Admission for up to a week is $7 per vehicle ($4 per pedestrian/bicyclist/motorcyclist) from May through mid-September and $5 per vehicle ($3 per pedestrian/bicyclist/motorcyclist) the rest of the year. There are no camping facilities. Outside attractions are open daily during daylight hours.
Getting There -- From Ogden, head north on I-15 to exit 365, turn west on Utah 83 for 29 miles to a sign for Golden Spike, turn south, and go 7 1/2 miles.
Information/Visitor Center -- Contact Golden Spike National Historic Site, P.O. Box 897, Brigham City, UT 84302-0897 (tel. 435/471-2209; www.nps.gov/gosp). The park's visitor center is open daily year-round from 9am to 5pm and closed Mondays and Tuesdays from November through May, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Restrooms, picnic areas, and a bookstore are located at the visitor center, which also offers slide programs, films, and museum exhibits detailing the linking of the nation. Ranger programs take place daily; check at the visitor center for the current schedule.
Special Events -- The park has several special events throughout the year, with free admission. On May 10 is a reenactment of the original Golden Spike Ceremony, with food, souvenirs, and handicrafts. Reenactments are also held on Saturdays and holidays from May into October. On the second Saturday in August, the Annual Railroaders' Festival features reenactments of the Golden Spike ceremony, a spike-driving contest, and handcar races and rides. Hot food, crafts booths, and live music add to the festivities. Although not free (regular entrance fees apply), the Annual Railroaders' Film Festival and Winter Steam Demonstration, held during the Christmas season, is a lot of fun, with classic Hollywood railroad films and a special appearance by one of the two resident steam locomotives.
Exploring the Site
By Car -- Die-hard railroad buffs can drive the self-guided Promontory Trail Auto Tour along 7 miles of the historic railroad grades. A booklet explaining the markers along the tour is available at the visitor center. Notice the two parallel grades laid by the competing companies, clearings for sidings, original rock culverts, and many cuts and fills. Allow about 1 1/4 hours.
On Foot -- The Big Fill Trail is a 1.5-mile loop along part of the original rail beds to the Big Trestle site and the Big Fill. The Big Fill was created when some 250 dump-cart teams and more than 500 workers -- mostly Chinese immigrants -- dumped load after load of rock and dirt into a ravine to create the 170-foot-deep, 500-foot span of fill required to lay the Central Pacific's track. The Union Pacific built their trestle just 150 feet away. It was never intended to be a permanent structure; speed was the goal, rather than strength. Constructed by hand by Irish and Mormon crews in 1869, the last spike went into the 85-foot-high, 400-foot-long trestle on May 5, just 36 days after it was begun.
You can hike on either the Central Pacific or Union Pacific rail bed, although the Central Pacific rail bed is an easier walk. Markers along both grades point out cuts and fills, quarries, vistas, and caves.
This is the desert, so bring water, wear a hat, and be prepared for mosquitoes and ticks. Remember that rattlesnakes, though rare on the trail, have the right of way. And be glad that you weren't one of the workers in that backbreaking effort of 1869.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.