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Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails

Route of the Hiawatha

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photo by Jim Carpenter, 2001; click to enlarge! The Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail will be open daily from Friday, May 27 thru Sunday, September 25, 2016. The trail, trailheads, and facilities are open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. During the peak season, June 20 thru September 5, the hours are extended to 5:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time).

The 2016 Day Use Pass for the Route is $10 for people over 13, and $6 for those between 6 and 13. These passes are the same price as last year. Children under 6 are free. As always, all children under 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

A shuttle bus between Roland and Pearson Trailheads operates daily from June 11 thru September 18, 2016. As shown on the color coded trail map below, the bus, and possibly other vehicles, share a small portion of the Route with the bicycle traffic. An extra late afternoon shuttle run will be added on weekends during the peak season, which runs from June 20 through September 5, 2016. Check at these trailheads for the posted times of departure.

Dogs are not permitted on the Route of the Hiawatha.

photo by Jim Carpenter, 2001; click to enlarge!

While there is a user fee to ride or walk the Hiawatha, you may always bike and hike for free up Loop Creek, beneath the trestles. Also, you may ride east for free from the East Portal to the town of Saltese, Montana, also on the Milwaukee Road railbed. Or, you may ride free from the East Portal west on the Northern Pacific railbed to Lookout Pass, where you have the choice of two routes down to Mullan and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Finally, you may continue on from the Pearson Trailhead to Avery and the Saint Joe River following the Milwaukee Road railbed south.

We worked with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy to place signs along the rest of the The Old Milwaukee Road from the Pearson trailhead to Avery and beyond. This is the initial part of our effort to complete a 185 mile bike loop in our region.

    If you would like to visualize some of these recreational trails, AND you have the FREE Google Earth program installed, check out the following KML animated tours:

  • From Taft (I-90, exit 5) to Pearson Trailhead     taft2pearson.kml
  • From Pearson Trailhead to Avery on the Saint Joe River     pearson2avery
  • From Mullan, ID, over Lookout Pass to Taft, MT     mullan2taft

Route of the Hiawatha photos by Tim Hyllested, animation by Greg Marsh The downhill version of this 15 mile compacted gravel trail begins in Montana at the East Portal of the Taft Tunnel, about 2 miles from Exit 5 on Interstate 90. This massive and perfectly straight, 1.7 mile long train tunnel was completed at great expense in 1908. Also called the "St. Paul Pass Tunnel," it ends in Idaho at the now extinct town of Roland, where the journey continues down a 2% grade through eight more tunnels and across seven high steel trestles before reaching the Pearson trailhead and junction with Forest Road 456, which connects Wallace and Avery. Along the trail, numerous interpretive signs provide information about the rich mining and railroad history in this scenic passage way through the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains, famous between 1911 and 1961 as the "Route of the Hiawatha" on the Milwaukee Road between Illinois and Washington.
click to open a printable map (2.3 MB PDF file) in a separate window
Original Route of the Hiawatha Logo US Forest Service, USDA
The Route of the Hiawatha is operated in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest by a concessionaire under a U.S. Forest Service Special-Use Permit.

Helmets and proper lighting equipment are required for bikers, and a $10 usage fee ($6 ages 6-13) applies to everyone. Fees are collected by the concessionaire's marshalls who also provide information, emergency help, first aid and water to those in need. However, wise trail users will make sure that they are properly provisioned with food, water, extra lights, rain gear and bicycle repair kits before embarking on this adventure. Dogs are not allowed on the Route of the Hiawatha.

The concessionaire maintains a shuttle bus service between Roland and Pearson Trailheads, for which there is a $9 charge for those over 13; it's $6 for ages 6-13. The shuttle schedule is posted at Lookout Pass and at the East Portal, Roland, Moss Creek, and Pearson trailheads. Shuttles operate weekends/holidays beginning on May 28, with 7-days-a-week operation beginning June 11, 2016. In general, the shuttle will make four runs from ROLAND to PEARSON and back beginning at 11:00 AM each day. On weekends from June 20 to September 5, a fifth run at the end of the day is added... so the last departure from Pearson would be at 5:45 PM, arriving back at Roland at 6:30. The shuttle takes about 45 minutes to travel between the two trailhead parking lots, where there are restroom facilities. Reservations for the shuttle are not taken. It is first come, first seated, so plan your day so that you arrive at least 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time, especially on a busy day. Check with the friendly marshals you meet along the Route to confirm that the normal schedule is in effect. After September 18, 2016, the shuttle only operates on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Route of the Hiawatha 2016 season ends on Sunday, September 25, 2016.

Therefore, depending on your enthusiasm, it is either a 30 mile round trip with 2000 feet of elevation change, or 17 miles of level and downhill dirt track with a shuttle bus ride to regain your 1000 foot elevation loss. For the round trip, most people will travel from Wallace and park at Pearson, overlooking the North Fork of the St. Joe River off Forest Road 456. You are thereby climbing the 2% grade during the cool of the morning. Those wanting the shorter experience (3-4 hours) will park at the East Portal, located ~2 miles off I-90 at the Taft Exit in Montana, 5 miles from Lookout Pass on the Idaho border. Remember that the shuttle connects the West Portal of the Taft Tunnel, Roland, and Pearson. Therefore, riders who park at the East Portal must ride back to their vehicles from Roland.

new item       Interactive 3D map of the Route of the Hiawatha
created by Three Scale Strategy, Inc.

link to Route of The Hiawatha facebook page
Check out the Facebook presentation

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Webworks by Greg Marsh
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