23 October 2012

"An unforgettable bike ride"

The Hiawatha Trail opened up in 2001 as part of the Rails to Trails initiative, which seeks to restore life to decommissioned train tracks across the country. The Milwaukee Road Railway Company had constructed these tracks between 1906 and 1909, recruiting laborers from around the world to work on an unprecedented line through the rough and largely unexplored Bitterroot Mountains...

The conversion of the train tracks to a bike route was an inspired idea. The Hiawatha is gorgeous, soaring atop pristine forests of white and lodgepole pine trees, with never-ending views of the Bitterroots. The path took us through nine tunnels, including the 1.66-mile St. Paul Tunnel...
And here's the best part.  The 15-mile trail can be ridden entirely downhill, with a shuttle bus returning you to your starting point.  Sign me up.

More pix and details at Idaho for 91 Days, via Neatorama.


  1. It's a very fun bike ride. When I saw that first picture (of the trestle) I immediately thought it looked just like the Hiawatha trail...

  2. It looks like a great bike ride. But what a pity that the railroad was dismantled. It was an efficient modern route whose electrification was removed by an incompetent management on the eve of the 1973 oil crisis, then closed in 1980 because, though profitable, bad accounting made it look as if a loss was occuring. Were it still open and still electrified today, freight haulage would be cheaper and cleaner.

  3. What an amazing looking trail! I adore that trestle, although the tunnel would give me the creeps. There's a bike trail along Snoqualmie Pass on an old railroad grade (Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul Railway if I remember right) that has 5 or 6 trestles, but I don't remember how tall they are, that top photo looks like it's pretty big!

  4. Stunning! Otago, NZ have done similar with an old railway, and it's very popular.

  5. Here in BC, we have the Kettle Valley Railway trail. It's an amazing engineering feat. One canyon alone required 18 trestles and two tunnels.

    There is at least one stretch where the rails are still in place. I can see it from my home. In the summer, a steam locomotive pulls tourists for a short ride to the nearest trestle.


    (As an aside, a few months ago, you posted about wildfires. A few of the trestles in the Kettle Valley Railway were destroyed by a huge wildfire that also destroyed over 200 homes. The community rebuilt the trestles in the following years.)

  6. there's a horse endurance ride through one of those tunnels and i've never been in such total darkness on a horse before. you're not supposed to try it without a flashlight, but i didn't believe it. i was dizzy from the motion of the horse, holding onto the saddle, alone, and quite scared. on the way back i accompanied someone with a flashlight. (the section of trail we used did not include massive trestles.)

  7. You know, it took me a second to realize this wasn't in Minnesota. Hiawatha trail? St. Paul tunnel? Heck yeah, that's right in my backy- oh. Idaho. Nevermind.

  8. The history of the Milwaukee Railroad is fascinating. We have a section of rail-trail nearby that is now the "Iron Horse State Park"--from Snoqualmie Pass (just east of Seattle) to the Columbia River and on across the state of Washington. Not sure if the endurance rider above is referring to the Milwaukee Road Endurance ride--if so, that "Boyleston Tunnel" is just north of my place, and there have been several mishaps in it. The ride management has since developed a alternative route...


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