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.
At a Glance
North Fork Ranger District, 208-476-4541
Lochsa/Powell Ranger District
Kooskia Ranger Station, 208-926-4274
Powell Ranger Station at Lolo Pass, 208-942-3113