Hike the trails here not just for their history, but for the quiet beauty of this lush meadow flanked by mountains and a swift stream.
The visitor center (406/689-3155, www.nps.gov/biho, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily Memorial Day–Labor Day, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year, free) provides audiovisual displays that explain the background of the Nez Percé flight and the Big Hole battle. Exhibits include artifacts of the battle and items from the daily life of the early settlers and the Indian tribes who fought here in 1877.
An extensive network of self-guided hiking trails links the sites of the battle. From the parking lot, a 1.5-mile trail leads to the site of the Nez Percé camp; a shorter trail leads to the siege area. Here, for devotees of military strategy, interpretive signs chart the development of the battle in great detail. A somewhat steeper hike leads to the site of the howitzer captured by the Nez Percé, where there are great views over the battlefield and the Big Hole Valley.
For hiking of a different magnitude, the Nee-Me-Poo Historic Trail (www.fs.fed.us/npnht) passes through the Big Hole Battlefield. This 1,200-mile trail follows the route of the Nez Percé from Oregon to the Bears Paw Mountains, where the army finally apprehended the fleeing tribe.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition