The Lewis and Clark Trail isn't much of a trail at all. In fact, more than 75 percent of the "trail" is a collection of rivers and reservoirs. The "trail" is also two trails. The Lewis and Clark Trail is considered the accessable version of the trail. It is mostly a web of highways and byways, many of which parallel the actual trail. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is the actual trail, as best can be located, that is located, for the most part, off the beaten path and generally not accessable by most vehicles.
For most travelers, the Lewis and Clark Trail provides ample opportunity to see what The Corps of Discovery saw as they traveled West.
Along the Trail (the highway trail) lie many of the major sites and visitor centers. Fort Mandan in North Dakota can be found north of Interstate 84 near U.S. Highway 83. A new Interpretive Center is also located near the reconstructed fort. Fort Clatsop along the Columbia River just west of Astoria, Oregon is located west of Interstate 5 along U.S. Highway 30. The new Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center currently being constructed at Great Falls, Montana can be reached from Interstate 15. Pompey's Pillar, where Clark etched his name in stone, is just off Interstate 94 near Billings, Montana.
For those who want to experience Lewis and Clark's America without gas stations and asphalt the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is for you. Although part's of this trail run through urbanized America, it also offers a true wilderness experience. From boat, raft and canoe trips on the Missouri River to a peaceful hike along the Lolo Trail, adventurious travelers can get a glimpse of what the Corps of Discovery described in their journals.
A variety of private enterprises offer a variety of trips along the trail. For those who prefer to experience the trail themselves, information is available on accessing the public lands and waterways where the trail is located. For information about both private and public opportunities contact the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail office, the address can be found in the REFERENCES section.
For those looking for a bit more information about both versions of the trail, check out "The Traveler's Guide to the Lewis & Clark Trail," by Julie Fanselow and published by Falcon Press, Billings and Helena, Montana, 1994.