Historic Trails Research

Lolo Trail National Historic Landmark
Trail Maps

Steve F. Russell
Created: May 6, 2010
Revised: March 6, 2013

    This webpage documents the entire national landmark using trail distances from Kamiah, Idaho to Lolo, Montana and topographic maps. The topographic base maps are 100,000:1 USGS digital raster graphics. Map scales vary slightly but are not indicated on the maps because there are mile-squares on every map. The red line is the Northern Nez Perces Trail 1805. The blue line is the Bird-Truax Trail 1866. The pink line is the Nee-Mee-Poo Adventure Trail. Alternate erosion traces and shown as dotted red lines.

    The Northern Nez Perces Trail 1805 (the route followed by Lewis and Clark) was precision surveyed in 2001-2002  between Lolo Pass and the Weippe Prairie, a total distance of 104 miles. The accuracy of this survey was 2-3 meters. Several segments of the Bird-Truax Trail 1866 were precision surveyed at the same time. The remaining segments have been surveyed to an accuracy of 15 meters. Details of historic campsites are not shown for reasons of historic preservation.

    The location of the trail did not remain a constant over the years. I have worked hard to restrict my findings to the trail followed by Lewis & Clark in 1805 and again by the Bird-Truax survey in 1866. The survey party had some Lewis & Clark records with them. Also, trails along the creeks had a 'high-water' trail and a 'low-water trail.' This accounts for some differences in research findings and journal records over the years.

Landmark or Place Name
Mile Marker
Landmark or Place Name
Mile Marker
Landmark or Place Name
Mile Marker
Green Saddle Junction
Rocky Point
Lolo Creek Crossing
Deep Saddle
Clearwater River Crossing
Junction to Weipe Prairie
No-See-Um Meadows
Pack Creek Crossing
Wilson Creek Crossing
Bald Mountain
Lolo Pass 1805
Lolo Creek Campground
Indian Grave Camp
Lolo Creek Crossing
April Creek Crossing
Serpent Creek
Lolo Hot Springs
Dollar Creek Crossing
Howard Camp (midpoint)
Howard Creek Crossing
Fish Creek Crossing
Indian Postoffice
Grave Creek Crossing
Hungery Creek Crossing
Spring Mountain
Bear Creek Crossing
Obia Creek Crossing
Cayuse Junction
Woodman Creek Crossing
Foot of the Mountain
Papoose Saddle
Travelers Rest

MAP-01  Kamiah to Weippe Prairie
The trail went north out of Kamiah, Idaho and over the main ridge and down into Lolo, Creek. It crossed the creek and went through table lands to the Weippe Prairie south of Weippe, Idaho.The trail branched north of the Clearwater River. The eastern branch was the one used by Lewis & Clark but it has been heavily used as a stock drive so the original tread is gone. The age of the west branch is unknown but some of the original tread still exists. There is great tread northward from the ridge down into Lolo Creek but between the Lolo Creek Crossing and a mile or two south of the Weippe Prairie, little tread remans due to logging and farming activities. The trail split into two branches about a mile before reaching the Weippe Prairie. The 1805-06 trail followed by Lewis and Clark went eastward before reaching the Weippe Prairie.
MAP-02  Weippe Prairie to Musselshell
The trail split into a northern branch and a southern branch just before reaching the Weippe Prairie. The southern branch went eastward to Lolo Creek, Fish Creek, and Hungery Creek before rejoining with the northern branch near Green Saddle. The northern branch went through the Weippe Praire and Musselshell Meadows before following the ridge system over Snowy Summit and Rocky Ridge. It rejoined the southern branch near Green Saddle. The branch followed by Lewis and Clark through Hungery Creek is rugged and hard traveling. I think this is why trail use eventually migrated to the northern branch which was the one used by John Work 1831, John Mullan 1854, Bird-Truax 1866, the 1877 Nez Perce war, and the US Forest Service.
MAP-03  Musselshell to Fish Creek
See description above.
MAP-04  Fish Creek to Willow Ridge
After joining east of Green Saddle, the trail system does not split again until reaching Wendover Ridge and the Salish Salmon Fishing Trail 1805. The Northern Nez Perces Trail 1805 and the Bird-Truax Trail 1866 intermingle between Green Saddle and Lolo Pass but, at ground level, their treads are distinct and separate for most of that distance. The survey of the Bird-Truax Trail was done to a wagon road grade so it sweeps around ridges and peaks, rather than going 'over the top.' The Northern Nez Perces Trail is a very old horse trail so it up and down over the peaks and along the ridges. Both treads are extant along this portion of the route.
MAP-05  Willow Ridge to Bald Mtn
Between Willow Ridge and Bald Mtn, almost all the erosion trace is extant. There are only short segments of missing tread for either trail. The trails are tightly intermingled and frequently share the same erosion trace. Most trail travelers, both historic and modern, considered Bald Mountain to be the mid-point of the Lolo Trail but, between Kamiah and Lolo, the midpoint is actually at Mocassin Peak, about 1 mile west of Howard Camp.
MAP-06 Bald Mtn to Moon Saddle
From Bald Mountain to Indian Grave. the trails are mostly together and the erosion trace exists the entire route except for a segment east of Bald Mountain which has been destroyed by road construction. From Indian Grave to Moon Saddle, the erosion traces of the two trails are distinct and separate. The Northern Nez Perces Trail leaves the ridge and dips down into Serpent Creek. The Bird-Truax Trail 1866 stays on the ridge.
MAP-07  Moon Saddle to Wendover Ridge
The two trails separate widely east of Moon Saddle but soon comingle again at Indian Postoffice. This map as both the highest elevation on the Lolo Trail (7000 feet at Indian Postoffice) and the steepest prolonged ascent (Cayuse Junction to Snowbank Camp). The trail junction between the Northern Nez Perces Trail and the Salish Salmon Fishing Trail is shown on the right edge of the maps. The erosion traces and extant along this entire route except a very few short segments where roads were built over the tread. Also, I have been unable to locate any trail tread in the flat area of Cayuse Junction.
MAP-08  Wendover Ridge to Clearwater River
The Nez Perce trail stayed entirely on the tops of the ridges in this area while the Bird-Truax Trail graded around the sidehills is several areas, sometimes on the north side. I have been puzzled why they would site the wagon road on the north side where the snow lingers many days longer in the spring melt-off. Perhaps the surveyers came from flat country but they had the wagon road builder, Sewell Truax with them so it remains puzzling. The erosion traces are extant except for a small segment of the Nez Perce trail northeast of Papoose Saddle and a small segment on the west side of the Crooked Fork crossing. The Bird-Truax Trail is amazingly well routed into the canyon to maintain the wagon road grade, however, on the east side, it is much steeper.
MAP-09 Clearwater River to Lolo Hot Springs
The Nez Perce trail is as steep on the east side of Crooked Fork as it was on the west side. The Bird-Truax Trail is also steep in spite of using switchbacks. I have wondered if they did not really spend any detailed time surveying the climb up the east side. Once the top of the ridge is reached, the slopes are very gentle until the east side of Wagon Mountain is reached. The Bird-Truax Trail ends the first time Pack Creek is crossed at Lewis & Clark Glade Creek Camp. The rest of the way to Travelers Rest used the Nez Perce trail. The trail is steep down into Lolo Creek. but then it follows down the creek with a very gentle slope.
MAP-10  Lolo Hot Springs to Bear Creek
Along this route, the trail stayed to the ridges and foothills to the north of Lolo Creek to avoid the brush-choked creek bottom. There is very good trail tread until just the west side of Grave Creek where ranching and road building activities have obscured much of it. I have only hiked small portions of the trail route east of Grave Creek because it is on private land. I was able rolex replica to find enough segments of tread to "connect the dots."
MAP-11  Bear Creek to Travelers Rest (Lolo)
The remainder of the route, from Bear Creek to Travelers Rest, I mainly relied on the excellent survey records from Bird-Truax to locate the trail. I was able to find some very short segments of trail right along the highway east of Woodman Creek. I relied on interviews with 'old timers' on Lolo Creek to locate some of the trail, especially as I got closer to Travelers Rest.


    I welcome any feedback from visitors to this site. Please email me if you have any comments or suggestions about how this web page can be improved or questions about historical accuracy. All information has been based on: 1) my personal observations and experience hiking the trail. or 2) original journal sources. Thank you. Steve F. Russell, SFR@IASTATE.EDU
Copyright (c) 1999-2005 Steve F. Russell  All Rights Reserved

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