The trail to Horsesteak Meadows Camp heads down into the Hungery Creek drainage, as pristine a spot as can be imagined. The creek is clear and cold, and the slopes around it look like they have never seen an ax or saw.
The grassy, wet meadows that fill the flat area in which the creek meanders are bright green, and large Englemann spruce line the trail. The meadows across the creek can be muddy and wet. In early July, they were drying out in most spots, but in one still-damp ara, I found a distinct cougar track. In the next such area, I found tracks of the same size and shape, as well as smaller ones of the same shape. I'd like to think that a female and cub had passed by earlier that morning. The trail heads uphill a bit past a metal one-mile marker on a tree and is not maintained beyond this point. The total hike from trailhead to creek is about a alf mile, but it's 240 feet down ~ and back up. Bald Mountain camp is reached with an even shorter tenth-of-a-mile hike. Head uphill along the parallel tracks about the size of those made by a pickup truck. They end at a small, flat space that looks like a landing and is where the campsite begins. The campsite covered a large area when Lewis and Clark were there, for about 30 people and their animals spent that evening on the hillside. It must have been a challenge to find a level sleeping spot. The views from here are fine: Castle Butte with a lookout on top. No-see-um Butte and the saddle between the latter and the ridge to its west. The combination of dark trees and green, subalpine meadows is quite picturesque. Bald Mountain is covered with low vegetation, much of it beargrass, and a dotting of trees. When the beargrass is in bloom in early July, it's gorgeous. Continuing uphill from the campsite for a few yards, you'll find a trail tread that seems to follow a contour line along the hillside. Walk it for a bit. It is original, authentic, ancient northern Nez Perce Trail. The trail to 13-Mile Campsite begins at the left of the historic signpost. It heads gently, then more steeply uphill through evergreens with a huckleberry and beargrass understory. In the open meadow, about an eighth of a mile in, the trail becomes indistinct, even nonexistent. Before turning right at that point and heading up the hill to the campsite, you might want to tie a bandanna to a tree near the spot where the trail leaves the woods, for this place won't be obvious when yu head back down to find it. Although there is no distinct trail through the open meadow and up the hill to the campsite, the site is easy to find. Just head uphill. Near the top, there's a sparsely wooded area. Walk through it and on to the top, then down a bit to the saddle before the next high point. This saddle contains the campsite.
Horsesteak Meadows Information:
Lochsa Ranger District, Clearwater National Forest, 926-4274.
Maps: Clearwater National Forest visitor map, U.S. Geological Survey Boundary Peak, Idaho, and Snowy Summit, Idaho. The latter show the trail continuing uphill, but it is not maintained past the first creek crossing, and travel uphill on this section is strongly discouraged.
Trailhead: On the left at Windy Saddle, 3.9 miles up the road to Boundary Peak. That road is a left turn off the Lolo Motorway at mile 70.7. (Motorway mileages are measured from the junction of the Parachute Hill Road and U.S. Highway 12, which is near Powell.)
Bald Mountain Information: North Fork Range District, Clearwater National Forest, 476-4541. USGS Holly Creek, Idaho. (The trail is not on either map.)
Trailhead: On the right at mile 45.8 on the mortorway, across the road from the large brown sin commemorating Greensward Camp.
13-Mile Camp Information: Powell Ranger District, Clearwater National Forest, 942-3113.
Maps: Clearwater National Forest visitors map, USGS Rocky Point, Idaho. (The capsite is noted on both maps, but the trail is not.
Trailhead: On the left at Powell Junction, mile 5.7 from U.S. Highway 12 on the Parachute Hill Road heading up to the motorway.
Horsesteak Meadows is so named because after Clark and his party split from Lewis on their 1805 trip west, they found and killed a horse here. They ate some and left the rest for Lewis and his group. Neither party camped here heading west, but the Corps of Discovery did camp here June 16, 1806, on their unsuccessful firt trip east. Bald Mountain of Greensward Camp was a favorte camping place for most eeryone who traveled the old Lolo Trail. It offered a warm, sunny and open south-facing hillside in the spring and late fall, when other parts of the trail might be under snow. There was ample grass and water for horses, as well as a beautiful resting place for the travelers. Although aboriginal people probably camped at this location, the first written documentation of its use comes from the journals of Lewis and Clark. They camped here June 26, 1806, on their successful east bound journey. Lewis mentioned the abundance of beargrass, which the horses would not eat, and the abundance of other young and tender grasses, which the animals did eat. Two days later, on June 28, 1806, Lewis and Clark reached 13-mile Campsite, so named because it is 13 miles from their previous camp at Spring Mountain. They stopped early so their horses could graze on the grassy southern slopes of the hill. The trail segment to the campsite is part of both the ancient Lolo Trail across the Bitterroot Mountains and the historic Nez Perce Trail followed by Lewis and Clark as they traveld east on the morning after they camped on the hillside. It is not part of any trail system developed by the Forest Service, and is distinct from the Bird-Truax Trail that was constructed where the road is now, along the northern side of this hill.
Lolo Trail Information
Clearwater National Forest
12730 Highway 12
Orofino, ID 83544