Discovering our nation’s past is fun. And Big Hole National Battlefield offers the perfect opportunity to delve deep into some of the most poignant events in our history.

Visit gorgeous Montana to get a taste of real American history set against a gorgeous backdrop of gently rolling hills and fields filled with wildflowers.

The site was created to honor the memories of the men, women, and children who lost their lives at the site.

So what exactly is there to do, and why should you go?

Read on to discover the rich history behind this site, and what it can offer you.

​Examining Our History at Big Hole National Battlefield

Visiting Big Hole Battlefield involves stepping back in time, to the days of the Wild West and Manifest Destiny.

The battlefield was the site of the infamous Battle of Big Hole near Wisdom, Montana. The battle was between the Native American tribe of the Nez Perce and the white settlers, who were hoping to instigate westward expansion into the region (and make a few dollars in the process).

Tensions between the Nez Perce and the settles had been growing for some time. The ancestral homelands of the Nez Perce were given to them in a government treaty during the 1800s, but settlers were constantly encroaching.

The conditions of the treaty were violated in 1863 when gold was discovered in the lands. The government drew up a new treaty, but the treaty cut down Nez Perce ownership by 30 percent.

This sparked rage among the people, and many of them refused outright to sign the treaty. Small skirmishes began to come about, leading to a final battle: The Battle of Big Hole.

Visitor center at big hole national battlefield

Image CC by 2.0 by National Forest Service, via Flickr

​Big Hole National Battlefield Honors the Memory of Early America

On the morning of August 10, 1877, the battle commenced. When all was said and done, 90 Nez Perce and 31 soldiers were dead.

This historical site aims to serve their memory with purpose and learning opportunities for all. Thoughts on tolerance occupy the minds of all who visit here.

Nowadays, the Nez Perce work together with the United States government to preserve their culture and bear witness to the past.

Big Hole National Battlefield: A Detailed History

The trip of the Nez Perce crosswise over Montana in 1877 is among the most courageous and epic accounts of the Indian Wars time frame. Around 800 nontreaty Nez Perce left the Wallowa zone of Idaho in June 1877. While trying to join Sitting Bull in the relative security and opportunity of Canada, the Nez Perce evaded the seeking after powers of the United States until early October, when they gave up – not such a great amount from military annihilation but rather from weariness and starvation. On October 5, 1877, just 431 remained. 

Big Hole National Battlefield celebrates the trip of the Nez Perce more than 1,200 miles of the absolute most unpleasant land in the Lower 48 states, through Yellowstone National Park, over Montana’s high fields, at the same time outsmarting and whipping the U.S. Rangers. There were a few fights en route, however by a long shot the biggest conflict occurred here. Somewhere in the range of 60 and 90 individuals from the band were executed. Just 12 of the casualties were warriors – the rest were women, children, and the elderly. The U.S. military endured 29 dead and 40 injured. 

The Nez Perce had generally lived in eastern Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. They had constantly kept up great relations with the white wayfarers, helping Lewis and Clark in 1805 via thinking about the campaign’s individuals when they touched base in their nation wiped out, tired, and low on arrangements. They gave them sustenance, two burrow kayaks, and aides. The Nez Perce were additionally the subjects of the primary significant Protestant mission exertion among the Indians when the stern and tyrannical Eliza Spaulding – a partner of the later-martyred Marcus Whitman – encouraged them to surrender their customary courses as a byproduct of unceasing salvation. 

 Nez Perce’s issues increased in 1860 when gold was found. Most were sent to reservations, yet Joseph – known as “Youthful Joseph” – drove a nontreaty band to live on his customary country in the Wallowa Valley. Weight from pilgrims, in the end, prompted a request driving Joseph’s band onto a booking. 

In the mid-year of 1877, a few Nez Perce overcomes overlooked guidance from the inborn older folks and assaulted and slaughtered four white pilgrims in Oregon to get payback for the prior homicide of the dad of one of the conquers. This assault got under the skin of pioneers, and the rangers were brought in to chase down the Nez Perce. On June 1, 1877, Joseph’s band joined four other Nez Perce gatherings and crossed the swollen Snake River, escaping to Canada. 

