Idaho January 19, 2023
The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway In Idaho Winds Through 200 Miles Of American History
With numerous scenic byways all around the Gem State, there are plenty of jaw-dropping drives to consider. The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway may be one of the longest scenic drives in Idaho, but it is also one filled with beauty and history. You could spend days along this beautiful road or just tackle a small section for an amazing afternoon — either way, you won’t forget this drive through some of America’s history.
The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway begins at U.S. Highway 12 in Lewiston and takes you along the Clearwater River Canyon and to the Idaho and Montana border.
The majority of this byway is a paved two-lane road. While open year round, during the winter months, the higher elevations of this byway can become quite dangerous due to heavy snowfall and ice.
This route is approximately 200 miles, requiring just over three hours of drive time. While you can complete this drive in a single day, you may not want to. Along the way, you’ll not only come to picturesque areas but historic sites that you will want to get out and explore.
The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway follows the route Lewis and Clark took as they explored north-central Idaho. While there are multiple stops you could make, we suggest stopping at the Nez Perce National Historical Park Visitor Center in Spalding.
This historic park actually consists of 38 different historical sites that are spread across four different states. It was established in 1965 to share the story of the Nez Perce people who have lived in present-day Idaho for more than 16,000 years. During your visit to this visitor center, you’ll learn about these incredible people centuries ago and today.
Another stop you’ll want to make is Canoe Camp State Park. This site is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery, built canoes that carried them to the Pacific Ocean.
Lewis and Clark stopped at this destination in 1805 to build the canoes with the help of the Nez Perce people. The Nez Perce also fed the starving travelers at this location and helped them prepare physically for their journey. You will find this historic site just west of Orofino.
Near Clearwater Lake is where you will find the most unusual rock formation called Heart of the Monster.
This is more than just a unique rock formation. According to a Nez Perce legend, a monster was once eating all of the animals in the land. A coyote tricked the monster into eating it, only to cut the monster from the inside, freeing all of the animals. The coyote continued to cut the monster and threw pieces of the creature all over the land. The drops of blood that spilled from the monster are believed to be the Nez Perce people.
One of the last stops on this scenic byway in Idaho is Lolo Pass. This mountain pass is more than 5,200 feet above sea level and is not only important due to its part in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but it also played a role in the 1877 Nez Perce War. Plus, it is absolutely beautiful.
This is just the beginning of the historic sites along the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. Along your way, don’t be afraid to stop and spend time next to the river fishing, viewing wildlife, or just admiring the beauty of the Gem State. This is a drive to remember.
Have you ever driven the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in its entirety? What historic sites did you stop at? We’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments.
If you are searching for another beautiful drive in Idaho that is full of history, check out the
Pioneer Historic Byway in southern Idaho. Address: U.S. 12, US-12, Orofino, ID, USA
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