Teach PA History
Explore PA History
Persistent Paths: Trails, Tracks, and Turnpikes Across the Alleghenies
What to Know
Teaching Time
Two to Three 50-minute class periods
Grade Level
High School
  • Geography
  • History
Historical Period
  • Worlds Meeting-Beginnings to 1600
  • Colonization and Settlement - 1601-1760
  • New Nation - 1761-1800
  • Expansion and Reform - 1801-1855
  • Civil War and Reconstruction - 1856-1876
  • Development of the Industrial Pennsylvania - 1877-1900
  • The Emergence of Modern Pennsylvania - 1901-1928
  • The Great Depression and World War II - 1929-1945
  • Post-WWII Pennsylvania - 1946-1974
  • Contemporary Pennsylvania - 1975 to Present
Students will discover that Native American paths were the blueprints for modern transportation routes throughout Pennsylvania, and in particular, in crossing the Allegheny Mountains. They will analyze a series of maps to determine geographic barriers associated with crossing the mountains and will establish how Native Americans and later travelers overcame these barriers. Journal entries from a traveler will be read and analyzed to provide a first hand account of what it was like to travel across the Allegheny Mountains in the early 1800s. A historical overview of transportation will be provided and students will discover how geographic features provided the foundation for Native American paths, as well as modern transportation routes.


Students will: 1. Describe the geographic features of the Pennsylvania traveling across the state from east to west from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. 2. Recognize that the Allegheny Mountains were traversed by Native Americans for a variety of reasons, but posed difficulties for early European travelers as they tried to move westward. 3. Explain how physical features of the land both helped and hindered movement west across the state. 4. Analyze why Native American paths were used as military routes, wagon trails and more modern forms of transportation. 5. Compare the impact of Indian paths on the environment with that of modern transportation routes. 6. Identify clues on the modern landscape that prove the Indian trails did exist. 7. Recognize the importance of geography in determining both Indian trails and modern transportation routes.

Standards Alignment

  • Geography

    7.1.12. A. Analyze data and issues from a spatial perspective using the appropriate geographic tools.
    7.3.9. C. Explain the human characteristics of places and regions by their settlement characteristics.
    7.4.9. A. Explain the impacts of physical systems on people.

  • History

    8.1.9. B. Analyze and interpret historical sources.
    8.1.12. C. Evaluate historical interpretation of events.
    8.2.9. C. Identify and analyze how continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history.

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