Lolo Pass – Full of History

Meeting Rich and Crew for Lunch - Missoula

Meeting Rich and Crew for Lunch – Missoula

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Rich for lunch in nearby Missoula. We worked together at The Orange County Register before I retired last October 2013.  He was on vacation here in Montana with his brother and several friends who live in Idaho.  They were all traveling on their motorcycles and fishing along the way.  We met at Famous Dave’s in Missoula and spent several hours catching up before they had to move along traveling over the Lolo Pass to their next destination.  Again enjoying myself and didn’t take pictures! Oh and thanks again for the lunch, Rich.

Back at home preparations had been underway for some family members who were traveling fromCompany Arrives from California The Gathering - Montana and CaliforniaCalifornia.  They will be visiting my Brother-In-Law and Sister for a few weeks, while Jagger and I  head out for a short two-week trip.   First to Lolo, Montana and then to Columbia Falls just outside of Glacier National Park Montana.  I stayed for a few days in my Coach to see the kids and visit, then Jagger and I took off on a nice sunny day to our first destination.

Getting Lolo Camp Set-Up - Home for the week

Getting Lolo Camp Set-Up – Home for the week

Jagger and I first stayed at a small RV Park in Lolo known for decades to people near and far for “Square Dancing”.  No, I don’t square dance.  I don’t think I could physically anymore, at least not for more than a few minutes.  🙂

Lolo camp view from my window

Lolo camp view from my window

I have noticed there aren’t very many RV Park’s between Hamilton and Glacier that looked like interesting places to stay for the first week so I chose this one tucked into a stand of tall pine trees along the Lolo Creek.

After setting up camp and hanging out for a few days I decided we should explore the Lolo Pass, known for its rich history. Most notably in our American history was Lewis and Clark.

Lewis and Clark a very bad passing marker.

Lewis and Clark a very bad passing marker.



The Indians however,  had been using the Lolo Pass for centuries.  To them, it was known as naptnišaqs, or “Nez Perce” trail in the Salish language.

Our first stop was at Fort Fizzle.  It was only a few miles from our camp at Lolo.

This turned out to be one of our hangouts during our stay at Lolo due to its proximity and considering Jagger isn’t very social with our neighbors.  There were a lot of trees and room to play right alongside the Lolo Creek.

Fort Fizzle was built quickly after the locals and the US Calvary heard the Nez Perce Indians were coming that way in July of 1877. This was as a result of their defeat several weeks earlier at Clearwater in Idaho.

Lolo Pass Forest Fire 2013

Lolo Pass Forest Fire 2013

From Fort Fizzle, we continued up Lolo Pass going by the remains of the Lolo fire of 2013.  I always become melancholy when passing sights like this knowing it will be centuries before the land can recover completely.

The Nez Perce Indians Final Journey in July 1877 passed through here.

The Nez Perce Indians Final Journey in July 1877 passed through here.

Continuing on, I look around and try to imagine what it was like two hundred or more years ago when the Indians would have passed through here on their travels for survival trade.




Nawah, Lou-Lou, Loo-Lo, or Lo Lo? Creek Early Mispellings Going Back to Lewis and Clark

Nawah (the Indian name), Lou-Lou, Loo-Loo, or Lo Lo Creek?  Early Misspellings Going Back to Lewis and Clark and the traders.

When approaching the higher elevations I looked out to see Mountain range upon mountain range into the distance.

It was said Lewis and Clark were discouraged at this view near the top of Lolo Pass, endless mountains.

It was said Lewis and Clark were discouraged at this view near the top of Lolo Pass, endless mountains.

It is recorded that the Lewis and Clark expedition were expecting to see the Pacific Ocean in the distance when cresting the first mountain range of the Lolo Pass. Instead of a “disappointing view”, more mountains to cross.

Driving a little further we passed the Lolo Hot Springs.  Here there is a campground, lodge, and coffee shop.  I had planned to stop, but the way it was built up didn’t interest me and I drove on further.

 I have read stories of how the Indians and trappers would gather at various hot springs, especially to warm up with a hot bath and socialize.  This was one of the more famous ones.

Lolo Visitor Center

Lolo Visitor Center

Arriving at Lolo Pass Visitor Center at the top of the pass we stop to walk around a little and check out the grounds.  I went inside to pick up a few postcards and talk with one of the rangers.  This doesn’t sound like a fun place to be if you have to drive in the winter time.  Skiing and Snowmobiling would be a different story.

Meadow at Lolo Visitor Center

DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove

We load up and again move further West down the pass not knowing what to expect.   Another half hour drive we arrive at the DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove.  This was an unexpected find.  A lush grove of cedar pines so thick they provided continuous shade throughout the day. I read an article that said some of the trees here were over two thousand years old.

After spending time walking through the grove, we loaded up once again for the drive back to our camp.  We will have to leave the remainder of the pass to another visit.

Until next time, safe travels… Gary

More Photos: Lolo, Montana

6 replies

  1. Hi, Vagabonder! I am looking for history on Lolo, MT and came across your article. What peeked my interest even more was the Orange County. I was a pharmacist in OC for over forty years. I have moved to Lolo, MT and am earnestly trying to save the Community Center. I am seeking donations to restore and maintain this building with fond memories. If you have and information, know of any resources for know some donors please let me know. Thank you very much and enjoy RVing up here because we have so much of what this beautiful country is made of.


    • Hi Warren, I don’t have any resources to direct you to at this time. Since this is an older post it doesn’t get too much traffic anymore, but your welcome to share a link to any website or information dedicated to the preservation of the Community Center in Lolo, Mt. Maybe next year when I’m traveling once again in that area I can give you a plug too on another, more recent post.

      I too believe Montana is a very special place. Even though I travel virtually full-time. I do call it my home. My sister and brother-in-law moved here in 2004 from OC after purchasing the old Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby Montana. They ran it as a guest ranch for 10 years, after fixing it up. It was sold when they retired and they “downsized” to 10 acres near Hamilton the same year I retired and moved to Montana. The ranch most recently is being used by the TV Series “Yellowstone” starring Kevin Costner.

      Usually one time a year I pass through Lolo, leaving my “Coach” at Sport Land RV in Lolo to have regular maintenance done while I am home. Then off Jagger and I go for another year. This coming year I will be focusing on travels within our state for about 2-3 months (naturally when it’s warmer). Take care and good luck with your endeavor.


  2. It is good to get an update from you. Beautiful photos. I have yet to go to Montana. Hope that maybe next summer we can make it there. Give Jagger a hug for me. Stay safe. Jeannie


  3. Gary: I drove the Lolo pass several years ago when I was flying back out of Spokane. On that trip I had driven up to northern Idaho and then to Missoula and Darby after spending the night at a B&B. Very scenic and enjoyable. Your blog is very interesting. I admire your ability with computers, which I lack. Sincerely, Dennis Taylor


    • Hi Dennis, Good hearing from you. Yes this area is beautiful and full of rich history. I would like to do the Washing, Oregon, California loop, but not this year. I am heading out a week from today on my winter journey South. Take care.


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