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Moscow, Idaho — July 30-31, 2004

An event loosely organized by: HMarc and Warchild

Lolo Pass Loop

470 miles, approximately 11 hours

This is one of the the most famous of USA motorcycle roads. This loop takes you up Lolo Pass to Missoula, MT and back via HMarc's "secret road" along Idaho's St. Joe river. You can shorten this ride to 400 miles and 9 hours if you turn around at Lolo Hot Springs, right after crossing the actual Lolo Pass. If you do this, refueling may be a problem (talk to HMarc about it).

You might save a few minutes by starting out heading due south on US-95 and jumping on US-12 at Lewiston, but you'll add 20 miles if you do. On the return leg, by staying on I-90 from St. Regis to Coeur d'Alene and taking US-95 back to Moscow you'll add 10 miles but cut at least an hour off the trip (plus, on the downside, you'll miss a better road than Lolo Pass).

This is kind of a long group ride, particularly when you want to be back in Moscow by a fixed time (for the group photo and dinner), but I put in in here anyway as many of you might want to add Lolo Pass to your log book on the way to or from WFO-3.

  1. Head east out of Moscow on ID-8 towards Troy with a full tank of fuel.
  2. At Troy, turn right on ID-99 and head toward Kendrick. This is a great bit of road that you can let your bike stretch its legs on.
  3. At Kendrick, turn north on ID-3 and go through town. At the north end of town, the road has a few turns and then heads up a long grade. Just before the grade starts, turn right along the Potlatch river on County Road P1. After about 1/8th of a mile, turn right over the river and head up a narrow, twisty (and kinda bumpy) canyon.
  4. This is one of HMarc's favorite roads, and it offers a little bit of everything, including a few "surprise" turns. Awhile after passing through Cavendish (look quick or you'll miss it) you'll come to the top of the Ahsahka Grade, with its spectacular view up the Clearwater canyon leading to Lolo Pass. Unfortunately, there isn't really anywhere good to stop to take in the view.
  5. You might want to fuel up at Orofino, not much fuel on the Lolo Pass Hwy. At the stop sign, turn right (south) and cross the Clearwater river, then turn left on US-12 (aka the Lolo Pass Highway). Head towards Missoula, MT.
  6. US-12 is a major highway in these parts, and is therefore more heavily patrolled than the roads you've just been on. Watch your six! And your 12. And your radar detector.
  7. Just a 1/2 mile or so east of Lowell, ID is the famous "WINDING ROAD NEXT 77 MILES" sign, at then end of a sloped gravel turnout. A good photo op for the folks back home.
  8. Enjoy the road! There are some sights along it, like a couple places mentioned in Lewis & Clark's diaries. And there's some hot springs you can hike to. If you want info on this, ask HMarc.
  9. Just before Lolo Pass itself, the speed drops to 35mph. Watch out for LEOs. Also, there is a Lolo Pass Resort off on the south side of the road, just west of the summit. They may have fuel if you're running low. Or not.
  10. After crossing the pass, you'll see the large Lolo Hot Springs on the left. A traditional stopping point for motorcyclists, though many may be on cruisers. The road's character opens up after this to long sweepers and straights, leading into Lolo, MT.
  11. At Lolo, there's a big gas station on your right at the stoplight. Fuel up here. Turn north on US-93 and head towards Missoula.
  12. Traffic will get kinda heavy coming into Missoula, and you want to be alert so you can bear left and stay on US-93 (aka Reserve St.). It will take you due north to I-90 where there are lots of resturants, gas stations, and motels. If you miss it and go through downtown Missoula, you'll regret it.
  13. Head west on I-90 towards Idaho. The speed limit is nominally 75mph, but if you keep a close eye out, you can flow with the faster traffic 10 or 15mph above that.
  14. At St. Regis, after about 80 miles on I-90, stop for fuel and refreshments. Here you will leave the freeway, and take Mullan Gulch Road NE (possibly marked "Old Hwy 10") out of town. It's the road that parallels the freeway. After 1/2 mile or so, you'll turn left on Little Joe Road, which obviously crosses over I-90 and heads south. This is the only tricky part on this ride, so pay attention.
  15. Little Joe road follows a creek up a shallow valley, and after 2 or 3 miles becomes hardpack gravel. [Note: a report from June, 2004 says there is some loose gravel in many of the corners, so take it easy in the turns] If you're not used to it, don't worry -- just relax your grip on the bars, relax your mind, and take it easy. After about 10 or 11 miles of this you'll be at the summit of Gold Pass, where the pavement begins again. No more gravel after that!
  16. After a long descent from Gold Pass down the southern slopes of the Bitterroot mountains, you'll come to a T-intersection on the north bank of the beautiful St. Joe river. Turn right and head downstream.
  17. Stay on this road all the way downriver. The first town you'll come to is Avery. There may be gas here, but don't count on it. It's about 100 miles even, from St. Regis, MT to St. Maries, ID. This road has all the twists and turns you could hope for, and not much traffic. I much prefer it myself to Lolo Pass.
  18. There are some nice photo ops on the road downstream. Don't get so focused on tilting the horizon in the corners that you miss out getting a photo or two.
  19. At the end of the road, near St. Maries, take a left at the stop sign onto ID-3 and cross the bridge into St. Maries. Refuel here.
  20. Continue south on ID-3 out of St. Maries. Just before Santa, ID-3 will meet ID-6, where you will bear right towards the tiny village of Emida. This road has some nice twists, and some big old trees.
  21. Continue on ID-6 through Harvard, Princeton, and Potlatch and turn left onto US-95 at Potlatch Junction.
  22. Follow US-95 south into Moscow.

On this route reliable fuel may be found at Orofino, Lolo (on US-93), Missoula, St. Regis, St. Maries, and Moscow. There will probably be fuel at other places as well, but Murphy's Law says it won't be available when you need it.

If you're riding an FJR1300, and you make these fuel stops, I guarantee you won't run out:

Copyright © 2004, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.