Lolo Pass Through the Eyes of Lewis & Clark

Bowie & Dio overlooking the Lolo Valley. No ocean in sight! 

Of all the mountain passes I have crossed, Lolo Pass between Montana and Idaho is my all-time favorite, not necessarily for how it looks to me, but for how it must have looked to Lewis & Clark. Legend has it that the Lewis & Clark expedition climbed to the top of Lolo Pass, expecting to get their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Of course, the Pacific lies another 700 miles west. All you can see from the summit of Lolo Pass is endless trees and rugged country. Gives new meaning to that eternal traveling question: “Are we there yet?”

Hiking up the Lolo Pass trail to Lolo Lake

Lolo Lake & Lolo Peak (9,139 feet). Yes I went swimming and yes it was really, really cold! 

Lolo Thistles! Beautiful. 

Bear grass along the trail to Lolo Peak

Lolo Valley Self Portrait. It’s a long way to the Pacific from here… 

Hopefully Lewis & Clark and their men got a good soak in the hot springs along the Montana/ Idaho border.

This is one of my favorites: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs! Much to my disappointment, JJ is currently closed due to forest fires burning in the area. These photos are from when I passed through here in October 2005.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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11 Responses to Lolo Pass Through the Eyes of Lewis & Clark

  1. Reblogged this on Conversations With a Cowboy and commented:
    One of my favorite drives/hikes/moonlight cross country skiing areas. Beautiful. And there used to be this awesome little backroad bar on the drive up the pass from Lolo .. owned by couple from Wisconsin. First place ever saw mountain lion up close and personal. Thanks for sharing the photos .. envious of your awesome travels/adventures. Drive safely.

  2. I enjoy your Blog. I just posted our travels from August 20th as well. It’s my husband & I and our dog Sea-Enna. if your interested

  3. agreco71 says:

    I have been following all your adventures, what a wonderful gift you provide us. I have mentioned before the hike I am doing for my job (teacher) and a potential book on Lewis and Clark- Does the frontier still exist? This article is wonderful, wish I was there. Anyway I will be asking your advice when we get to the Lolo Pass. Currently we have made it from St. Charles to Nebraska City. We have hiked as close to their trail as possible. It has been so interesting the people, sights, and events I have been a part of. I could only imagine what you get to do on a daily basis. You are so lucky, keep sharing it is a highlight of the week for me.

  4. Most of my childhood, I lived outside of Missoula,not far from Lolo. We drove through Lolo to visit my grandparents at Stevensville and went to Lolo hotsprings quite often. Many years later, I went with a friend to Jerry Johnson hot springs. It was in the dead of winter, snow all around, and about 10 degrees. It was beautiful with the trees around the pools all frosty from the frozen steam. Great in the water, but really chilly getting out and back into clothes. We stayed late and hiked out on the snowy path by moonlight. What a great adventure that was. There is also a wonderful cedar grove along this highway, with huge old cedars – hope you got to see that, also. Thanks for the blog and photos! Carol from Santa Fe.

  5. umjm says:

    I’ve spent many a summer in the Lolo area. I never knew the was a Lolo Lake. about where is it?

  6. ritaroberts says:

    A wonderful post as usual Mary,I never tire of reading your blog and sharing your adventures.I must go back and read all about Lewis and Clark again. Take care.

  7. Alice says:

    Lolo looks rather Hihi in places. How sad that the springs were closed–hot springs are a real gift.

  8. Don West says:

    If you’ve not read the Lewis and Clark journals you would probably enjoy them. Indeed they were a little naive about some things. Seeing range after range of mountains when expecting the ocean is in the journals. It is almost comical that they even survived when you consider all they went through. It’s a really interesting journey to read about 🙂 much like yours! Lewis hiked around twenty miles a day gathering plant, mineral and animal samples and detailing them in the journals before sending them back to Washington. This while the crew poled the boat upriver roughly paralleling his hiking inland of the rivers. It was a true American adventure.

  9. WestEastern says:

    Beautiful photos – definitely a place I need to visit sometime in the near future! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  10. coyotejoe says:

    ships in the night again 🙂 im heading west over the pass in a few hours; the fires definitely took their toll on the views all through the rockies this summer. happy travels!

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