Fights emitted in Idaho before the Nez Perce entered Montana, escaping from U.S. Armed force troops under the initiative of Gen. Oliver O. Howard. At the point when the Nez Perce achieved the Big Hole Valley, they chose to make camp, thinking at the same time that they abandoned their inconveniences them in Idaho. 

Be that as it may, notwithstanding Howard’s troops behind them, the second gathering of warriors, under the direction of Col. John Gibbon, was progressing up the Bitterroot Valley toward the clueless clan. On the morning of August 9, 1877, Gibbon’s officers, alongside an unforeseen of nearby volunteers, assaulted the dozing clan in what is today known as the Battle of the Big Hole. Under 48 hours after they’d set up camp, the remaining Nez Perce indeed ended up escaping for their lives and their opportunity. They made a beeline for Canada, however, the U.S. Armed force troops got up to speed to them at Bear Paw, just 40 miles from the Canadian fringe. The catch of Joseph’s worn out band was the last significant military exertion of the Indian Wars time frame. 

The Battle of the Big Hole is fairly abnormal among Indian battles in those various depictions of the fight exist, numerous from the Indian perspective. André Garcia, a scout, and globe-trotter wedded a Nez Perce lady, who was injured in the fight. In his grand book Tough Trip Through Paradise, he says that he visited the combat zone 2 years after the fact and human bones and skulls were as yet dispersed all over the place. 

Started as a military hold in 1883, the territory turned into a national landmark in 1910 and was assigned a national war zone in 1963. Today, the National Park Service keeps up an interpretive focus, where officers help guests comprehend the centrality of the fight that happened at Big Hole. Guided visits, a historical center, shows, a book shop, films, and three independently directed strolling trails are accessible. 

Trails start at the lower parking garage and lead to a few of intrigue. The Nez Perce Camp, where warriors astounded the resting clan, is viewed as hallowed ground. The Siege Area denotes where warriors were blockaded for almost 24 hours as the Nez Perce battled to spare their families from unavoidable passing. A genuinely steep walk will lead you to the Howitzer Capture Site, where officers endured a substantial blow as Nez Perce warriors caught and destroyed the military weapon. This spot bears a dynamite perspective on the war zone and the encompassing region.

​Big Hole Commemoration

Each year, the Nez Perce tribe gathers at Big Hole to commemorate the battle. The commemoration is for the purposes of honor and remembrance and includes these themes in all activities performed.

These include singing, dancing, a pipe ceremony, and a drum circle. There is no entrance fee. Feel free to come out and experience a bit of Nez Perce culture and tradition.

The commemoration takes place in August and everyone is invited to attend to honor those who lost their lives in the battle.

You won’t have to worry at the gate — they don’t charge admission. And if you need physical assistance to get to the campsite, they provide a shuttle from the park visitor center. They do suggest you bring a chair or blanket to sit on, as well as plenty of sunscreen or an umbrella.

The ceremony starts early and wraps up by noon, so be sure to arrive early. Commemorations include a drum circle as well as pipe ceremony, and they ask that you refrain from taking photos.

​The Practicalities of a Visit to Big Hole National Battlefield

Big Hole National Battlefield is a great place to bring yourself or the whole family for a visit. You’ll learn tons of new stuff and get to experience a whole other culture up close and personal.

​The Gist of Big Hole

Big Hole is near Wisdom, Montan, about 10 miles west of the town on Highway 43. The park is open from dusk until dawn, 365 days a year. The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter.

The park is free of charge for sports and recreation such as family outings.

​Where to Stay at Big Hole National Battlefield

Big Hole National Battlefield does not offer lodging on-site, but you’ll find campgrounds around the area to enjoy during your visit.

Try out Grandview Campground and RV Park in Hardin, Montana, for a fun, clean, and comfortable experience. At Grandview Campground you’ll find friendly staff to assist you with your every need.

Interested in other Montana and nearby Wyoming battlefields? Try going over to Bighorn Battlefield for another look into history.

​Hiking to Enjoy at Big Hole National Battlefield

Hiking is king here at Big Hole. Trails are open during daylight hours all year. The park offers three trails, each with its own historical significance:

​The Nez Perce Camp Trail

The Nez Perce Camp trail is 1.6 miles round trip. The path is pretty flat and traces the path of the Nez Perce along the river and through their camp. Hikers here will have a chance to see the Nez Perce Camp Site Memorial.

