2009 Mormon Handcart Trek An Historic Event


For decades, LDS Youth have experienced Mormon Pioneer Handcart Reenactments (lovingly nicknamed “Trek”). Sometimes, these super activities last just a weekend, sometimes an entire week or longer. This year, Brigham Young University is offering the chance of a lifetime, to participate in the ultimate Handcart Trek! They will be staging a re-enactment of the entire authentic 1856 Mormon Trail(1,400 mile) journey, offered as an official Study Abroad program through the University.

The Mormon Trail
The Mormon Trail

Participants will be traveling the USA Mormon Trail beginning in Iowa City, Iowa (the original pioneer staging point) departing on April 27, 2009, traveling through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah, ending with arrival in the Salt Lake City Valley on approximately August 27, 2009. That’s 4 months of walking 15-20 miles per day (except Sundays), pushing or pulling a handcart full of supplies over rugged terrain in rain or shine! Participants will also be required to wear authentic period clothing, and will be eating authentic meals, singing and dancing each night around a campfire, and sleeping under the stars (in tents).

Get University Credit

The BYU Handcart-experience-as-Study Abroad course offers full college credit, and includes instruction in history, and other applicable topics. It is being broken up into two terms (Spring and Summer) and students may enroll for one, or both. (cost is $2000 per term)

Make It A Family Affair

pioneer-familyWhat I find particularly intriguing though, is that families are being invited to join the trek for week-long (Sunday to Sunday) intervals during this mammoth undertaking. There are only 80 spots per week available for family participants, and will be assigned out on a first-come basis (deadline for application is March 1, 2009). Cost ranges from $200-250 per person for the week-long adventure, depending on age. It also states “under age 3 free”. That made me chuckle. I think if you are crazy enough to actually attempt taking a 20 mile daily hike/ nightly camp out experience (with no showers or amenities) for an entire week with an “under age 3”, maybe someone ought to pay you!

Groundbreaking Research

The BYU department of family studies will be conducting a research project as part of the trek. Each family member will be interviewed before, during and after, and will be required to keep a journal of their experience. The study wants to analyze “how wholesome recreational activities strengthen families”.

Be A Part of History

Bottom line, this is sure to prove a once-in-a-lifetime experience both for the students, and the families who join. You do not have to be a member of the LDS (Mormon) Church to be a part of  this historic event. All are welcome. However, BYU standards and honor code must be kept during participation.

To read more about the trek, or download an application, go to the official site: HANDCARTTREK.BYU.EDU .

Everyone can join in the fun by reading daily experience entries at The Mormon Trail Handcart Trek 2009 Blog . The blog is a place to keep up with the preparations, find free weekly training walks to join, or read all the amazing experiences once the trek actually begins!


  1. I wrote the following essay, “Becoming a 21st Century Mormon,” which is somewhat critical of re-enactments. I was not aware of this particular event until I read your post.

    I looked at their route, and it is roughly the same as the original pioneer route. As such, they will be dodging cars or going over non-roads. Either way is a hardship. I REALLY hope someone is not seriously injured. I CANNOT imagine why a modern parent would take a young child on such a trip.

    As for me, I prefer to study the pioneers from books. And, I love cars.


  2. My wife and I are participating in the entire reenactment and taking our son who will be 10 months old at the beginning of the trek. (With my little brother joining us for the second half.) We are excited to grow closer together as a family as we struggle together, learning what our ancestors went through.
    I love reading and learning about the pioneers, but I don’t think that it is possible to really understand what they went through for us just by reading about them. Truly, we will not suffer nearly as much as they did, but it will give us a much greater appreciation for them than we could ever gain in a book.


  3. S. Faux – I enjoyed your article. I believe the most important thing is to remember our ancestors and to honor our pioneer heritage. There are certainly many ways to do that. Although re-enactments are certainly not for everyone, they can provide some great testimony building moments.

    M. Clyde – Wow. Good luck with that! I would be very interested in hearing from you, and other trekkers about the experience.


  4. I am planning on going on the entire trek. (Though it has been postponed til 2010, which makes me a little sad). And while I am excited about the reenactment portion of the trek, mostly I am excited for the educational and recreational aspects of it. For example, many people talk about “backpacking Europe,” and I don’t see this as much different. Its only larger in scale, and set in the Midwest instead. I am looking forward to it, and if, through reenactments, I learn something about my ancestors and the Church’s History, all the better.

    Also, you’ll see on the Trek website (handcarttrek.byu.edu) that they do not claim to be a complete reenactment, but are foremost an educational experience.


  5. I’d like to get in touch with these people. By coincidence I’ve been planning on taking the same route across Iowa, beginning April 29. If we could meet up and maybe travel together it would be really great.

    I am a descendent of Handcart pioneers of 1857 (6th Company)

    Ivan Kent Steinke


  6. I am trying to get a hold of Ivan Kent Steinke who make a trip across Iowa like his descendents did. I was interest in how things went. He was on the news about it and they did an interview with him while walking this long journey. Please forward my email along to him. Ivan play the piano for us at our church for a while while he was in Seminary. Just would be interested of his adventure. Thanks


  7. I too was planning on the 2009 BYU Handcart trek, then the 2010 until it was canceled. I’m trying to find another group who is interested in planning or has planned a trip for 2010. Does anyone know of such a group?


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