Lolo Trail and Pass History

The route over the Bitterroot Mountains known today as the Lolo Trail was used by the Nez Perce long before Lewis and Clark came on the scene. Extending from Weippe Prairie to Lolo Pass along the Idaho-Montana border, it was the primary route over the Bitterroot Mountains into western Montana and the northern Great Plains.

Lewis and Clark struggled over the Lolo Trail in September, 1805. What was thought to be a five day journey turned into an arduous journey of eleven days over snow covered hill tops and ridges. Led by a Lemhi Shoshone guide known to the expedition as "Old Toby", they began their journey on September 12. By the 16 and 17, they were hit by severe snow storms that slowed progress significantly. There was also a scarcity of game on the ridge tops, forcing the expedition to eat some of its ponies and emergency rations. As they reached the southern end of the trail, Clark took a small party of hunters ahead of the main party to search for game and make contact with the Nez Perce, which they did on September 20.

Looking for safety in Montana in late July of 1877, the Nez Perce followed the same trail during the Flight of 1877.

Learn more about what happened next by following the links below.

A painting that shows several tipis and Nez Perce men, women, and children.

Big Hole National Battlefield History

On the morning of August 9, 1877, U.S. troops surprised the Nez Perce killing 60 to 90 Nez Perce men, women, and children.

Painting depicting soldiers and Nez Perce warriors in battle.

The Nez Perce Flight of 1877

In 1877, the non-treaty Nez Perce were forced on a 126-day journey that spanned over 1,170 miles and through four different states.

A tree with two trail markers, the Nez Perce National Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Visit Lolo Trail and Pass

Visit the trail used by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806 and the Nez Perce in late July of 1877. Located on the Idaho/Montana border.

Last updated: February 10, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Nez Perce National Historical Park
39063 US Hwy 95

Lapwai, ID 83540-9715


(208) 843-7009

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