​Siege Area Trail

​The Siege Area trail is a bit more difficult, with a small rise in elevation. It’s about 1.2 miles long and affords visitors views of rifle pits dug by the soldiers. You’ll also be able to see a monument for the soldiers along this route.

​The Howitzer Trail

The Howitzer trail is less than a mile but rises steeply in elevation. Hikers can enjoy the view offered by the scenic hillside. You’ll enjoy the surrounding fields filled with wildflowers and the gentle valleys between them.

Tipi at big hole national battlefield

Image CC by 2.0, by National Forest Service, via Flickr

Things to Do at Big Hole National Battlefield

The Big Hole Valley and River Scenic Drive is an excellent eighty-two-mile outing that takes guests through a standout amongst the most lovely valleys in Montana, the rambling Big Hole Valley. Features of the drive incorporate the wonderful Big Hole Valley, the Big Hole River, the one of a kind town of Wisdom, and excellent perspectives on the Bitterroot and Pioneer Mountains. 

You will find that the southern beginning stage of the drive starts at the street intersection of Highway 278 and the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, toward the east of Big Hole Divide and twenty-eight miles west of Dillon and Interstate 15. 

At first, the drive moves toward a low pass, Big Hole Divide. As the course drops down into the valley beneath, the perspectives on the Bitterroot Mountains walking over the western skyline are magnificent. 

When the course achieves the town of Jackson, the grand drive begins generally following the Big Hole River. The forested pinnacles of the Pioneer Mountains ascend toward the east, the snow-topped and rough pinnacles of the Anaconda Range command the view toward the north, and the Bitterroot Mountains flank the valley toward the west. In general, the ride among Jackson and Wisdom is an incredibly beautiful one. 

The town of Wisdom is, as may be normal, a little one. In any case, it is a decent spot to get gas and different supplies, particularly if the guest will take off into one of the mountains goes outside of town. 

If You Have Some Extra Time…

Those with an additional hour to extra may likewise need to visit the Big Hole National Battlefield site that untruths 10 miles toward the west of Wisdom on Highway 43. The war zone is a noteworthy site and gives extraordinary perspectives on the Big Hole Valley and encompassing mountains. More Information about Big Hole National Battlefield. 

Traveling north from Wisdom, the Big Hole Valley and the River Scenic Byway begins firmly following the unmistakable waters of the Big Hole River. The perspectives along this stretch of the street are phenomenal. Also, various angling access locales, campgrounds, and casual parking spaces take into account brilliant access to the stream. 

Twenty-three miles north of Wisdom, the beautiful drive achieves the intersection with Highway 539, which is a piece of the Mt. Haggin Scenic Drive. Guests with some additional time are urged to take a short side-trip for the initial ten miles of this picturesque drive, as the perspectives on the Anaconda Range are brilliant. 

As the Big Hole Valley and River Scenic Drive travel east past the street intersection with Highway 539, the course enters a gulch that is occasionally separated by little fields and knolls. Forested slopes and mountains rise steeply over the stream and the street. Notwithstanding this, however, the perspectives are remarkable as the Big Hole River itself gives a lot of grand sights. 

When the course enters Wise River, the byway achieves the street intersection with the northern beginning stage of the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. Guests whose touring plans will take them back toward Dillon ought to think about taking this byway – basically making a circle trip – as it is an unmistakably more picturesque option than trudging down Interstate 15. 

Generally, the Big Hole Valley and River Scenic Drive is a wonderful, cleared drive that takes guests through a standout amongst the most picturesque valleys in Montana. Furthermore, any individual who appreciates angling will surely value the simple access that the picturesque drive gives to the celebrated Big Hole River. 

Fast Facts about the Big Hole Region

  • Length: 82 miles (110 miles from Dillon) 
  • Features: Big Hole Valley, Big Hole River, Pioneer Mountains, Bitterroot Mountains, Anaconda Range
  • Street Type: Paved
  • Adjacent Towns: Dillon, Wise River, Wisdom
  • 4wd required? : No
  • Traffic: Light to Moderate
  • Trailers? : Yes

Where to Stay and Other Services 

There are sufficient administrations along the picturesque drive so guests won’t be absolutely missing for gas or different supplies. The town of Wisdom has a service station and comfort store. The town of Jackson likewise has a couple of stores. 

