongoing dispute between the British and French governments as to who controlled this area.  As such, the migrations of British colonists beyond the mountains was a principal cause of the French and Indian War (1754-1761).

     After the war, migrants crossed the mountains in increasing numbers despite the British government's 1763 proclamation prohibiting settlement beyond the Appalachians. The British knew if the colonials continued their unrestrained encroachment upon Indian territory another Indian war would ensue, a situation they hoped to avoid. However, neither government prohibitions nor army blockades could stop the deluge of settlers that poured west after 1765.  Separated by mountain ranges and hundreds of miles from the center of political authority in the East, migrants such as Daniel Boone, and John Sevier followed their own designs and ignored government policies that they deemed to be inconsistent with their interests. Other routes through the Appalachians were also discovered during this time, including the Cumberland Gap, which afforded migrants access to eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.

     By 1775 the frontier had been pushed beyond the Appalachian Mountains, but renewed war with Indian tribes living in the Old Northwest and the western Carolinas, slowed the westward push into Tennessee. However, these conflicts as well as the American Revolutionary War did not completely curb westward migration.  Migrants continued to come west during this time some to escape the ravages of war along the east coast, but most still seeking land and opportunity settled in the western Carolinas and Kentucky.  At wars end in 1783, these migrants became the forerunners of American expansion into the Northwest Territory.  Source:


List of routes

List of Routes




Generally these routes are defined crossing the Appalachian Mountains and having their terminus in present day Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

The LINKS in the following list will take you to either our web page or

Another  identified resource with more information about that migration route..

*  = denotes link to a “Road Trip” page;    = link to map of the route




Avery’s Trace 

Kingston, TN /

Nashville, TN

A major route used by settlers to reach the Cumberland Settlements in Tennessee from 1788 to the mid-1830s. Named for Peter Avery who had the road laid out along trails used by the Cherokee Indians.

Boone’s Trail

Salisbury, NC /

Boonesboro, KY

Starts at Daniel Boone’s home on the Yadkin River. Was used by Boone between 1760 and 1775 to explore into Kentucky.

Cisca - St Augustine Trail 

Cisca Road

St. Augustine, FL /

Nashville, TN

A Native-American thoroughfare from Florida, via Augusta, Athens and Chickamauga crossing the Tennessee River at Running Water. In Georgia it generally follows US Routes 76, 129 and 78. The parts of this overall trail are called the Unicoi Road and the Nickajack Trail. 

Cumberland Trace

Stanford, KY /

Nashville, TN

As early as 1779 and 1780, many settlers traveled over the trace turning west from Logan's Station, and went south across the Cumberland River to the site that is now Nashville.

Cumberland Turnpike

Kingston, TN /

Carthage, TN

Also known as the Old Walton Road

Daniel Boone’s Trail *

London, KY /

Boonesborough, KY

This eastern spur of the Wilderness Road went to Boonesborough on the Kentucky River from near London, KY, a distance of about 45 miles. Was created by Daniel Boone upon separating with Benjamin Logan near Hazel Patch, KY.

Emery Road

Knoxville, TN /

Nashville, TN

This route followed closely some sections a Native-American path known as Tollunteeskee’s Trail.  The first "cut and clear" for a trace as a direct route to the Cumberland settlements occurred in 1785. The system of roads came to be known as the Emery Road and served travelers exclusively for ten years from1785 to 1795.

Great Emigrant Road 

Philadelphia, PA /

Cincinnati, OH &

Greenville, SC

A term used by the Brethern Church to show the migration trails taken by 18th century members. The routes commenced in from eastern Pa and ran south to Fort Chiswell in VA where it probably branched to Greenville, SC, and  northwest to Cincinnati, OH. 

Great Indian War &

Trading Path (TN)  

Bridgeport, AL /

Bristol, TN

The GIW crossed into Tennessee at the Nickajack area, located east of Bridgeport, Alabama.  From Chattanooga the route approximates present day US Route 11 to Knoxville.  The reminder of the trail in Tennessee is near US Route 11E which became the Knoxville Road in the late 18th century.

Great Indian War &

Trading Path (WV)  

Peterstown, WV /

Elkins, WV

139 miles of the GIWP is approximated by US Route 219 from Peterstown to Elkins then a 41 mile section, known as the Seneca Trail to the Maryland border. A branch trail, known as the Shawnee Trail stems from Elkins to Green Spring a distance of about 105 miles.   

James River-Kanawah Turnpike   

Buchanan, VA /

Charlton Heights, WV

Built during the first half of 19th century to facilitate portage of passenger and freight shipments between the western reaches of the James River via the James River and Kanawha Canal and the eastern reaches of the Kanawha River.

Jonesboro Road  

New Bern, NC /

Jonesboro, TN

Migration route that primarily follows present day US Route 70 from New Bern on the coast of North Carolina through Raleigh and Greensboro and across the Appalachians to eastern Tennessee where it linked with the Knoxville Road.

Kanawah Trace

Ft. Chiswell, VA /

Pt. Pleasant, WV

Aka. Kanawah Route

Kingston Pike

Knoxville TN/

Kingston, TN

A Native-American trail that became the primary route from downtown Knoxville, formerly James White's Fort, to the western edge of Knox County.  It then became a bridle path, going to Sinking Creek. In 1792, Charles McClung surveyed the road from Knoxville to Campbell’s Station.

Knoxville Road *

Bristol, TN /

Knoxville, TN

Developed as a more direct path from the Clinch River to Knoxville by 1792. This road follows much of present day U.S. Route 11E, a distance of about 120 miles. 

