The Nez Perce Nee-Me-Poo Trail is a National Historic Trail commemorating the unsuccessful flight of the peaceful Nez Perce tribe, led by Chief Joseph, through 3 states to escape being captured by the US Army and interned on a reservation. Dubbed "The Trail of Tears," it stretches some 1200 miles to Montana, but a 5-mile section within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Oregon allows us to get a sense of the first part of the tribe's historic march, while marvelling at northeastern Oregon's magnificent wild landscape.
The trailhead is on Forest Road 4260, also called Dug Bar Road, at a small rock cairn marker. There's no formal parking area, but parking is permitted on the right side of the road. Locals know this spot as "2 miles past the Cow Creek Bridge." The trail closely follows the Forest Road, and to get to the end at the Dug Bar Crossing of the Snake River into Idaho requires trekking through rugged and steep country, and an equally steep descent to the river.
Along the way, you'll likely see an abundance of wildlife, including bobcats and cougars, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and elk. Raptors and songbirds share the sky and serenade you as you hike, and you'll pass many beautiful wildflowers and cactus like the Prickly Pear at desert-like lower elevations, miniature flowers as you go higher and encounter more rocky areas. You'll pass through lush forest and along craggy ridges and your view of the surrounding peaks of the Seven Devils Mountains will leave you breathless. Clear streams wander through prairies and meadows and as you descend to the Snake River gorge you'll find sandbars and desert conditions once again. Here, you turn back to the difficult hike back to the trailhead, or meet up with a transport vehicle that has followed along Dug Bar Road and picks you up for the ride back.
This is not a trail for the faint of heart, but you and your fur-buddy will no doubt see much that you'll remember forever.
The wilderness area through which this trail travels is full of wildlife, including the rattlesnake. Inherently shy, a snake will avoid close contact with you if you give it plenty of space to retreat. As an extra caution, avoid poking around with your hands or feet under rocks or shrubs, and wear ankle-high boots. This area is also home to poison ivy. Learn to recognize and avoid it.