Outdoors camping spots are plentiful along the course. A few created campground are found ideal along the drive close Wise River. A lot increasingly created campgrounds can be found off the drive in the Pioneer Mountains and Bitterroot Mountains, especially outside the town of Jackson. 

As far as cabin, the best spot to discover a lodging is in Dillon. Be that as it may, there are a couple of dispersed excursion resorts and cabins along the course. These spots, as a rule, require bookings ahead of time, however, and are frequently very costly. Dillon is the best wagered to find reasonable one-night lodging. The Super 8 in Dillon, while not the best spot on the planet, is entirely reasonable.

​Ancient Sites at Big Hole National Battlefield

One of the most intriguing aspects of the park is its access to sites of ancient human habitation. The area has been settled by people as far back as 11,000 years ago. Viewing the artifacts that remain are one of the most fascinating activities available to visitors.

​Buffalo Eddy

In sharp bends of the Snake River, you’ll find Petroglyph and pictographs left by ancestors of the Nez Perce people. The name of the site — Buffalo Eddy — derives from the images of hunters chasing bison on horseback. Some of the images may date back as long as 4,500 years ago.

​Hasotino Village Site

This ancient village was once the home of some of the Nez Perce. Archeologists have been studying the site for the last 50 years. The Hesutiin or Hasotino site is near a lamprey fishery and provided access to food and water. This made it one of the largest and longest used villages in the area.

​Other Attractions at Big Hole National Battlefield

Along with the annual commemoration and extensive trails, you’ll find other activities at Big Hole National Battlefield.


Huge Hole National Battlefield’s three trails are open from dawn to dusk every day all year. Throughout the late spring and fall trail, aides are accessible at the trail sets out toward $1.00; request them at the guest focus in the winter. The street prompting the lower parking garage and trail-heads is shut to vehicles each winter, however, stays open for use by snowshoers and cross country skiers. 

A rock landmark in the snow with a couple of cross country skis alongside it.  Throughout the winter, the trails remain open for snow-shoers and cross country skiers. The Camp Trail prompts the site where the dozing Nez Perce stayed outdoors when the military assaulted on the morning of August 9, 1877. It is a 1.6 miles round-trip strolling trail with no height gain. The surface is pressed earth and might be sloppy in the late-spring, and rutted later in the season. Explorers should look out for ground squirrel caves/gaps, which can undoubtedly be ventured into. The trail takes around one hour to finish. 

Siege Area Trail 

The Siege Area Trail is 1.2 miles round-trek and moves around fifty feet in the rise. The trail takes roughly forty-five minutes to finish. nimí·pu· warriors attacked the troops under the direction of Colonel Gibbon in the wake of driving them out of the camp. Guests can see rifle-pits burrowed by the troopers and see the landmark devoted to the Seventh U.S. Infantry warriors. 

Howitzer Trail 

The Howitzer Trail prompts the site where nimí·pu· warriors caught a 12-Pound Mountain Howitzer Cannon from the military. A copy stands gun welcomes explorers who make it to the site. It is a 0.8-mile goad trail off of the Siege Area trail that climbs 320 feet in the rise and takes roughly 40 minutes to climb. Many tree roots and other potential trek dangers confuse this trail as it rises a precarious slope. The trip can be strenuous, yet the view from the howitzer site is amazing! 

Regarding Sacred Ground 

Enormous Hole Battlefield is consecrated ground for all who battled here. It remains a graveyard and a position of grieving and recognition.  Walk or remain on the trails. Be mindful and respectful of burial grounds. 

Abstain from taking your pets on the trails. They are free to go along with you for a walk around every single cleared surface in the recreation center, insofar as they stay on a 6-foot or shorter rope. Delving in the territory or gathering rocks or different things aren’t permitted. Metal locator and automaton use are carefully restricted here, and all through the whole park. Kindly don’t litter. Refuse and reusing containers are accommodated your comfort at the trailhead parking area. 

Report any harm or suspected infringement to the National Park Service at (406) 689-3155 or email us. 

For Your Safety 

Huge Hole National Battlefield is situated at around 6,300 feet above ocean level. Guests may need to moderate their pace when strolling.  Drinking a lot of liquids is highly recommended, as the Big Hole Valley can be dry all year. 

