American Indian Trails of the West

The Nez Perce Trail of Idaho and Montana
Across the Bitterroots and High Plains, Nez Perce history is honored and celebrated.

“The most extraordinary of Indian wars,” was General William T. Sherman’s description of the 1877 war and 1,170-mile flight of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce people, beginning in eastern Oregon and ending in Montana.

Although granted the rights to their ancestral homelands by an l855 treaty, the discovery of gold on their lands saw the Nez Perce rights disintegrat-ing. Ultimately forced to flee in June of l877, nearly 750 Nez Perce desperately ran for their lives. Only 250 were men who could fight. The rest were women, children, the old and sick. Driving a herd of 2,000 horses, they fought masterfully in some 20 battles and skirmishes with the U.S. Army.

In October the Nez Perce fought their last battle before surrendering in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, a two-day ride from the Canadian border—a place promising freedom. A New York Times editorial concluded that: “On our part, the war was in its origin and motive nothing short of a gigantic blunder and a crime.”

Adventure awaits the traveler in search of Nez Perce history across five states— Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana—on the Nez Perce National Historic Trail —and the Nez Perce National Historic Park’s 38 sites in all but Wyoming. In Yellowstone National Park, you can follow the trail the Nez Perce used as they fled the army. A visit to these web sites provides extensive information on battle sites, visitor centers, maps and publications— ways to bring the Nez Perce story to life!

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