LCNHT Plains to Peaks Region

The Peaks to Plains Region along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT)

Montana and Idaho

In 1805, Lewis and Clark crossed the Plains to Peaks region, facing many initial obstacles and challenges. They were highly unprepared for a significant fork in the Missouri River in northern Montana, and struggled to cross the majestic Great Falls. Their luck took a turn for the better after encountering Sacagawea, one of the most recognizable people in the Expedition. She lived among the Shoshone people and played an essential part in Lewis and Clark’s journey. With her assistance, the Corps of Discovery was able to safely cross the Rocky Mountains before winter. Paying homage to this regional history, this area is now called the LCNHT Plains to Peaks region.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT)’s Plains to Peaks region prides itself on various natural, cultural, and historic wonders, including mountains, tribal lands, wonderful campgrounds, lakes, and museums. Here, you will find numerous travel experiences associated with the Lewis and Clark Trail. Relive the history and explore the LCNHT Plains to Peaks region with the help of our guide below!

Highlights of the LCNHT’s Plains to Peaks Region

While the Plains to Peaks region is incredibly rich in outdoor experiences, museums, and historic sites—there are some places you simply cannot miss. 

Idaho is home to some of the most important Native American culture experiences along the trail. The Nez Perce sites—such as Weippe Prairie, Nez Perce Tribe Homeland, and Nez Perce National Historical Park—all provide visitors with invaluable insights and knowledge of this essential part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, showcasing beautiful lands and territories associated with the tribes. By visiting them, you can truly feel like you’re reliving the history.

Directly to the East, Montana offers countless natural wonders, such as Yellowstone National Park, the Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park, and many other recreational areas. One of the most spectacular examples is the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area & Wilderness, which is home to a variety of animal species including black bears, grizzly bears, and even wolves! 

You can also immerse yourself in a unique, one-of-a-kind experience with a hot air balloon ride offered by Mountain Butterfly Rides, You will get the chance to see some of the most spectacular landscapes of the planet from the air, all while overlooking the Lewis and Clark trail! 

hot air ballooning Montana LCNHT plains to peaks region

Photo by Joe Dudeck on Unsplash

Biggest and most well-known cities and towns in LCNHT’s Plains to Peaks Region

Tucked away in Montana and Idaho are extremely unique—and often underrated—cities, towns, and communities full of beautiful landscapes, thought-provoking museums, American history, and so much more!

  • Helena – The capital of Montana and the county seat of Lewis and Clark County. Located not so far from Yellowstone, Helena serves as a perfect stop for a getaway in Montana. It is packed with countless fascinating attractions, ranging from trails, museums and events—offering some amazing experiences for anyone who would like to get an insight into the Western American culture!

sunset mountain plains to peaks LCNHT montana

Photo by Tony Reid on Unsplash

  • Great Falls – Located in central Montana between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Great Falls is a perfectly located, central city if you’re looking for a “true Montana experience.” The city is linked to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as it is home to the famous Interpretive Center. On top of this, this vibrant city is home to countless events, rich history, intriguing culture, and wonderful restaurants. Some of the best places to eat include Montana’s Best Coffee Shop and Best Burger!
  • Bozeman – Bozeman is known as a mountain town for a reason, being located in southern Montana deep in the Rocky Mountains. The city is for those who enjoy astonishing mountain peak views, as there are at least eight summits overlooking Bozeman. Additionally, the town offers plenty of natural attractions, whether you’re into skiing, hiking, or fishing. 

Mountain landscapes LCNHT

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  • Boise – This lively capital of Idaho is full of unique sites, ranging from restaurants to trails to even a river running through the center of the town! Boise is often described as a city with great charm and the ideal college town, representing the perfect city break for a weekend. With a friendly and easily walkable downtown that takes pride in more than one hundred shops and great nightlife venues, Boise is definitely a capital worth visiting. Though it’s not on the trail, it is a good entry point for people wishing to visit the state, as one of the few airports. 

boise capital plains to peaks lcnht

Photo by Alden Skeie on Unsplash

Events in the region

Whether you’re into concerts, festivals, or local markets and fairs—there’s something for everyone in the Plains to Peaks region. Check out some of the examples of the events!

  • Hamilton Farmer’s Market Co-op: Keepin’ it Real! – This farmer market’s mission is to provide an opportunity for its members—the valley’s farmers, growers, and craftspeople—to sell their products and services. Fresh hot menu items include crepes, sausage sandwiches, and Mexican staples. You may also select from a wide variety of products grown in Ravalli County, such as chicken, lamb, beef, sheep and cow milk cheese, and raw honey!

farmer's markets in washington

Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

  • Prairie County Fair – The event brings the community together through wonderful exhibits, entertainment, food, and friends. It is known as “The Biggest Little Fair in All of Eastern Montana!” It usually takes place in August and is a perfect way to spend the second part of the summer. Activities may include rodeo contests and Homemaker Pie Auctions with some of the best local cowboys around. 
  • Chief Lookingglass PowWow – Nez Perce Tribe – Native Americans played a massive part in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, so attending events focused on their traditions should be a must on your bucket list. This three-day event takes place in Kamiah, Idaho and involves traditional dancing, drumming, food, memorials, and name-giving ceremonies with fun for all ages. Learn about American Indian traditions and join this lively festivity, where you will be able to experience the rich culture and heritage of the Nez Perce people. 

What are the best seasonal things to do in the LCNHT Plains to Peaks Region?

The Plains to Peaks region is worth visiting at any point in the year, but here are some specific ideas of what you could do during particular seasons:

  • Summer – Since Montana is home to wonderful mountains, hiking could be a great way to spend your summer in the Plains to Peaks region. For example, you can spend a day at the Sluice Boxes State Park admiring soaring cliffs near the Little Belt Mountains. Or you could also choose to relax at Seeley Lake, which is an idyllic wildlife area with some of the largest ecosystems in the continental U.S. Summer is also a perfect time for camping, so grab your friends or family to go on a road trip and spend time together camping along Montana and Idaho. Some of the best campgrounds include Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park Campground, Painted Rocks State Park, and Missouri Headwaters State Park

overnight sunset tent plains to peaks

Photo by Cliford Mervil:

  • Autumn – Despite the colder weather that fall brings, the beautiful autumn colors more than make up for it. The fall months are the perfect time to learn more about the integrated histories of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in relation with local communities by visiting museums and interpretive centers. The Plains to Peaks region includes countless interesting sites, such as Robbers Roost, Lemhi County Historical Society and Museum, and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. Explore the Museums Page on our website to learn more about the most interesting sites along the trail!
  • Winter – When planning your trip during winter, Lolo Trail in Idaho is one of the best attractions out there. The surrounding National Forests offer plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Moreover, you can enjoy winter relaxing in both Montana and Idaho’s hot springs. such as Lolo Hot Springs or Zims Hot Springs. The latter is located in the tribe’s aboriginal territory; the Nez Perce people used hot springs for ceremonial and spiritual purposes. 

hotsprings night mountain LNCHT

Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash

  • Spring – Similar to the summer season, spring is the best time to be outdoors! With numerous state parks and hiking trails, the LCNHT Plains to Peaks region offers spectacular views and experiences for travelers. Explore the one-and-only Yellowstone County Montana Region or go camping near the Slaughter River. See other outdoor adventures along the trail here

yellowstone crater plains to peaks LCNHT

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

If you’re tempted to visit the LCNHT Plains to Peaks region, but still not sure how to start planning your trip, here is an example itinerary for exploring the Missouri River County in Montana or the Nez Perce Adventure Tour in Idaho! 

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