Climate conditions can change significantly at any time of the year; layering lightweight garments is strongly recommended. We also highly recommend bringing bug repellent and a high SPF sunscreen. Mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies are common in the late spring.

Know about your environment and look out for wildlife. Bears, mountain lions, moose, porcupine, and other conceivably perilous untamed life live here. Appreciate all-natural life from a far distance and give them a lot of room. Try not to approach them. 

​Spalding Site Trails

The Spalding Site hosts four short, interpretive trails filled with storytelling and history. Along with the Whitebird Battlefield trail that tells the story of the battle, you’ll also be able to walk the Heart of the Monster trail, that tells the story of Coyote’s fight with a monster. You can see where the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through in 1805. Or marvel at ancient petroglyphs and pictographs on the Buffalo Eddy trail.

​Historical films

If you would prefer to spend some time indoors, you can stop at any of the three indoor museums in the park and learn a bit more about the history of the area.

Spalding Visitor Center

The Spalding visitor center hosts activities and you can learn more about the Nez Perce. Throughout the year, they show the film, “Nez Perce – Portrait of a People” for visitors. You can also check out the museum for an impressive display of apparel, tools, weapons, and ceremonial objects from the tribe.

Big Hole National Battlefield

The park visitor center provides information on how to access the battlefield. You can also watch the film, “Weet’uciklitukt: There’s No Turning Back, Battle at Big Hole” to learn more about the Nez Perce War of 1877.

Bear Paw Battlefield

If you find yourself near the Blaine County Museum in Chinook, check out the museum and watch “40 Miles to Freedom,” an audiovisual presentation. They also have a museum with exhibits on history and paleontology in the local area.

Ranger Programs at Big Hole National Battlefield

Big Hole National Battlefield 

Go along with us for one of our free officer programs as we share the tales behind your National Battlefield. Projects are liable to change. If you don’t mind check postings at the guest focus close Wisdom, MT for the most state-of-the-art plan. 

Battlefield Tours

Take a voyage through the Big Hole National Battlefield with an officer. Climbs will extend from 1.2 to 2 miles round-trip. Creepy crawly repellent is profoundly suggested as mosquitoes are prevelant in the zone. 

Dates: Late June through Labor Day on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekday climbs are offered if staffing permits. NOTE: front line visits won’t be offered on a Saturday when the yearly war zone recognition happens. 

Times: Begins at 10 am 

Deck Talks

These half-hour long projects happen on the deck at the guest focus with an ordering perspective on the whole combat zone. 

Dates: Late June through late September on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekday talks are offered if staffing permits. NOTE: deck talks won’t be offered on Saturday when the yearly front line celebration happens. 

Times: 11 am and 1:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. 11 am, 1:30 pm, and 3 pm on weekdays, if staffing permits. 

Summer Speaker Series

Each mid-year, Nez Perce people and other social demonstrators share their insight with Big Hole National Battlefield guests as a major aspect of the Summer Speaker Series. Introductions occur at the guest focus except if generally noted. 

Dates: Late June through late August on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Times: 12 early afternoons and 3 pm except if other astute noted. If it’s not too much trouble check the recreation center’s occasions schedule for insights concerning the current year’s speakers. 

Bear Paw Battlefield 

Officers are accessible on the location most days in the late spring a long time to offer improvised, guided voyages through the Bear Paw Battlefield close Chinook, MT. Huge gatherings and gatherings with unique needs or those touching base at different occasions of the year can call the lead officer ahead of time at (406) 357-3130 to make game plans for a visit. 

Nez Perce National Historical Park 

For the most part, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, officers at the Nez Perce National Historical Park’s guest focus in Spalding, Idaho give strolls and talks that incorporate gallery visits and tipi pitching exhibits. Call (208) 843-7009 or email us for more information.

Big Hole National Battlefield is Open for All

Big Hole Battlefield is representative of how far we’ve come as a nation. To come here is to support the prosperity that comes in times of peace and to remember the lessons learned that follow times of war. Traveling to Big Hole is a learning opportunity for all.




Battle of the Big Hole: The Story Of The Landmark Battle Of The 1877…


National Park Quarter Collection Book Folder Map


Historical Research Management Plan for Big Hole National Battlefield…


​Featured Image: CC0, via National Parks Service

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