At Big Hole National Battlefield, a visitor center overlooks meadows where one of the West's greatest and most tragic stories played out. In 1877 Nez Perce warriors in central Idaho killed some white settlers as retribution for earlier killings by whites. Knowing the U.S. Army would make no distinction between the guilty and the innocent, several hundred Nez Perce fled, beginning a 1,500-mi, five-month odyssey that has come to be known as the Nez Perce Trail. The fugitives engaged 10 separate U.S. commands in 13 battles and skirmishes. One of the fiercest of these was at Big Hole, where both sides suffered losses. From here the Nez Perce headed toward Yellowstone. The Big Hole battlefield remains as it was when the battle unfolded; tepee poles erected by the park service mark the site of a Nez Perce village and serve as haunting reminders of what transpired here. Ranger-led programs take place daily in summer; group tours can be arranged with advance request. The park stays open for
winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on a groomed trail through the battlefield's sites. Big Hole National Battlefield is one of 38 sites in four states that make up the Nez Perce National Historic Park (208/843–7001 www.nps.gov/nepe), which follows the historic Nez Perce Trail.