Glimpse: The Hiawatha Rail-Trail

  • Tom heading into the nearly two-mile tunnel on the Hiawatha Rail-Trail, one of our entertainment splurges.

The Hiawatha Rail-Trail is my kind of bike ride, 15 miles through the stunning Bitterroot Mountains, over seven trestles, through 10 tunnels, including one more than a mile and a half long, all downhill with a shuttle ride back to your vehicle. Genius. The route follows the former Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, which crossed through the mountains to reach the Pacific in 1909. Construction was estimated at $45 million, but exceeded $234 million. The route hosted the luxury Hiawatha train, with Super Dome observation cars and Skytop sleepers. The line went bankrupt more than once, was abandoned in 1980 and converted to a bike trail beginning in the late 1990s. Signs along the route show where people escaped the 1910 fire called “The Big Burn,” stories of the amazing construction required to get over the Idaho mountain passes, and of the people who worked on the rails. A trail pass costs $10, a shuttle ticket, $9. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one at the Lookout Pass Ski Area. They’ll even give you a bike rack to get it to the trailhead. Here’s a glimpse.


  1. Reply
    Paul Davenport September 27, 2015

    A friend from the NW raves about this rail trail and I can now see why. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols September 27, 2015

      Thanks, Paul. It really was amazing. – Judy

  2. Reply
    Kirstin September 29, 2015

    Stunning! I love that so many old railroad routes have become rail trails. If you ever wander out east, our favorite is the Great Allegheny Passage near Ohiopyle, PA.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols October 1, 2015

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll put it on the list. We’re headed east next year, although still working out the route.

      • Reply
        Kirstin October 1, 2015

        Excellent!! Hope to hook up with you when you get close!

  3. Reply
    Kirstin October 1, 2015

    Ohiopyle PA would be a great stop on your Eastern route!

    We have a couple of amazing friends in the area. We like to ride the Great Allegheny Passage about 10 miles to Confluence and eat at this cute cafe along the river, then ride back. A report from last fall:
    There’s also my favorite hiking trail of all time, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (starts just outside of Ohiopyle). It’s just magical.

    You can also kayak, raft, mountain bike, and visit not one but TWO Frank Lloyd Wright homes, Falling Water and Kentuck Knob.

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