There are all kinds of options for biking in Idaho, but one of the most spectacular and unique experiences are celebrating a birthday this year.
This bike ride has some incredible views and some heart stopping heights, and yet it’s a path that just about anyone of any age can enjoy. It’s the Hiawatha Trail in northern Idaho and what was once a railroad is now a biker’s bucket list experience.
Kenneth Bennett the Hiawatha Trail Supervisor says, “The first passenger train that actually ran this was an electric passenger train named “The Hiawatha.” So that’s where it got its name originally.
Ken Bennett is a trail supervisor and has been helping people make their way onto the path for two decades.
Kenneth Bennett, “It’s been twenty years when we started it we had 20-25 bikes. And we started with a single open window bus, like a tour bus. Now we’re running ten busses. And we have about 450-475 bikes in our rental fleet. Last year we had 44000 people on the trail. We’ve been averaging anywhere from 3 to 500 people. We’re pretty sure we’re going to push 50,000 plus this year.”
It was 1998 that the Hiawatha trail was first opened to bike riders, but the trail was originally the railroad. It was built in the early 1900s and took over 9000 men over five years to clear the rugged terrain going through mountains and across deep valleys.
Kenneth Bennett/Hiawatha Trail Supervisor says, “The first tunnel is 1.66 miles long and what’s neat about it is they started on both sides and you got to remember this was back in the 1900s, they didn’t have lasers or levels or anything they started on both sides and met in the middle within a couple of inches of each other. Which back in them days is pretty awesome through solid rock so just the history of the tunnel, the trestles, all the steel trestles.”
It is these tunnels and trestles that make the trail so unique. The trail is 15 miles long, with 10 tunnels and 7 sky high trestles and even with the large number of people who enjoy the trail every day, you never feel the crowds with the size of the path and the expansive forest spreading out on all sides as you go.
Kenneth Bennett/Hiawatha Trail Supervisor says, “So just the scenery out here the beauty of it and everything. The trestles, the highest one is 230 feet and the meadows, it you look up the canyons off the trestles and stuff, the huge meadows and all the creeks coming out of there and the waterfalls. We get lots of compliments on that from people from all over the country and from foreign countries; they’ve never seen anything like this.
And what’s really nice, when you get to the bottom, you can decide to either turn around and ride back up or simply jump on one of the many buses that will take you and your bike back to the top. The trail is open may through September, so you have plenty of time to start making plans.