Lolo Motorway _ Clearwater NF
The historic Lolo Motorway -- "the #500 road" as it's known locally -- parallels the path taken by the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery as they searched for an inland waterway to the West in 1805. It was a rough journey, if you're familiar with Lewis & Clark history. Trying to get across the Bitterroot Mountains in late September, the group encountered deep snow, fallen trees, a scarcity of wild game and more as they plodded through the rough-hewn landscape on the heavily wooded ridgeline north of the Lochsa River.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest maintains the single-lane dirt road for four-wheel-drives, ATVs, UTVs, and other recreational vehicles during the summer months. The best time to visit is between late June and September. Otherwise, you may encounter snow.
ATV and UTV groups like to ride the Lolo Motorway in four days, hauling trailers with camping gear. The best place to start is from Lowell, 99 miles east of Lewiston, Idaho. Three Rivers Resort in Lowell has an RV park with hookups where you can base camp prior to the ride. The standard approach is to ride from Lowell approximately 50 miles or so to a half-way point for the first night's camp. On the second night, you can plan on staying in the tiny town of Powell, where you can refuel, buy any supplies you need, take a shower, and stay at the Lochsa Lodge or camp nearby. Then you retrace your tracks, ride another 50 miles or so from Powell to a point where you'd like to camp on the #500 road, and then return to Lowell on the fourth day. It's about 110 miles from Powell to Lowell, all on Forest Service dirt roads. The various points of interest listed below often have an interpretive sign to explain the historical significance. There are numerous places where you can camp along the way. There are no services on the trail, so it would be self-support camping. Much of the trail follows a high ridge without access to water, so be sure to bring plenty of water for drinking during the day, and for camping.
Here's a mile-by-mile guide to the full route, starting from Lowell and heading for Powell.
Clear your trip odometer. Go east on U.S. 12 approximately 1 mile from Lowell. Turn left on Big Hill Road, Forest Road #189 and begin climbing to the Lochsa Ridge. There is a maze of roads that you will ride through. Forest Road #189 merges into #5510.
Mile 10.5, #5515 merges with #426.
Mile 11.3, #426 merges with #101. This road will take you to the #500 road.
Mile 21, Fan Creek Saddle. Continue on #101.
Mile 31.1, Canyon Junction and Mex Mountain. Merge onto the #500 road. Now you're on the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail.
Mile 36.9, Boundary Junction and Hungery Creek. This name "hungery" (sic) hints at how the Corps of Discovery was feeling at this point on the trail.
Mile 44.7, Rocky Lake junction. Take a side hike to the lake and go fishing.
Mile 45.6, Weitas Meadows.
Mile 54.5, Sherman Saddle and Horse Sweat Pass
Mile 60.2, Dry Camp
Mile 62, Bald Mountain
Mile 68.6, The Smoking Place
Mile 73.4, Saddle Camp
Mile 74.4, Devil's Chair
Mile 75.9, Howard Camp
Mile 78.6, Moon Saddle
Mile 80.7, Indian Post Office (huge rock cairns)}
Mile 85.5, Bears Oil and Roots Camp
Mile 89.3, Cayuse Junction
Mile 93.7, Snowbank Camp
Mile 100.5, Papoose Junction, and junction with Forest Road #569 to Powell.
Mile 106.3, Arrive at U.S. 12, Powell Ranger Station and Lochsa Lodge.
For more information about the Lolo Motorway, contact the Lochsa Ranger District, 208-926-4274, or the Powell Ranger District, 208-942-3113.
Consider bringing along a book about the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery and read about their travels as you go. Undaunted Courage and the abridged Journals of Lewis & Clark are two that we recommend.