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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Route of the Hiawatha bike trail opens Friday

The Hiawatha trail, a 15-mile mountain bike route in Northern Idaho, follows the route of a defunct rail-line. Pictured here is one of the trails seven trestles.  (Spokesman-Review photo archives)

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area is opening the Route of the Hiawatha scenic bike trail Friday.

It will be open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 19.

Considered the crown jewel of the nation’s rails-to-trails initiative, the Route of the Hiawatha winds through the rugged Bitterroot Mountains in the St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest along an abandoned section of the Milwaukee Railroad.

Its gentle 1.6% to 2%, all-downhill trail straddles the Idaho-Montana state line for 15 miles, delving 10 dark tunnels and crossing seven sky-high steel train trestles.

The popular destination also sports shuttle bus service so guests don’t have to ride back up – although some enjoy that experience – and 50 interpretive trailside signs that enhance the family friendly experience, telling the story of the railroad, the people who worked here, the forest and the area’s rich history.

Lookout Pass offers a variety of rental bikes for adults and kids riding the Route of the Hiawatha, as well as Burley bike trailers for youngsters and trikes and recumbent bikes for seniors who haven’t been on a bike in years and would welcome a bit more stability on their ride. The resort also offers up a few tandem bikes. It also rents powerful 300-400 lumen handlebar-mounted bike lights, as lights are necessary for riding through the Route of the Hiawatha’s 10 dark tunnels, the longest of which burrows for 1.6 miles.

Guests can arrange for their rental bikes to be delivered to the Route of the Hiawatha trailhead for a small fee, or they can self-shuttle rental bikes from the base of operations at Lookout Pass Ski Area, which is 7 miles from the trailhead. The resort provides hitch-mounted bike racks or strap-on racks at no additional charge to those who rent bikes.

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