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Scenic Driving on the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

May 31, 2022

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway
Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Idaho's longest byway, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, follows the trail of Lewis & Clark 202 miles across North Central Idaho along Highway 12. Begin your adventure in Lewiston at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers. Stop in at Mystic Cafe for a delicious breakfast and coffee to fuel your journey.

Make a slight detour onto Highway 95 to Spalding/Lapwai and stop at the Nez Perce National Historical Park. Learn about the Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu, who have called this region their home since the beginning of time. The museum chronicles their history, way of life and meaningful historical and sacred sites around the region.

Just before Orofino is Canoe Camp, where the Nez Perce helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition carve canoes that would carry them to the Pacific Ocean.

Near here is Dworshak Dam, the 3rd tallest dam in the United States. Beyond is a beautiful tree-lined reservoir that extends 54 miles into the Clearwater National Forest in the Bitterroot Mountains. It is paradise for recreational boaters, fishermen, and campers.

Stop for lunch at the Hearthstone Restaurant and Bakery in Kamiah for sandwiches and burgers built with artisan bread, from-scratch soup, and delicious pastries and pies for dessert.

One of many Nez Perce National Historical sites is located just south of Kamiah, the Heart of the Monster. This is the landmark of the creation story for the Nez Perce.

Kooskia is the Gateway to the Wilderness. The highway winds along the peaceful and scenic Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. It's a perfect place to spend the day fishing or floating...or both!

If you choose to meander and stop along the way, make sure you've made a reservation at the Three Rivers Resort in Lowell for an overnight stay in their riverfront cabins, motel, or RV/camp sites. If you want to spend additional time here, book a rafting trip with Three Rivers Rafting on the wild and scenic Lochsa River or more mellow but equally scenic Selway River.

The road from Lowell to Lolo Pass follows the wild and scenic Lochsa River. About 12 miles from the Montana border, stop to wander through an enchanted forest. Stroll through HUGE stands of ancient western red cedar trees, some more than 2000 years old, in the Devoto Cedar Grove. It's truly a magical place!

The Lolo Pass Visitor Center tells the story of how Lewis and Clark crossed the Bitterroot Mountains as well as the 1877 flight of the Nez Perce. It's the perfect place for a picnic and a walk through the interpretive trails.

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