A student of John Singer Sargent and a primary developer of the Woodstock Art Colony, Birge Harrison earned a reputation as one of the leading tonalist landscape painters of his day. From 1880 he made several trips west including stays in Santa Barbara, California and Espanola, New Mexico, where the present work was most likely painted. Harrison settled in New York City in the early 1890s where he was encouraged by George Inness to paint the local environs. Similar to Inness, Harrison frequently depicted scenes at twilight, dawn or dusk when the contrasts between light and shadow were most subtle. Harrison's landscapes conveyed a romantic ideology: he believed that the poetic moods of nature should both serve as the medium and as inspiration. A rare subject from Harrison's broad oeuvre, The Old Wagon Trail is a manifestation of Harrison's beliefs, where the delicate variations of color and line come together to create a unified image that is not a direct replication of nature, but an evocation of peace and calm of the Western landscape.