Idaho Nature July 28, 2018
Idaho’s Longest Scenic Drive Will Take You On A Wild Adventure Through Time
There’s no better time than now to gas up your vehicle and get started on one of the most epic drives that Idaho has to offer. The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is considered the longest in the state, but it also contains a massive amount of natural beauty and historical sites that can keep you entertained for days on end. Sure, you could complete this drive in a few hours. But why do that when you could easily spend an entire weekend basking in its glory? Read all about the byway’s most notable points of interest below and start thinking about when you’d like to accomplish this amazing adventure!
At a whopping 202 miles, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is Idaho's longest scenic byway. It would take approximately three hours to drive the entire thing, but you'll want to allow much more time to truly appreciate everything this drive has to offer.
The Northwest Passage closely follows the exact route that Lewis and Clark famously took when they traversed through north-central Idaho centuries ago. The route begins at Highway 12 in Lewiston and concludes as you approach the Montana border.
All the while, you'll be subjected to some of the most gorgeous views our state has to offer. Blissful forests, canyons, and rivers make every second of this drive enjoyable beyond belief.
Since the byway is rooted in rich history, you can bet there will be a countless number of historic sites to visit along the way. One of the first you'll come across is Canoe Camp State Park just west of Orofino.
This is where Lewis and Clark stopped in 1805 to build the canoes that would take them to the Pacific Ocean. They built the canoes with the help of the Nez Perce People, who also provided them with food since they arrived in a starved state. Today, it makes for a gorgeous place to set up camp and fish for Steelhead Trout in the Clearwater River.
Nearby, you'll find the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. Although it's not necessarily a historic site, it still makes for a fascinating place to visit. Visitors are always welcome to tour the hatchery which releases more than four million fish into the wild every year.
As you continue on the byway, you'll delve into the high bluffs that surround Clearwater Lake. This is where you'll come across a fascinating rock formation called Heart of the Monster.
According to Nez Perce legend, the story of their people begins at the Heart of the Monster. The story goes that a monster was eating all of the animals. A coyote fooled the monster into eating him but cut apart the monster from the inside, freeing all of the animals that were trapped within. The coyote then cut up the monster and threw pieces of it all over the land. As he washed the blood of the monster off his hands, the drops became the Nez Perce people. The actual landmark is amazing to see and definitely worthy of a brief stop.
As you continue eastward on Highway 12, you'll find all sorts of treasures hiding within the Clearwater National Forest. For example, the Lochsa Ranger Station makes for a compelling stop.
The ranger station was originally built in the 1920s and it's open every day for self-guided tours. Here you can experience for yourself what daily life was like for a forest ranger back in the day. There are also a multitude of hiking trails around the area if you feel like stretching your legs for a bit.
The highlight of the byway can be found near its end. As the drive starts to come to a close, you'll begin to climb the famous, 5,233-foot Lolo Pass. Straddling the border between Montana and Idaho, Lolo Pass is noted for its significance in the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its role in the 1877 Nez Perce War.
That's it! You'll know that you've officially finished the longest scenic byway in Idaho when you arrive at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. In this article we covered just a handful of the wonderful stops you'll come across when you travel along the Northwest Passage. Be sure to go out and discover them all the next time you have the chance.
Have you driven along the Northwest Passage? There’s really not another drive like this one. Be sure to check out these
11 Scenic Byways In Idaho That Everyone Should Drive for more epic adventures!
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