The newly remodeled Lolo Pass Visitor Center, constructed in 2003, echoes the log-built architecture of historic forest service ranger stations of yore. The Visitor Center serves as one of the many historical landmarks off Highway 12, the Lewis & Clark highway. The Visitor Center displays information on the Lewis and Clark journey across the Bitterroot Mountains and the 1877 flight of the Nez Perce Indians, and provides historical, natural, and general information about the area. Not only is it a recreational destination for winter sports enthusiasts, but the Visitor Center also doubles as a rest area at the Montana/ Idaho border along Highway 12. The facility includes an interpretive center, small book store & gift shop, 24 hour restrooms, covered picnic area, picnic tables and a short interpretive trail with benches. So stop on by for a complimentary cup of hot chocolate, tea or coffee and experience the Lolo Pass Pass Visitor Center.
Click here to see the Montana Department of Transportation’s 24 hour web camera view of road conditions for Highway 12 at the Montana/Idaho state line (there’s a snow depth gauge in the image to the far right/center).
Print your own map of the Lolo Pass Recreation Trails!
Just 50 miles east of Moscow, Idaho, visitors will find The Elk Creek Falls Recreation Area, home to the Elk Creek Falls National Recreation Trail, possessing the tallest waterfall in the state of Idaho. Three separate waterfalls totaling over 140 feet carve a beautiful canyon filled with mesmerizing columnar basaltic formations…with amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, pedestal grills and trailhead information all accessible by a developed Forest Service trail… Elk Creek Falls awaits you!
Although there are no camping facilities at the Elk Creek Falls Recreation Area, developed Forest Service camping can be found close by at Elk Creek Campground, near Elk River, ID (fees apply and reservations can be made through www.recreation.gov).
Hells Canyon Wilderness is a part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA) that straddles the border of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho, split in half by the Wild and Scenic Snake River. The Idaho side boasts the Seven Devils mountain range, and is jointly managed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, along with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. A small portion of the Wilderness in Oregon is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Find out more about this and other wildernesses at Wilderness.net
On September 11, 1805, Lewis and Clark with the Corps of Discovery began one of the most difficult and demanding legs of their voyage to the Pacific Ocean - the 120-mile trek across the Bitterroot Mountains. They followed the Lolo Trail, an ancient travel route of the Nez Perce Indians. One of the responsibilities given to Lewis and Clark before their epic journey west was to study the flora and fauna of the United States' newly acquired land. They collected hundreds of plant specimens with approximately 170 being new to science. As a tribute to their efforts, several species are named for them.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater and Lolo National Forests manage the areas of the Lolo Trail National Historic Landmark. This landmark coincides with a portion of the Lewis and Clark and the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trails.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Tracing the courses of the Missouri and Columbia rivers, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail stretches through 11 states - Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The Trail winds over mountains, along rivers, through plains and high deserts, and extends to the wave-lapped Pacific coast. In this diversity of landscapes, visitors to the Trail create their own journeys of discovery. Read more at the Lewis and Clark NHT website.
Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail
Congress passed the National Trails System Act in 1968, establishing a framework for a nationwide system of scenic, recreational, and historic trails. The Nez Perce (Nimíipuu or Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail stretches from Wallowa Lake, Oregon, to the Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, MT. It was added to this system by Congress as a National Historic Trail in 1986. Read more at the Nee-Me-Poo NHT website.
The Lolo Trail is an ancient travel route of the Nez Perce through the Bitterroot Mountains. It follows the ridge tops parallel and to the north of Highway 12. It is the site of many historic events and carries the memories of hundreds of years of American Indian use. Lewis & Clark followed this route on their trip across the mountains to the west coast. Read Lewis and Clark on the Lolo Trail (787 kb pdf) - for more history and recreation information.
Forest Road 500, known as The Lolo Motorway, is a primitive, winding road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. A low standard road, it generally parallels trails along the high ridges that form the divide between the Lochsa and North Fork Clearwater Rivers. Despite the name "Motorway," this road is very rough, narrow and travels through remote country. The safety of visitors is a major concern. Access to the Lolo Motorway in the Powell area is via FS Road 569 (Parachute Hill Road), and in the Wilderness Gateway area via FS Road 107 (Saddle Camp Road). Access to Forest Road 100 in the Kamiah area is at the junction of U.S. Highway 12 and the Kamiah bridge over the Clearwater River. The Lolo Motorway is a difficult trip that demands a high degree of self-sufficiency and the right vehicle.
Before embarking on a trip along this route, we suggest you review our regularly updated Road Reports or contact your local Forest office.
The Kelly Creek area offers many opportunities for hiking, backpacking, camping, fly fishing, and a place to enjoy the quiet solitude beside a mountain stream. The area’s trailhead provides access to Little Moose Ridge Trail #760 which rolls from saddle to peak following a ridgeline 9 miles to connector trails, while Kelly Creek Trail #567 follows Kelly Creek and its tributaries for 22-1/2 miles. It’s an easy grade with scenic meadows with the last 3 miles climbing steeply toward the Bitterroot Divide. Kelly Creek, itself, is one of the best-kept fly fishing secrets in Idaho. Here, wild west-slope cutthroat trout leap to take a fly and then dive for the bottom. It is a remote location and truly a place where you will feel like you have the river all to yourself.
The Lochsa Historical Ranger Station is located along U.S. Highway 12 in the Lochsa River drainage, approximately 48 miles east of Kooskia, Idaho. From 1925 to the late 1950s, the station was utilized as a backcountry Ranger Station by the Forest Service. It served as the administrative hub for a system of fire lookouts, smoke chaser cabins, and other remote Forest Service facilities linked together by a system of pack trails and telephone lines. In 1976, the station was formally dedicated as an interpretive site, as part of the nation's Bicentennial Celebration. The station is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The visitor center, located within the Alternate Ranger's cabin, is a shady oasis on a hot summer day. The mix of conifers and Locust trees provide a pleasant rest stop for the weary traveler.
In 1978, Congress recognized 206,053 acres of undeveloped federal land as a special area and designated it the Gospel-Hump Wilderness. It is a land of contrasts: its northern section is moist and heavily forested, while the southern section is dry and sparsely vegetated. Separating these diverse landscapes is a rugged, glaciated divide where the Wilderness Areas’ namesake peaks are located. Elevations range from 1,970’ at the Salmon River to 8,940’ at the summit of Buffalo Hump. Find out more about this and other wildernesses at Wilderness.net
The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness lies within the boundaries of four national forests and seven ranger districts. Its rugged peaks and connection to four national forests make this a popular destination for people looking to spend time in the wild. Find out more about this and other wildernesses at Wilderness.net
Ranking as the second largest Wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System is only one of the many attributes of which the Frank Church-River of No Return can boast. Its namesake, Frank Church (Senator and lawyer) played a major role in passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, and in the creation of the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. The treacherous waters of the Main Salmon River slice through a chasm deeper than the Grand Canyon—hence its moniker as the River of No Return. Portions of this 2.4 million acre Wilderness are located on five different national forests—the Boise, Bitterroot, Nez Perce, Payette, and Salmon-Challis. Many of its visitors venture into these wild lands on the river corridors of both the Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Find out more about this and other wildernesses at Wilderness.net