Dodge City Trolley Tour: Exploring Queen of Cow Towns

Bar brawls and gunfights were the norm in Dodge City’s early days. Today, it’s a thriving cattle city. On the Dodge City Trolley Tour we learned about both the city’s lawless Old West days, and about today’s thriving cattle industry, which makes up 60% of the area’s economy. It’s not surprising that Dodge City, located in southwest Kansas, is known as the “Queen of the Cow Towns.”

Dodge City Trolley Tour - Trolley

Dodge City Trolley and Bob, our driver/guide.

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We like to take a tour of a city early in our visit to get an overview of the area, both past and present. We learn much of the history, including the significance of some buildings that we might not have paid attention to otherwise. In addition, we get an idea of the city’s layout and can decide what attractions we might want to visit during our stay. So I was excited that we had an opportunity to take the Dodge City Trolley Tour during our visit to the city.

Some Highlights of the Dodge City Trolley Tour

Boot Hill

Boot Hill was on the outskirts of Dodge City during its early days. Because the city didn’t have a cemetery, Boot Hill is where they buried cowboys and others who were killed while passing through town. People of significance were usually buried at Fort Dodge, about five miles east of town. The bodies were later moved to a cemetery.

Today Boot Hill is part of the Boot Hill Museum, a must-see attraction for visitors. With over 25,000 artifacts on display, the museum is a wealth of information about Dodge City’s past. While there, enjoy a cold sassafras soda in the saloon.

Statues of significant Dodge City characters

Statues of significant historic Dodge City characters include Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and James Arness as Matt Dillon, the fictional character he played on the TV show Gunsmoke. I love the way Dodge City marries the real Old West characters with the Gunsmoke characters. There is also a street named Gunsmoke Street in the downtown area.

Another significant statue is that of El Capitan. El Capitan is the name given to the lead longhorn steer on cattle drives from Texas to Dodge City.

Gospel Hill

Gospel Hill was home to many churches in the late 1800s. Most churches started with small wood structures that were eventually replaced with larger buildings. However, St. Cornelius Episcopal Church was built of stone and still is in use today.

Another church of significance is Sacred Heart Cathedral. The church was originally the cathedral for the Diocese of Dodge City. The stucco church resembles a Spanish mission and is open during the day.

Mueller-Schmidt House Home of Stone

The Mueller-Schmidt House Home of Stone was the first house in Dodge City made of stone. The limestone was mined from a quarry north of Dodge City. The home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open for tours during the summer, and in winter by appointment. And we heard that it’s haunted.

Santa Fe Depot

The Santa Fe Depot still serves as the Amtrak station. However, it once was also home to a Harvey House Restaurant and Hotel. Although most of the second floor has been converted to offices, one restored hotel room is available to view.

Feedlots

Feedlots go back to the days of the cattle drives from Texas. By the time the cattle reached Dodge City, they had lost a significant amount of weight. So they were kept and fed until they were “fattened up.” Today’s feedlots cover hundreds of acres. Cattle arrive from all over the country weighting about 600 pounds. They’re fed until they weigh about 1,000 pounds. They then go to one of the area’s four packing companies, where each company processes up to 6,000 head of cattle per day.

Fort Dodge

Fort Dodge opened to protect people traveling the Santa Fe Trail from Indian attacks. At first the Plains Indians were friendly. However, as trail traffic increased, the Indians began to feel threatened, which prompted them to attack travelers.

The fort closed in 1882, and the state of Kansas bought it in 1890. It became the Kansas State Soldiers Home, which it still is today. You can see some of the original buildings, including the barracks and the building where General Custer stayed when he would visit. There is also a museum, although we didn’t get a chance to go there.

Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame

The Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame is the first one of its kind in the United States. Besides honoring teachers who made a significant impact in Kansas schools, there is also a restored one-room schoolhouse. In addition, a wax museum showcases figures of prominent people in Dodge City’s past, like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. You can listen to recordings about the people through your cell phone.

If you take Dodge City Trolley Tour

The Dodge City Trolley Tour, which takes a little more than an hour, runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It leaves from the Dodge City visitor center located at 400 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Visit the Visit Dodge City website for additional details.

Accommodations

During our visit to Dodge City, we stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites, located next to the Boot Hill Casino. Check rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.

Dodge City Trolley Tour - Boot Hill Museum
The false front of the Boot Hill Museum resembles the original Dodge City, which burned in the mid-1880s.
The Statue of James Arness, who played Matt Dillon on the Gunsmoke TV show,, stands in front of the Dodge City Visitor Center.
Dodge City Trolley Tour - Sacred Heart Cathedral
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Dodge City Trolley Tour - feedlots
Feedlots cover hundreds of Dodge City acres

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Dodge City Trolley Tour

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