The Route of the Hiawatha is considered one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the U.S. and is now the most popular ski area bike trail in the country, attracting more than 70,000 riders in 2020.
The Route of the Hiawatha winds through the rugged Bitterroot Mountains in the St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest along an abandoned section of the Milwaukee Railroad. Its gentle 1.6-percent to 2-percent, all-downhill trail straddles the Idaho-Montana state line for 15 miles, through 10 dark tunnels and crossing seven sky-high steel train trestles.
Fifty interpretive trailside signs enhance the family-friendly experience, and tell the story of the railroad, the people who worked here, the forest, and the area’s rich history.
Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area is a short 7-mile ride to the East Portal trailhead for the Route of the Hiawatha. The resort offers lift-served downhill mountain biking, scenic chairlift rides up and down the mountain, lift-served hiking trails, a mountain summit nine-hole frisbee golf course, a bungee jump, and huckleberry picking later in the season.
There are five top-to-bottom downhill mountain bike trails with more planned. There are no jumps or wooden features on its family friendly trails, which vary from singletrack that winds through the woods and across ski trails to wider mountain-access roads. All the trails offer fun rides with some offering impressive views of the St. Regis Basin.
Lookout Pass offers rental bikes for adults and kids, as well as Burley bike trailers for youngsters and trikes and recumbent bikes for seniors and a few tandem bikes for the romantics. It also rents handlebar-mounted bike lights, necessary for riding through the route of the Hiawatha’s 10 dark tunnels, the longest of which burrows for 1.6 miles.
Special events during the summer include full-moon night rides and the Hiawatha Back to Nature Trail Run, a half marathon plus the Mountain Archery Festival, a family-focused event for archers of all abilities.
Fly into Salt Lake City, UT from Australia via any of the west coast access points for Australians ( LA X/SFO). Then drive from SLC to Coeur d’Alene ID.
Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area is an easy 55-minute drive east from Coeur d’Alene on I-90 at Exit 0 on the Idaho-Montana state line. The ski area and its summer operations are only 200 yards off the highway.
Must be fit enough to ride a bike for 15 miles (but all downhill).
Guests can arrange for their rental bikes to be delivered to the Route of the Hiawatha trailhead for a small fee, or they can self-shuttle rental bikes from the base of operations at Lookout Pass Ski Area, which is seven miles from the trailhead.
There are also sports shuttle bus service so guests don’t have to ride back up — although some enjoy that experience.