Bitterroot Valley History & Museums: Nez Perce Trail in Montana

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Nez Perce Trail

During your Bitterroot Valley vacation, travel a portion of the Nez Perce Trail and Auto Route and learn about the tribe's history and journey for freedom.

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  • The Nez Perce Trail marks the 1-170 mile journey made by the 1877 Nez Perce tribe as they fled the US army.
  • Follow the trail through the Bitterroot Valley starting at Lolo. 
  • Visit Big Hole National Battlefield. 
  • Fish the Bitterroot River or recreate in Bitterroot National Forest. 


In June of 1877, the Nez Perce tribe set off on a 1,170-mile journey for Canada in order to elude a forced reservation existence by the pursuing US army. The Nez Perce left from Wallowa Lake in Oregon and traveled through northwest Oregon and across northern Idaho, into western Montana at Lolo Pass where they turned south and followed the Bitterroot Valley before continuing on into Idaho, Wyoming and Montana once more. The Nez Perce fell short of Canada and were captured near Chinook, Montana in October 1877, less than 40 miles from the border.

In 1986, the route became designated as the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. The trail is overseen by the National Forest Service but changes ownership throughout its course with various segments on private, BLM, and National and State Park Lands as well as National Forest. Numerous trails segments are open to multiple users.

Today, an extension of roads and highways roughly parallel the trail and is designated as the Nez Perce Auto Route. The Auto Route runs from Lolo to Lost Trail Pass on US Hwy 93, Lost Trail Pass to Wisdom, MT on MT-Hwy 43, and Wisdom to Dillon, MT on County Road 278.


The Nez Perce Trail spans from Wallowa Lake, Oregon to Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Montana.

The trail runs south from Lolo through the Bitterroot Valley on US-93 S.

Contact Information

NPNHT Administration
12730 Highway 12
Orofino, Idaho 83544
Ph: (208) 476 – 8334


The trail and auto route are open year-round. Access is weather-dependent.


Outdoor activities along the way include excellent trout fishing on the Bitterroot River as well as camping, hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and other activities in Bitterroot National Forest.

As you pass through Hamilton, pause for a tour of the impressive Daly Mansion. Stop at various National Landmarks and keep a look out for area wildlife including elk, bighorn sheep, and white-tailed deer. Near Wisdom, MT, visit Big Hole National Battlefield where the Nez Perce clashed with the US army on August 9, 1977.

Additional Information

The Nez Perce Trail is sacred ground for Native American tribes. Be respectful and follow “tread lightly” guidelines.