Travelers’ Rest: Let the Lewis & Clark Trail begin!

IMG_1378Lolo, Montana, has been a bucket-list destination for my husband Bert for quite some time, but the urge to see it was heightened by his reading of Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. So, at long last, we arrived the night before, had a BIG dinner at Lolo Creek Steak House, and got an early start on our journey across the Lewis and Clark Trail at Travelers’ Rest.

Now a National Historic Landmark and the only archaeologically verified Lewis and Clark campsite in the world, Travelers’ Rest was the camping area for the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and 1806. The Holt Visitor Center and Museum houses artifacts and room-like vignettes indicative of the time.


Volunteers offer information on many of the artifacts and point out notable details. But the Visitor Center can be explored on your own.  Major events are outlined from the time Lewis and Clark arrived in the Bitterroot Valley in September, 1805 (exhausted and hungry but spared from death by the hospitality and generosity of the Bitterroot Salish) all the way to the time of their departure along what is now known as Lolo Trail towards the Pacific Ocean. At the time of arrival, the party included Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, 26 army troops, Clark’s slave York, Interpreters Charbonneau and Sacajawea and their infant son Baptiste, and two fellow Shoshonis. They rested a day and a half at the small flat they called “Traveler’s Rest.”


Quotes from primary sources such as this one celebrating the kindness of strangers (the Salish) line the walls of the Visitor Center:

“they received us in a friendly manner.  they appeared glad to See us.  they Smoaked with us, then gave us a pleanty Such as they had to eat, which was only Servis berrys and cheeries pounded and dryed in Small cakes. Some roots of different kinds.”

Beautiful autumn view of the Loop Trail

Beautiful autumn view of the Loop Trail

Well-preserved artifacts housed in glass cases enable even the youngest visitors to get a feel for life in the early 1800s.



And room settings, like this one in a teepee and the one below that Bert is examining, show the living quarters and how various life functions such as cooking, metalwork, garment creation, etc., would have been conducted.



Outside, a half-mile Loop Trail marks notable finds.  (And for young visitors, a Trail Adventure brochure serves as a scavenger hunt marked with nine notable sites along the way.)


One area marks where researchers have discovered the remains of fire-cracked rock, charcoal, and lead indicating that there had been intense heat as a result of a hot-burning fire, evidence of a working encampment.

One of the greatest finds, however, was the evidence of a “trench-like disturbance in the soil”  indicating a sink or latrine, a find that helped to authenticate the spot as the Lewis and Clark encampment.


Even though there is a tipi set up on the Loop Trail, the Visitor Center brochure says that “it is unlikely that the Expedition had any tent material by the time they reached Travelers’ Rest, with Lewis and Clark sleeping in a tipi and the rest of the party sleeping in the open or under makeshift lean-to’s.” But we loved the setting anyway!


The expedition left Travelers’ Rest on September 11, 1805, following the land route toward the Pacific, but returned in 1806.  From June 30 to July 3, the group “rested” for the last time prior to leaving Travelers’ Rest on July 3, 1806.

Without the support of the local community, the exact location of Travelers’ Rest might not have been discovered.  But now, with the support of Montana State Parks and the Travelers’ Rest Preservation and Heritage Association, this well-preserved, beautiful site welcomes all of us to consider how early explorers paved the way for future settlements.


(And, I must admit, I’m so glad my husband wanted to stop here!!!)  Let the Sams’ exploration of the Lewis and Clark Trail begin!

Travelers’ Rest State Park

6717 Highway 12 West

Lolo, MT 59847

Lolo Creek Steak House

Lolo, MT

For more posts on the Inland Northwest, click on the Page at the top of this post.





12 thoughts on “Travelers’ Rest: Let the Lewis & Clark Trail begin!

    1. Rusha Sams

      I would be quite honored! In fact, if you know the name of the volunteer in the picture, I can include that and change the post. Thanks so much. We loved our time spent there!

    1. Rusha Sams

      Me, too. I guess it’s a blessing I married a man who loves reading Civil War markers and other historical posts of note along the highway. I’ve learned a lot! Thanks for reading.

  1. Peripatetic Eric

    Fascinating history. I enjoyed Undaunted Courage and also eating at Lolo Creek Steakhouse quite a few years ago believe it or not! We have enjoyed exploring some of the trail too. What fun!

  2. Sharon Frankenberg

    Rusha, I am so glad you and Bert are exploring the American Northwest. It is an area I have never visited and I am thrilled to be enjoying in vicariously through your blog. Continued safe travels.

    1. Rusha Sams

      Thanks so much for being one of my loyal followers! We really enjoyed this part of the country, and work will take me back this winter. I’m hoping to see snow! Take care. And thanks for reading/commenting.

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