Located just off I-90 on the Idaho Montana border,
midway between major airports in Spokane, WA, and
Missoula, MT, the
Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail is a scenic
section of abandoned rail-bed from the Milwaukee
Road that the Taft Tunnel Preservation Society,
a grassroots Wallace non-profit organization,
and the U.S. Forest Service turned into a
world class non-motorized trail.
Opened in 1998,
and enhanced in 2001 with the inclusion of the 1.7 mile long
Taft Tunnel, The Route of the
Hiawatha has become a very popular adventure for locals
and tourists. 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. Since the shuttle
connects the West Portal of the Taft Tunnel, a.k.a. Roland, and
the lower trailhead at Pearson, riders who park at the East Portal
must ride back to their vehicles from Roland.
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 PDT. 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
$10 for people over 13, and
$6 for those between 6 and 13.
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 throughout most of the season.
An extra late afternoon shuttle run will be added in July.
If you would like to visualize traveling along
The Route of the Hiawatha BEFORE you ride it,
AND you have the
FREE Google Earth program installed,
check out this 3D tour from
Taft (I-90, exit 5) to the Pearson Trailhead with stops along the way:
You will also enjoy "seeing" how to go
from Mullan, Idaho, 21
miles to the Taft Exit
on the multi-use Northern Pacific Trail recently enhanced by
The Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails, a non-profit
corporation committed to promoting ALL the bicycle trails in our region.
Several years ago the organization signed the "Alternate Scenic Milwaukee Road"
that runs south
from Pearson to Avery
and on to Marble Creek on the Saint Joe River.
If you wish to start your adventure at the lower trailhead, Pearson, you will
need to drive about twenty miles from Wallace over Moon Pass. This dramatic
recent Google Earth 3D animation,
leads you south out of Wallace on King Street,
past several hiking and bicycling trailheads, over Moon Pass and down to the
North Fork of the Saint Joe River, which flows past Pearson on its way to Avery.
The Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail
takes you through NINE cavernous tunnels, around a forever-closed tunnel,
and over SEVEN high trestles,
past waterfalls, ridge top vistas and numerous interpretive signs.
These detailed signs provide information about the rich
mining and railroading 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.
More information may be
found in Chapters 4 and 5 of
Road in Idaho
by Stanley W. Johnson, Museum of North Idaho, 2003.
Helmets and proper lighting
equipment are required for bikers, and a $10 usage fee
($6 ages 6-13) applies to everyone, hikers and bikers alike.
Fees are collected
by the concessionaire's marshalls who also provide
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,
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.
There is a $9 charge
($6 for ages 6-13) for the shuttle,
which operates 7 days a week beginning June 11, 2016.
The shuttle normally runs from 11 AM to 4:15 PM, except
during the peak season, June 20 thru September 5, when
the hours are extended to include a 5:45 PM Pearson pickup on
Saturdays and Sundays.
In times of inclement weather or for other reasons, changes in the shuttle
schedule will be posted at the East Portal,
Roland, Moss Creek, and Pearson trailheads on the
Route of the Hiawatha.
After September 18, the shuttle operates on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays only,
until closing on September 25, 2016.