The Hiawatha Bike Trail in Idaho and Montana runs along what was once known as one of the most scenic railroad routes in the country. Here are some things you need to know about this iconic biking trail before you plan an adventure on it.
The trail is approximately 30 miles from start to finish, and includes more than 2,000 feet of elevation change. A shorter 17-mile route can also be chosen for those who do not wish to bike the entire trail. The shorter route includes approximately 1,000 feet of elevation change in all.
The Hiawatha Trail will take you through nine different tunnels, and around one that is permanently closed. The most famous tunnel along this route is the Taft Tunnel, which is approximately 1.7 miles long and extends underneath the Bitterroot Mountains at the state line. Parking areas near the tunnel will allow you to access either the Idaho or Montana sections of trail rather easily.
The trail extends over nine high rail trestles, which provide spectacular views of the mountains, nearby waterfalls, and the St. Regis River. In fact, the trail crosses the St. Regis River at three different times, and also dips underneath Interstate 90 two times. One of the most beautiful waterfalls along the route is located at the Idaho end of the Taft Tunnel, which is just one more reason why it is so popular.
Since portions of the trail are open to horseback riders and hikers, there are strict rules regarding the type of equipment bikers must wear. Lights are required by everyone, as there is virtually no visibility inside any of the tunnels. Helmets are required along the Hiawatha Trail as well. The right affordable sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats from Pugs are recommended, as they can provide you with some protection from the sun and make your adventure much more pleasurable.