There are thirty-eight sites scattered across four states (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington) that make up the Nez Perce National Historical Park. The visitor center for the park is based in Lapwai, Idaho near Lewiston.
The Nez Perce NHP showcases the life of the Niimiipuu people, historically known as the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce NHP includes nine sites including the Big Hole National Battlefield in Montana. The visitor center in Spalding, Idaho is the best place to start your visit to the park. There is a great informational movie, hands on displays, a small museum and really great park rangers to answer your questions.
One thing to know about the Nez Perce NHP is the sites are spread out and can be quite difficult to reach in a day or two. You will need to cover four states and some of the sites are quite a distance from each other.
Near the visitor center you can see where the Nez Perce lived for thousands of years. European Settlers Henry Spalding built a Presbyterian church here in 1836. Later the Nez Perce Indian Agency was located here followed by the town of Spalding. Many of the original buildings can still be seen within the park
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Top things to do at Nez Perce National Historical Park
Visit the Visitor Center
Watch the amazing park film that talks about the Nez Perce way of life today and how they are influenced by their ancestors. One thing to know if you are bringing kids in with you is there is a scene where a deer is killed, cleaned and processed. It is not particularly gruesome in what it shows but if you have kids, a vegetarian or someone who does not handle animals dying with you it is something to be aware of. My wife has been vegetarian for 20+ years and she turned her head and didn’t want to watch it. The message that the movie talks about is great but it can be jarring if you are not prepared.
The visitor center also has a small museum with Nez Perce tribal items and great interpretive information on the items.
Become a Junior Ranger
Give yourself at least an hour or two to complete the Junior Ranger program. You will need to spend time in the visitor center and the picnic area to visit the exhibits. Depending on age there is a specific number of activities to accomplish to earn your badge. The activities include a bingo, crossword, coloring sheets, find in the park, and more. It is a great opportunity for any age group to learn more about the park and have some fun. A Junior Ranger Program is available for ages 5-8 and for 9-12 year olds.
Visit the historical sites near the Visitor Center
Spalding Home Site and original fireplaces of Reverend Henry Harmon Spalding and Eliza Hart Spalding.
Indian Agency Cabin
L.G. Watson Co General Merchandise
Spalding Presbyterian Church
Explore the 38 park sites
With 38 park sites it can be very difficult to see all of the sites of the Nez Perce National Historical Park. From the visitor center you can take a driving tour of many of the sites. One thing to know is a lot of the sites are historical signs on the side of the road.
Ant and Yellowjacket
Nez Perce War – Foster’s Gravesite
Nez Perce War
Heart of the Monster
Heart of the Monster is a 53 acre site located off of U.S. 12 East south of the visitor center. The Heart of the Monster according to the Nez Perce creation story, Iceye’ye (Coyote) killed a large monster along the Clearwater River near present day Kamiah, Idaho, thus creating different tribes in the region, including the Nez Perce.
The large rock formation is said to represent the heart of the monster described in the Nez Perce legend.
Located on U.S. Highway 12 at mile marker 68.
Latitude/Longitude – 46°12’38.85″N 116°0’21.36″W
Asa Smith Mission
This 4.1 acres site includes a short hiking trail with interpretive signs that tell more about Canoe Camp and the Nez Perce interactions with the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. This is a great stop along the driving tour to enjoy a picnic lunch and restrooms.
Latitude/Longitude: 46°30’3.11″N 116°19’52.89″W
14224 US 12
Orofino, ID 83554
Nez Perce National Historical Park Cultural Day
Once a year the Nez Perce National Historical Park hosts a Cultural Day that celebrates the Nez Perce nimí·pu· culture.
The day included cultural demonstrations, a special junior ranger program, traditional dancing, drumming and singing.
We were lucky enough to have our visit to Nez Perce NHP land on the Cultural Day. It was an amazing day at the park!
Nez Perce National Historical Park Travel Tips
-Be prepared with a picnic lunch or snacks
-Lewiston had the cheapest gas we found doing the loop around the park.
Nez Perce National Historical Park Details / Things to Know
Visitor Center Address:
Nez Perce National Historical Park
39063 US Hwy 95
Lapwai, ID 83540-9715
Daily: 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days
There is no cost to enter the park
National Parks near Nez Perce National Historical Park
Whitman Mission National Historic Site – Washington
Big Hole Battlefield – Montana
Yellowstone National Park
Other sites/activities near Nez Perce National Historical Park
Northwest Passage Scenic Byway
Nez Perce National Historic Trail