Lewis and Clark Across the Mountains
An Engineer Tracks the Trail
Touring the Route of Lewis and Clark
Sources of Information
There are a limited number of sources of information available for the modern traveler. Some of these are briefly described here. As the Bicentennial nears, literature will become more readily available to aid the traveler in following the route of Lewis and Clark across the nation. Consult the reference sources at the end of this document for further information.
A good source to start with is Fielding's Lewis & Clark trail guide by Gerald Olmsted. It covers the entire route. Another good source for following their route over the Lolo Trail, through the Bitterroot Valley and into the Big Hole is Following the Nez Perce Trail by Cheryl Wilfong. Although this book is written for another purpose, it is very helpful for most of the Lewis and Clark route through the mountains. Use in conjunction with other Lewis and Clark literature.
In the areas where the route goes through national forests, obtain literature and forest visitor maps from the ranger stations or forest supervisor offices nearest where you plan to explore.
Travel Recommendations for the Lolo Trail Route
U. S. Highway 12 from Missoula, Montana to Orofino, Idaho parallels the Lewis and Clark route for 175 miles. In Montana, stop at the Lolo National Forest office for information. Begin in Missoula and go south to Lolo, then go west on US 12 to the Idaho border at Lolo pass, a total of 44 miles.
At Lolo Pass, there is a Clearwater National Forest Visitor Center with information about Lewis and Clark in Idaho. Follow US 12 west along the Lochsa River and then the Clearwater River all the way to Orofino, a distance of 131 miles from Lolo Pass Visitor Center.
A WORD OF ADVICE: U.S. Highway 12 is a winding, narrow, two-lane road with limited turnouts, extremely limited services, and lots of 18-wheel truck traffic. Be sure your vehicle is in good condition and has lots of fuel. Fuel can be obtained in Missoula, Lolo, and at Lochsa Lodge in Idaho.
The Clearwater National Forest also offers the Lolo Adventure Road (Lolo Motorway) for visitors with rugged vehicles and backcountry experience. It is a one-lane dirt road with sharp turns, short visibility, and few turnouts.The Motorway is maintained in primitive condition and travel with trailers, RVs, and motorhomes is very dangerous and not recommended. Travel restrictions may be imposed by the national forest. There are no services along the Motorway so the traveler must be completely self sufficient. Medical help is many hours away because there are no phones or cellular phone service. Make sure you have a full fuel tank, food, water, warm clothing, maps, compass, flashlight, and adequate camping and medical supplies.
The best season to tour the Motorway is from the middle of July to the middle of September. Until the first of July, the Motorway is usually closed because of snow drifts and trees that have fallen across the road. After September, an early snow storm may close the Motorway and leave you stranded. Stranded vehicles must wait until the next July to get out.
Always enquire about Motorway conditions at the nearest ranger station. Be aware that forest fires, rock slides, and trees blocking the road are always possible. Also, snow occurs every month of the year on the high ridges and heavy thunderstorms can make the ridges dangerous. On the east end, you can inquire at Powell Ranger Station on the upper Lochsa River. On the west end, stop at the Clearwater National Forest headquarters in Orofino, the Pierce Ranger Station in Kamiah, or the Lochsa Ranger Station at Kooskia.
Following the Nez Perce Trail by Cheryl Wilfong, Oregon State University Press, 1990. (ISBN 0-87071-363-9)
Fielding's Lewis & Clark Trail by Gerald Olmsted, Fielding Travel Books, c/o William Morrow & Company, Inc., 105 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10016, 1986. (ISBN 0-688-05374-2)
The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition (11 Vols.), Edited by Gary E. Moulton, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1988-1998. (ISBN 0-8032-2861-9, V. 1)
The Journals of Lewis and Clark, Edited by Bernard DeVoto, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1953. (ISBN 0-395-08380-X, pbk.)
Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, Touchstone Books by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1996. (ISBN 0-684-82697-6, pbk.)
The Clearwater Story: A History of the Clearwater National Forest by Ralph S. Space, Forest Service, USDA and the Clearwater Historical Society, Orofino Idaho, U.S. Forest Service USDA, Northern Region-79-03, (234pgs) Ca 1980.
The Lolo Trail: A History of Events Connected with the Lolo Trail, Ralph S. Space - Printcraft Printing Inc., Lewiston, Idaho, (65pgs) 1970.
Forest Supervisor USFS, Clearwater National Forest 12730 Highway 12 Orofino, ID 83544
Forest Supervisor USFS, Building 24 Fort Missoula, Missoula, Montana 59801