During the summer months, some Latter-day Saints participate in an event known as “Pioneer trek,” a microscale reenactment of when pioneers crossed the Plains into the Salt Lake Valley in the 1800s.
This popular event even has a movie made about it. If you’re going on a pioneer trek this summer, here’s what you need to know.
What to bring (and where to find it)
Stakes, which are groupings of congregations, often offer packing lists, and these packing lists include many of the same items. While going on these treks, Latter-day Saints wear period clothing. Stores like Deseret Book sell pioneer-appropriate outfits. Etsy is full of options, too.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has provided simple patterns for pioneer clothing in its handbook on pioneer reenactments.
Other common needed items include a water bottle (especially in the summer heat), sunscreen, hygiene products, socks, moleskin, a 5-gallon bucket, bug spray, a flashlight, scriptures, lip balm, leather gloves and more. While trekkers often go to locations where handcarts are provided, the church also has a section in the handbook on how to build handcarts if needed.
What to expect
Trekkers can expect a 20- to 30-mile hike over three to five days. There are several locations where pioneer treks occur. Some of these locations provide rickshaws for the different physical needs of participants. These locations often provide handcarts, portable toilets, potable water and campsites, and all trek activities typically occur on the property.
The handbook advises that trekkers walk for 20-30 minutes at a time and then stop for water breaks. In the morning and at night, trekkers will often have scripture study, participate in dances, sing around campfires and learn pioneer history.
The Deseret News asked experienced trekkers what to expect on a trek.
A bishop in Utah County said, “Expect to drink more water than you ever have before. But also expect to come back changed.”
A Gen Zer whose family reunion each year includes a trek said, “I always loved my family more after I did trek. Whatever problems we had all went away when we worked hard together. Each year I would be so tired afterwards, but also happy that I saw my family differently.”
Learning pioneer history
Trek is all about honoring and remembering pioneer history. Before heading out on a trek, look at the Utah Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database.
The database has the names of tens of thousands of pioneers and thousands of journal entries. Church media has also published many pioneer stories for audiences of all ages to enjoy including pioneer recipes and touching stories about sacrifice. Stories about pioneers across the globe are also important to read to learn about pioneer history.
The church also publishes stories to read along the trek.
If you plan to go on a pioneer trek this year, be sure to check out the church’s website for resources, and of course, drink water.