Glimpse: The Hiawatha Rail-Trail
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.