The Nez Perce National Historic Trail

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Congress established the Nez Perce NationalNez Perce National Historic Trail Historic Trail in 1986. It stretches from Wallowa Lake, Oregon, across Idaho to the Bear Paw National Historic Trail in Chinook, Montana.

Both before and after Lewis and Clark, the Nez Perce homeland extended throughout central Idaho, northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. Here, the Nez Perce hunted, fished, collected camas and biscuitroot, and raised their children passing on knowledge acquired over millennia.

As fur trappers, traders, settlers, soldiers, missionaries, and farmers moved into or through the area, the Nez Perce and their lands underwent some very big changes. Tensions increased between the Nez Perce and these new people.  Anxious to avoid conflict, the Nez Perce signed a treaty to create a large reservation encompassing their traditional homeland.  After gold was discovered inside the reservation in 1863 and as miners and settlers moved in to the reservation, a new treaty reduced the original reservation by 90 percent.

Some tribal leaders rejected the new treaty. In May of 1877, the U.S. government ordered the “non-treaty” Nez Perce to relocate to the new reservation by June 14. After violence erupted, Chief Joseph and other Nez Perce leaders, including Toohoolhoolzote, decided it would be better to flee to Canada than to relocate to the reduced reservation. In 1877, 750 Nez Perce—two-thirds of them women, children, the elderly and the sick and with 2,000 of their own horses—battled and eluded more than 2,000 U.S. Army soldiers and other pursuers over 1,100 miles. They finally surrendered at Bear Paw, Montana, just shy of the Canadian border.

Nez Perce trail

Trail Map |
"1877 Nez Perce Flight" available online and through Discover Your Northwest and the National Forest Store.

Website | Overview of Trail in Yellowstone National Park

Auto Tour | Series of brochures available online and in hard copy from the U.S. Forest Service by contacting Trail public affairs specialist Roger Peterson at 406-329-3540 or via email at

Book on Nez Perce | Beyond Bear's Paw: The Nez Perce Indians in Canada, by Jerome A. Green

"Traditions Linking Today and Tomorrow" poster | To obtain a copy, please contact Trail public affairs specialist Roger Peterson at 406-329-3540 or via email at