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Clearwater National Forest

Part of Idaho's Big Wild, the Clearwater National Forest covers 1.8 million acres from the jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains in the east to the river canyons and the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie in the west.

The North Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers provide miles of tumbling white water interspersed with quiet pools for migratory and resident fish. The mountains provide habitat for elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer, black bear, gray wolf, cougar, mountain goats, and many smaller mammals.

The ridges between the deep canyons have provided travel corridors across the mountains for centuries. These routes were used by the Nez Perce Indians and, in 1805-1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Today the main travel route is U.S. Highway 12 following the dramatic canyon of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and its tributary the Lochsa River.

The forest campgrounds are in three main areas, the Palouse, North Fork and Highway 12 Recreation corridors. You can also make reservations at a few campgrounds, including thePowell Campground and the Wilderness Gateway Campground.

There are many miles of trails on the Clearwater. Information about the trails can be found in the Trail Guide (PDF). The forest also boasts numerous lakes, streams, rivers and other popular spots for fishing.

The Lolo visitor center at the top of Lolo Pass serves as one of the many historical landmarks off Highway 12, the Lewis & Clark highway. Winter season on the pass is quite busy, too, as it serves as a major trail head for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The visitor center sells parking permits and carries maps and winter usage information for visitors. It is open from December 1 through March, Friday - Monday, 9:00am - 4:00pm.

Lewis and Clark
In 1805 Lewis and Clark followed the Lolo Trail through the mountains of Idaho and Montana. This rugged path had been carved over the centuries by indigenous peoples traveling to hunting areas and to trade with neighboring tribes. Known locally as the "Lolo Motorway," the Lolo Trail National Historic Landmark is still traveled by adventurous explorers and is still sacred to the Ni Mii Puu (Nez Perce Indians).

First-timer’s Adventure

Visit the Lochsa river.

This scenic river corridor along Route 12 just beyond the Idaho, Montana border and in Idaho, can offer a day of discovery and adventure. Thrill-seekers can go whitewater raftingin early summer and experience some of the county's most accessible and thrilling whitewater. Or come back in late summer when the snowmelt leaves behind a tranquil, turquoise trout stream.

Several trails head into the mountains right from the river, including a few "secret" ones that take you to natural hot springs for soaking. There are several campgrounds, the largest being Wilderness Gateway Campground, and the historic Lochsa Lodge, but little other development.

Statistics

State(s):

Idaho

Nearest Large Urban Area:

Missoula, MT

Notes & Conditions:

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips

Maps:

Visit the National Forest Store to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.