THE HIAWATHA TRAIL: The Route of the Hiawatha is a fun-filled adventure you won’t want to miss. This groomed biking trail follows what was once the great Milwaukee Railroad, and weaves through the mountain tops of the Bitteroot Divide, which separates Idaho and Montana. Winding through 10 tunnels and 7 high trestles, with heights up to 230 ft within the Loop Creek canyon, this 15-mile route crosses the rugged Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. The Route of the Hiawatha is best known for the long, dark St. Paul Pass, or Taft Tunnel, which burrows for 1.66 miles under the Idaho/Montana state line. The gentle 1.6% average grade that drops 1,000 feet over the 15-mile length also has shuttle buses available to transport you and your bike back to the top.
With an incredible history beginning in 1906 of construction, hardships and calamities, unprecedented electrification, and of carrying passengers and freight from the Northwest to the Midwest, generations of railroaders kept the Milwaukee Road running until it finally went bankrupt in 1977. The last train west of Butte, Montana passed through in 1980. After that the line was abandoned.
With government funding and private donations, the rails were removed, and the construction of this spectacular wilderness bicycle and hiking trail was undertaken in 1997. The Idaho portion of the trail first opened for public use on May 29, 1998. The St. Paul Pass, or Taft Tunnel, was completed in May of 2001, and is now open for bike riding. If you’d like to experience a truly unique mountain adventure, head East on Interstate 90 and get off at Exit 0 for Lookout Pass. Purchase your tickets for the trail, rent bikes and helmets, and also get your bike repaired. There is a nominal fee and no dogs or pets are allowed on the trail. Open 7 days a week through September.