The Hiawatha Trail on the Border between Montana and Idaho is a jewel of a rails to trails ride. This is part of the old Milwaukee Road railroad. The trail starts 5 miles from the Montana Idaho border on the Montana side. You leave Interstate 90 at the Taft Exit #5 on the Montana side. Then follow the signs about 2 miles to the parking lot.
The trail starts by going into the Taft Tunnel. This is the longest tunnel on the trail and is 1.8 miles long. You need to take good lights to ride in the tunnel. When you enter the 1.8 mile tunnel you will see a speck of light at the other end. It is really dark without a light. Halfway through the tunnel you cross the border into Idaho. Even in the heat of summer this tunnel is cold.
From here the trail starts down the western slope of the rockies. There are many overlooks and several more smaller tunnels. The Hiawatha Trail has several old railroad bridges. This part of the railroad line was built between 1908 and 1911. These bridges were refitted by the US Forset Service to make them safe for biking and walking. About every mile there is a small historical stopping place. Each will have a turn out to get away from the trail.
The trail is a very gentle 2% grade all the way from the exit of the first tunnel to the bottom of the trail. During the summer months there is a shuttle service that you can buy a ticket to ride back to the top. It is not a hard ride back up. If you do not ride a bike much expect to ride down the trail at about 10 mile per hour. It is 14 miles so it will take about one and a half hours of riding. This is very easy for even the most sedentary because you can easily break it into twenty minute rides with plenty of rest stops. With all the scenic overlooks and signs most people take two and a half to three hours to ride down. The ride back up the hill will take a little longer probably two to two and a half hours of riding if you do not ride a bike a lot.
The beauty of the trail comes partly from the fact that it goes through an area of Montana and Idaho that hasn't changed much since Lewis and Clark traveled though the Western United States. There aren't any telephone lines or power lines or cell phone towers within sight of the Hiawatha Trail. Even though you can see almost forever in this area there is very little sign of man except for the trail itself and the access road. It is practically wilderness area that we all can enjoy without having to walk for hours.
A beautiful summer bike trip just off Interstate 90 on the east side of the Montana Idaho border. If you are traveling through the Northwest, this is another great reason to bring your bike. Any Comfort, Mountain or Cruiser bike will do The roadbed is a well developed stable gravel road. I would not reccomend riding a 700x23mm Road tire on this trail. The vistas, Tunnels, and bridges are stunning. Enjoy
Do not Forget your Camera!