Lexington-Limestone Road

Maysville, KY /

Lexington, KY

First an Indian-buffalo trail that ran through Lower Blue Licks, KY.  The first wagon was taken over it in 1783. It came into prominence after 1792 as an immigrant road to central Kentucky.  At Lexington began a road to Nashville.

Lexington Spur  *

Richmond, KY /

Lexington, KY

A segment of the eastern spur of the Wilderness Road that branched off of Daniel Boone’s Trail at Richmond,  Kentucky and traveled about 25 miles to Lexington, Kentucky.

Logan’s Trace  *

Mt. Vernon, KY / Harrodsburg, KY

The western spur of the Wilderness Road initially created by Colonel Benjamin Logan in 1775.   Later a northwest extension ran to the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville).

Maysville Turnpike    

Maysville–Lexington Turnpike

Maysville, KY /

Lexington, KY

Originally known as the Lexington-Limestone Road this improved route opened in 1835, a 64 mile road from Maysville to Lexington built along an old route to New Orleans. AKA Maysville-Lexington Turnpike

Nickajack Trail 

Bridgeport, AL /

Manchester, TN

started east of Bridgeport, Alabama at Tecallassee a former Cherokee Town located near the border with Georgia to and runs about 50 miles north to Manchester, TN.  A part of the Cisca-St. Augustine Trail 

Nashville Road *

Knoxville, TN /

Nashville, TN

An early migration route through Tennessee that linked with the Natchez Trace.

Ohio River Connection Trail *

Harrodsburg, KY /

Louisville, KY

The Louisville end of the Wilderness Road started at Harrodsburg, KY then to Brashear's Station at the mouth of Floyds Fork on Salt River, then to the salt works at Bullitts Licks, three miles west of Shepherdsville, and finally, to the Falls of the Ohio, now Louisville, where it stopped.

Old North Carolina Road

North Carolina /

Crossville, TN

A part of the Avery’s Trace, it intersected with the Old Walton Road at Crossville, TN.  AKA Old North Carolina Miltary Road

Old Northwest Turnpike

Winchester, VA / Parkersburg, WV

Originally created in the 1780’s as a route to the Ohio River that would run wholly through Virginia.  The road was upgraded to a turnpike in the early 1830’s.

Old Walton Road *

Kingston, TN /

Carthage, TN

an alternative route of Nashville Road, this road was also known as the Cumberland Turnpike. Portions of this route were known at various times as Avery's Trace, the old North Carolina Road, and Emery Road

Richmond Road *

Richmond, VA /

 Ft. Chiswell, VA

An early western migration route from the James River to the Great Wagon Road.

Seneca Trail

Elkins, WV /

Silver Lake, WV

A 41 mile section of the Great Indian War Path that runs through Tucker County, WV near US Route 219.

Shawnee Trail (WV)

Elkins, WV /

Green Spring, WV

A 105 mile section of the Great Indian War Path that runs through the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area then north along the South Branch Potomac River.

Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike

Staunton, VA /

Parkersburg, WV

225 mile road built during the first quarter of the 19th century.  Follows much of today’s U.S. Route 250.

Unicoi Road 

Augusta, GA /

Maryville, TN

Originally a Native-American trading path, known as the Cisca - St. Augustine Trail this route starts at the highest point of navigation on the Savannah River.   Began use in the later 18th century by migrant wanting to reach settlements near Maryville, TN.

Virginia Turnpike

Richmond, VA /

Gauley Bridge, WV

This road was probably an improved version of the old Richmond Road that joined the Great Wagon Road at Lexington, VA.  The route follows present day US highway 60 for its entire length and ends at the source of the Kanawha River in West Virginia.

Wilderness Road *

Ft. Chiswell, VA /

 Louisville, KY &

Lexington, KY

In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail from Fort Chiswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap.  The main spur of the trail into Kentucky was widened into a wagon road by 1792 this early migration route through the Cumberland Gap links the Shenandoah and Ohio River Valleys. 

*  = denotes link to a “Road Trip” page

 = link to map of the route

Image Gallery


Image Gallery

During our research we have collected images and photographs that are of general interest to a variety of American migration routes, roads and trails.  Some of them are presented on this website because we believe they tend to provide the reader with additional information which may aid in the understanding of this topic as well as our ancestors past lives.

Migration Routes to Kentucky and Tennessee 1779-1796


If you have any photographs or maps or other images relating to American migration 
routes, roads, or trails we would greatly appreciate hearing from you.


Use the following LINK to view the various image galleries that pertain to this topic.

American Migration Routes, Roads & Trails


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General Resources

·  American Migration Patterns 

· - Message Boards - Migration 

·  Historical U.S. Migration & Settlement Patterns


·  Trails West 

·  GENTREK - Migration Routes

·  Historic trails and roads in the U. S. - Wikipedia

·  Frontier Trails - A Brief History 

·  Familyworks American Migration


·  Roots & Routes 

·  Brethren Life: Migrations

·  Early Migration Routes

·  Native American trails in the U. S. - Wikipedia

Topic Specific

·  From Trail to Railway Through the Appalachians: Through the Appalachians, by Albert Perry Brigham

·  Transportation in Early Middle Tennessee

·    History Of Fayette Co,, WV, Beginning of Public Highways

·    Wilderness Road to Kentucky, by William A. Pusey

Download a free 2-page Fact Sheet

about American migration routes.




The following Link will take you to our library of genealogy reference books.   Here you will find books about historic American roads, trails, and paths.  In addition, there are texts that pertain to ethnic and religion groups, history, geography as well as other books that will assist you with your research.


 U.S.A. Research Library


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