Route of the Hiawatha

Idaho

At a Glance

Name: Route of the Hiawatha
Length: 15 Miles
Trail activities: Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Counties: Shoshone
Surfaces: Gravel
State: Idaho

About this Itinerary

The Route of the Hiawatha follows one of the most scenic former railroad passages in the West, winding its way through the Bitterroot Mountains. The old right-of-way now makes for a spectacular mountain bike ride, and features illustrated interpretive signs that relate the railroad’s history, including how the amazing trestles and tunnels were built. Feeling adventurous? Skip the shuttle and ride back up the mountain on the return journey!

Fly into Spokane, Washington, and drive 86 miles to Wallace, Idaho. History buffs will agree that Wallace has the most concentrated historical attractions in the area. Stay at the Wallace Inn, which offers optional services to pick you up at the airport in Spokane. They’ll also customize a trail biking trip. Consider extending your stay and check out Wallace’s historical attractions.

Alternatively, you can stay at Scheffy’s Motel in the isolated burg of Avery, Idaho, once a stop along the Milwaukee Road. It’s nine miles from the trail’s southern trailhead.

Excelsior Cycle

Including driving to and from the trailhead, plan to spend a full day at this trail. Just biking the 17 miles one way alone takes about 2.5 hours. Bring your own or rent mountain bikes near the trailhead at Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area. The trail lies entirely within the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Under a special-use permit, Lookout Pass Ski Area manages the trail, and they are also your one-stop shop for all trail information. Bike racks for your car are free of charge if you rent their bikes. You can also rent bikes in downtown Kellogg at Excelsior Cycle (21 Railroad Avenue).

All riders over the age of 5 must purchase a trail pass, available at Lookout Pass (check website for current fees; passes for children 6–13 years old are available at a reduced rate). You can also buy passes from a trail ranger along the route.

Important: Bring water because potable water is not available along the trail (pit toilets are). Helmets are required as are head lamps or bike lights for the tunnels. Lookout Pass rents both. Dogs are prohibited on the trail, so leave yours at home.

Day 1

Begin your day with a short bike ride to the Red Light Garage for breakfast and order a stack of huckleberry pancakes, a Northwest specialty. On display at the funky restaurant is a Korean weather satellite that plunged to Earth nearby.

If you rent bikes at Lookout Pass, drive about 12 miles to Lookout and check in. From here, you can either ride your bike to the East Portal trailhead along the old railroad grade or drive (about 10 miles). If you drive, from Lookout Pass continue on I-90 into Montana; take Exit 5 at Taft. Follow the signs to the East Portal trailhead parking area.

If you’re bringing your own bikes, and already have your trail passes or want to buy them from the trail rangers, from Wallace drive 21 miles on I-90 to the East Portal trailhead parking area. From the East Portal, the 15-mile trail is down hill on a gentle grade of packed gravel.

The trail starts with a bang and just keeps delivering one gem after another. First, you plunge into one of the trail’s most dramatic features: the St. Paul tunnel. At more than 1.5 miles long, the dead-straight bore through the mountain was burrowed in 1907. Midway through a sign notes the state line and tells which crew—Idaho or Montana—reached the center first. At the other end of the tunnel, and once your eyes re-adjust to daylight, look for the waterfall tumbling down the rocks.

The Milwaukee Road’s Route of the Hiawatha ran from 1911 to 1961 on a 46-mile passage. An important main line to the West Coast, it was also the last transcontinental route to be completed. It’s touted as one of the best engineered, too, and you can witness the handiwork. Along the way you’ll venture through nine more tunnels and cross seven breathtaking trestles, with views to match. At mile marker 6, the Kelly Creek trestle is the longest and highest (850 ft. and 230 ft., respectively). To build it, a 25-man crew used a rolling crane called “the traveler,” doing so in record time: just 31 days.

When you reach the end point at Pearson trailhead, you can continue riding Forest Road 456 (picking up the old rail bed at Forest Road 300A) to Avery (nine miles one way). Stop by Chicken Joe (730 Old River Rd.) for a cold drink, roasted chicken, Jo Jo fries and more. Between 1909 and 1980, Avery was a dividing point along the Milwaukee Road’s Pacific Extension and was also where steam and diesel locomotives were changed over or hooked up to electric ones.

Ride back to Pearson and take the shuttle bus back up the mountain to the Roland trailhead (fee applies; see the schedule at Lookout Pass). From Roland, you get one more treat before journey’s end: a second ride through the spectacular Taft tunnel.

Day 2

6th Street Theatre

Back in Wallace, there’s more to explore, including the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum, the Wallace District Mining Museum and the Oasis Bordello, which allegedly operated until 1988! You can also take in a show at the Sixth Street Theater, featuring old-time melodrama.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss the sublime Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which offers 72 paved miles through scenic mountains and valleys in Idaho’s Panhandle. Montana’s Route of the Olympian, a 31-mile gravel rail-trail between Taft and St. Regis, provides another biking option.

Attractions and Amenities

Restaurants, Wineries, Ice Cream, Pubs
Outfitters/Bike Shops

Nearby Trails

Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail (Pearson to Calder)

Idaho - 36.1 miles

The Pearson-to-Calder Trail, part of the Idaho Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail system, passes through the scenic St. Joe River Valley and connects the...

Route of the Olympian

Montana - 31 miles

The 31-mile long Route of the Olympian is one of several rail-trails occupying the abandoned Pacific route of the Milwaukee Road, which originally...

NorPac Trail

Idaho - 21.3 miles

The NorPac Trail follows the old right-of-way of the Northern Pacific Railway (hence the trail's name) in western Montana and the Idaho Panhandle,...

Accordion

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Idaho - 71.8 miles

Few long bicycle trails come any better than the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. The trail covers 71 entirely paved, wheelchair accessible miles through...

North Idaho Centennial Trail

Idaho - 24 miles

The North Idaho Centennial Trail is a non-motorized, multi-use trail that meanders 24 miles between scenic Higgens Point State Park on Lake Coeur...

Prairie Trail (ID)

Idaho - 4.2 miles

The Prairie Trail is a spur off the popular North Idaho Centennial Trail, a 24-mile scenic pathway from Coeur d'Alene to the Idaho–Washington state...

Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail

Washington - 223.8 miles

Spanning just shy of 224 miles, the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, is one of the longest...

Latah Trail

Idaho - 16 miles

The Latah Trail travels for 12 miles between Moscow and Troy on a 10-foot-wide paved path, paralleling State Route 8 until Howell Road, where it winds...

Centennial Trail State Park

Washington - 37.5 miles

Centennial Trail State Park, sometimes referred to as the Spokane River Centennial Trail, presents views of rapids and waterfalls on its 37.5-mile...

Liberty Lake Stateline Trail

Washington - 1.8 miles

The 1.8-mile Liberty Lake Stateline Trail is situated between Interstate 90 and Appleway Road in Liberty Lake, Washington. A moderately flat 10-foot...

Ed Corkill Memorial River Trail

Idaho - 5.3 miles

Once a Northern Pacific Railway line that transported goods, mail and passengers to and from the communities of Kendrick and Juliaetta, the Ed Corkill...

Liberty Lake Trail

Washington - 0.9 miles

The Liberty Lake Trail offers a paved north-south route through a suburb of Spokane. At its northern end, it connects to the famed Spokane River...

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews
OR

Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 30,000 miles of trail maps and more!
OR