The Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail is 15 miles long with 10 train tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles. The ride starts with a trip through the 1.6 mile long St. Paul Pass Tunnel -- also known as the Taft Tunnel -- which burrows under the Bitterroot Mountains at the Idaho/Montana state line. The temperature inside the tunnel is around 40 degrees -- even on a hot 100-degree day! When I rode the trail with my children (2003-2010) there were no lights in the tunnel, so it was quite an eerie experience for my kids. Helmets and bike lights, or headlamps, are required on the trail -- and a permit is necessary.
The Route of the Hiawatha has been named a "Hall of Fame" trail by the Rail-to-Trail Conservancy, one of only 15 trails designated as such in the country. Before the old railroad track was converted to a bicycling trail, it was called one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. When the Milwaukee Railroad was operating, the trains traversed a 46-mile route that crossed the rugged Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana.
For those bike riders not interested in riding the trail back up the gentle grade, there is a scheduled shuttle bus that provides transportation for riders and their bicycles. I'm proud to say that my 10-year-old children not only biked down the length of the trail, but also biked back up to the start!
This year the route is open from May 22 through September 20, 2020. If you're looking to create a special memory with your kids, I highly recommend riding the Route of the Hiawatha!
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