There are three must-do bicycle trails in the Inland Pacific Northwest — The Spokane River Centennial Trail, Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and the Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail.
Today a small group of us are headed for the immensely popular Route of the Hiawatha, a 15-mile compacted gravel trail between the Pearson trailhead (elev. 3180) in Idaho and the East Portal trailhead (elev. 4147) in Montana.
Although bicyclists can travel round trip, most choose the shorter (3-4 hour) downhill experience and park at the East Portal, located about 2 miles off I-90 at the Taft Exit in Montana (5 miles east of Lookout Pass on the Idaho border) and take a shuttle bus back.
The downhill version begins at the East Portal of the very dark Taft Tunnel. (BTW helmets and proper lighting equipment are required for all bikers.)
The Friends of the Coeur d’Alene Trails Website tells us: “This massive and perfectly straight, 1.7 mile long train tunnel was completed at great expense in 1908. Also called the ‘St. Paul Pass Tunnel,’ it ends in Idaho at the now extinct town of Roland, where the journey continues down a 2% grade through 8 more tunnels and across 7 high steel trestles before reaching the Pearson trailhead and junction with Forest Road 456, which connects Wallace and Avery.
“Along the trail, numerous interpretive signs provide information about the rich mining and railroad history in this scenic passage way through the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains, famous between 1911 and 1961 as the ‘Route of the Hiawatha’ on the Milwaukee Road between Illinois and Washington.”
The Hiawatha trail is open through Oct. 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Day use pass is $9 ($6 ages 6-13). All children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
The shuttle operates 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. through Sept. 13, with service on weekends and holidays after that date.
For a great map click on Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail
For nearby campgrounds visit the Idaho Panhandle Nation Forests Web site. Or click here for a wide selection of books on camping in the Pacific Northwest.
Photos: Views of the Route of the Hiawatha. Source: Friends of the Coeur d’Alene Trails.