Wild & Scenic Lochsa Region

September 14, 2023

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway
Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

This section of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is your gateway to an outdoor paradise. Pristine wilderness, rivers running clear and wild, and wildlife makes this one of the most beautiful places to visit.

Kooskia is at the confluence of the Middle Fork and the South Fork of the Clearwater River and offers year round recreation opportunities.

Just south of Kooskia are the towns of of Stites, Clearwater, and Harpster on the South Fork of the Clearwater River. Fish for Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, and Cutthroat & Bull Trout along this scenic river. Harpster is the beginning of the Elk City Wagon Road. Miners took this road on their way to the gold fields of Elk City. It's still a rough road with no services available but the history and scenery make it worth the trip if you have the right vehicle and supplies. An annual event in July celebrates this road and its history with a guided trip.

The area between Lolo Pass and the communities of Powell, Lowell, and Syringa is some of the most wild and scenic country you’ll ever experience. At Lowell, three rivers converge: the Selway, Lochsa and Middle Fork of the Clearwater. Trips on the Lochsa and Selway are world-class whitewater adventures for rafters and kayakers with dozens of raft-bashing rapids. The lower Selway and Clearwater offer gentle floating, canoeing and fishing.

This area is famous for the Lewis & Clark expedition first entering Idaho at Packer Meadows near Lolo Pass. From here, they followed the Lolo Trail, a route also used by the Nimiipuu, the native people of this area. Make a stop at Lolo Pass to walk the trails and learn more about the history of the area at the visitor center.

The Lolo Motorway (Forest Road 500) is a primitive, winding road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It's a primitive, rough, winding road that should only be undertaken with the right vehicle and supplies.

The Devoto Cedar Grove is a wonderful place to stop and meander through stands of ancient western red cedars, some of which are over 2000 years old.

Find Upper Clearwater/Lochsa Corridor Lodging

Find Clearwater Corridor Lodging

Fall Activities


World-class fishing for steelhead, salmon, trout, and bass make this a fisherman's paradise. You'll find a unique experience on each of the Clearwater, Lochsa, and Selway rivers.


Nearly half of the elk and whitetail deer population in Idaho is in this region making it a popular destination for big game hunters nationwide. Moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, cougar, and black bear also call this area home. Upland bird hunting provides opportunity for partridge, chukar, grouse, quail and pheasant.


Early fall is still a wonderful time to explore the hundreds of miles of national forest trails. Pack bridges lead you to forests, mountain lakes and streams, and views beyond your imagination.

Scenic Drives

The fall colors are spectacular along the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (Highways 12 & 13). This corridor is beautiful anytime of year but in the fall the colors make a splash.

Winter Activities

Winter hits early in this region and accumulated powdery snow is perfect for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The hundreds of miles of national forest trails turn into a winter paradise.

Spring & Summer Activities

Whitewater Rafting

Some of the most epic rapids in the world can be found on the wild & scenic Lochsa River. More than 40 miles of major rapids dot the Lochsa River. Outfitters take adrenaline seekers on trips starting in the spring into July and sometimes August. The Selway River offers a completely different rafting experience. Flowing through a designated wilderness area, it's a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The Clearwater River offers easier day floats with plenty of time to relax on one of the many white sandy beaches.


Driving along Highway 12, you'll see fishermen along the shores throwing their lines, or floating in dories and jet boats reeling in an amazing catch. Salmon, trout, and bass fishing are popular spring and summer catches. Steelhead are usually found through spring as well.

Hiking, Backpacking, Camping

Scenic Driving

The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (Highway 12) is a popular summer route for motorcyclists, RVers, and sightseers. There are many significant historical sites along the route. The scenery along the river is breathtaking with several pack bridges leading to trailheads. These trails wind through millions of acres in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, nearly half of which is designated wilderness.


July - Kooskia Days | Kooskia Farmers Market | Elk City Wagon Road Days

August - Elk City Days

December - Kooskia Lighted Christmas Parade



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