Lewis and Clark Lolo Trail
On September 14, 1805 Lewis and Clark reached the Bitterroot Mountains west of Lolo Pass on the border of what is now Montana and Idaho.
Up until this time, most of their journey had been on the Missouri River and they were anxious to get through the mountains and on to the Columbia River before the winter. The going was rough and on September 15th Captain William Clark wrote, "From this mountain I could observe high rugged mountains in every direction as far as I could see." If their courage was ever daunted, it might have been here.
In the 1930s a road was built through the region where Lewis and Clark traveled and signs were erected at many of their camps. Our trip takes us through this remote country, much of which is little changed since their visit 200 years ago. The doubletrack road rolls along the ridge top constantly climbing or descending. The riding is fun and non-technical, climbs provide a good challenge each day and there are many points of interest along the way. Each night we will read a portion of Lewis and Clark's journals and present a variety of interpretive programs created to help us understand all about this famous journey.
Need more details? Give us a call at 800-845-2453. We'll help answer all your questions about this spectacular guided trip. This Lewis and Clark tour is an intermediate 5-day guided mountain bike trip in Idaho.
Listed as Outside Magazine’s Top 25 Trips of a Lifetime, this historic mountain bike trip begins in Missoula, Montana. We begin by shuttling west over Lolo Pass along the same route taken by Lewis and Clark in September of 1805. Just over the pass, at the Powell Ranger Station, we head north to the Lolo Trail. This is the place where the Corps of Discovery entered the most mountainous part of their trip. As they entered the gentle foothills, they hoped to cross quickly to the westward slope on their way to the Pacific. Yet their hopes were dashed as Clark wrote on September 15th, “From this mountain I could observe high rugged mountains in every direction as far as I could see.” This is where our trip begins. In the 1930’s the forest service constructed a single lane road along the ridge top which Lewis and Clark traversed through the Bitterroot Mountains. While the road is rarely technical, the riding is challenging, fast, and rolling. Don’t be fooled by the low mileage days, the cumulative climbs will result in a serious work out. Day one begins with a steady climb on a narrow ridge top and ends with a winding swoop down to our camp on Cayeuse Creek. TOTAL MILEAGE: 13 miles
Today, we will pass several historic camps used by the expedition on both their initial trip west in 1805 and their return trip east in 1806. Again we will be on the roller coaster ridge top, with each climb rewarded by a ripping descent. After passing the spot where the corps had a meal of “bear oil and roots,” we will continue on to a series of cairns called Indian Post Office. Long before Lewis and Clark appeared in the Bitterroots, the Nez Perce Tribe used this route to go from their homes in the west to the buffalo grounds in the east. It is thought that perhaps the Nez Perce used the cairns at Indian Post Office to leave messages for one another. Our camp tonight is at Horseshoe Lake, a great place for a swim. Tonight we’ll discuss the history of the Nez Perce and tell the story of Chief Joseph. TOTAL MILEAGE: 15 miles
This morning we will pack a lunch to carry with us as we will be leaving our support vehicle for a hike on the ancient trail tread called the Nee-me-Poo Trail. We begin with a morning ride before we load our bikes on the support truck and hike past the Sinque Hole Camp and toward the Indian Grave, finally arriving at our destination, the Smoking Place. On the return voyage of Lewis and Clark, even after having visited this place once, Lewis writes: “We were entirely surrounded by these mountains, from which, to one not unacquainted with them, it would have seemed impossible to ever have escaped.” After our hike we continue riding towards Spirit Revival Ridge, the place where the corps first glimpsed the plains to the west giving them hope that they would in fact be able to continue their trip to the Pacific. At tonight’s camp near Sherman Peak, we will discuss the many skills needed by the members of the expedition not only to survive but to achieve their goals of mapping and cataloguing all the lands, people and animals which they encountered. TOTAL MILEAGE: 17 miles riding, 2 miles hiking
By now, your climbing legs will be in top form and your descending technique will be polished. Before we can descend the nearly 3,000 feet to our camp in the cedars, we must climb over 3,000 feet to the top of Rocky Ridge. A refreshing swim in Rocky Ridge Lake awaits, and we’ll have lunch lakeside. Up until today most of the trail has been in a forest of Lodgepole pines. Today will we see alpine fir, Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock, Douglas fir, western white pine, and western red cedar. The trees change as the ridge we are riding turns to the south. It is easy to imagine the amazement of the Corps of Discovery as they continued to experience the vast abundance of this beautiful country. At our enchanting camp in the cedars, we will examine the friendship between Lewis and Clark and their men, in addition to their relationships with the many indigenous people they met along their way. TOTAL MILEAGE: 30 miles
After a short spin from camp we will visit the Clark Tree, a giant white pine in the final stages of its life. At this point in the journey, Clark’s thoughts had turned to the next challenge. They had survived the passage through the mountains and now they must prepare for the journey down the Columbia River. To do this they would need boats, and it was here in this ancient grove of enormous trees that Clark took heart, for here were trees from which they could make canoes. At this point, we finish the trip with a lovely hike on the final portion of the trail, to our lunch spot at Lolo Campground, where we will meet our shuttle for the return to Missoula. TOTAL MILEAGE: 5-10 miles riding, 2.5 miles hiking
Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety, and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventure.
Riding Surface: Clay and gravel primitive road.
Overall Rating: Intermediate
Technical Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Physical Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. a significant amount of climbing.
Altitude: 3,000 - 7,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.