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Trestles and Tunnels on the Route of the Hiawatha Bike Trail

May 30, 2017 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Soaring mountain views, towering trestles anddark tunnels greet cyclists riding the Route of the Hiawatha Trail.  This bucket-list activity is perfect for families – the entire 15-mile ride follows a leisurely downhill grade and follows the crest of Bitterroot Mountains. Accessed from Lookout Pass Ski Area, this gem in northern Idaho promises fitness, fun, fresh air and breathtaking scenery.  And if biking isn’t your thing, hikers are also welcome.

This route, previously part of the Milwaukee Railroad, has an interesting history filled with innovation, vicious railroad industry competition, a devastating fire, and financial challenges, all spanning more than 100 years. The last train rumbled down the tracks in 1980 and the line was abandoned. While a misfortune for the railroad company, the loss paved the way for the establishment of a unique rail trail that takes riders across seven sky-high trestle bridges and through ten tunnels cut through the mountainsides.

Riders may access the Route of the Hiawatha from mid-May through late September, a great time of year for beautiful scenery and weather. The ride is adventurous enough on its own, but to add a little intrigue, one of the tunnels at the start of the ride is more than a mile long.  Riders must have lights on their bikes or helmets to help light the way through this and other tunnels along the route. In general, it takes about 2.5 hours to complete the ride so it makes a great day trip from Wallace, ID or Coeur d’Alene, ID.

Access the trail at Lookout Pass Recreation Area on the Idaho/Montana border. Here riders may rent bikes (which come with helmets and headlamps) and family-friendly equipment such as tagalongs and trailers. Be sure to pack a lunch or bring drinks and snacks – there are no concessions along the trail – or pick up some trail treats at the Lookout Pass store before heading out. Cyclists are encouraged to take their time, enjoy the views, keep an eye out for wildlife and to take lots of photos. At the end of the ride, relax with a leisurely shuttle ride back to the top.

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