History & Culture

What is the Lolo National Historic Trail (NHT)?

[banner] Nez Perce Logo and Lewis and Clark Logo with the title,

Lolo National Historic Trail (NHT) - main page

What is the Lolo National Historic Trail (NHT)? (you are here)

Points of Interest Along the Lolo NHT - Map

Points of Interest Along the Lolo NHT - Text Version


What is the Lolo National Historic Trail (NHT)?


A cultural highway…
The Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark National Historic trails are collectively referred to as the Lolo Trail. More than a simple path, the Lolo Trail is a network of trails that formed a vital travel corridor across the northern Rocky Mountains for early inhabitants. Unlike modern routes, the Lolo Trail was not built. Repeated footsteps of American Indian travelers created the trail. Its exact location was passed from generation to generation, through oral and traditional practices still used today.

The Nez Perce used the trail since early times. The Nez Perce name for the trail is “Q’u senya Iss Kit” or “trail to the buffalo country.” This trail provided access to the bison-rich plains of eastern Montana and Wyoming. The Nez Perce also used this trail when fleeing east from General Howard’s army in the Nez Perce War of 1877. When hiking eastbound on the Lolo Trail, follow the Nez Perce National Historic Trail markers, which commemorate this tragic event.

The Salish living east of the Bitterroot Mountains also used the route. The Salish call the trail “Nap-ta-Nee-sha” or “trail to the Nez Perce.” They used the trail to reach the salmon-rich Lochsa and Clearwater rivers in Idaho.

Settlers began calling the trail “Lou-Lou,” which may have evolved from the American Indian pronunciation of Lawrence, the name of the French-Canadian fur trapper killed by a grizzly bear and buried near Grave Creek.

Lewis and Clark were some of the first Europeans to use the Lolo Trail. They walked the 156 miles twice, first in mid-September 1805 on their way to the Pacific coast, then again on their way back in the summer of 1806. Since Lewis and Clark first traveled this trail westbound, you’ll find Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail markers facing you as you travel west along the trail.

[photo] Close up of a beargrass flower - one of the plants Lewis and Clark encountered.


Lewis and Clark collected specimens of beargrass like this, along the Lolo Trail that are still preserved in the Lewis and Clark Herbarium in Washinhgton, D.C.

More Lolo NF Information About the Trail

To learn more about current recreation opportunities on the Historic Lolo Trail on the Lolo NF:

Off-forest Information

For more information on the Lolo Trail and related topics, visit these sites: