Here are three books I have found helpful and interesting in researching the Western States:
1. Ray Allen Billington, The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860, (Harper and Row, 1956)
I like the illustrations and maps in this book. There are some really good migration maps, such as “Routes to the Gold Fields, 1849,” and “The Overland Trails.” It includes a valuable bibliography at the end of the book with many entries for each chapter. There are 12 chapters that discuss various aspects of western U.S. expansion in a scholarly but understandable way, and I was impressed by the extensive footnotes. I often use footnotes to lead me to other sources.
2. Alan Wexler, Atlas of Westward Expansion, (Facts On File, Inc., 1995)
As an atlas, this book obviously is loaded with maps, and there is also good narrative for each one. The maps are pen and ink drawings which are easy to understand, yet detailed enough to be useful. It also has a good chronology of U.S. Territorial expansion (1750-1917) and a good bibliography.
3. Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of the American West, with Original Maps, (University of California, 2009).
I think the description on Amazon.com says it best: “Spectacular in scope and visually brilliant, this atlas presents a sweeping history of the American West through more than 600 original, full-color maps and extended captions.” It is a beautiful book and very interesting, too. The maps are thoroughly source-cited, and there is also a valuable bibliography. I highly recommend it.
These three books complement each other and combine to provide a good foundation for Western States research.