Hiawatha Bike Trail—The Crown Jewel

The Hiawatha Trail in Northern Idaho is a converted railroad track turned epic bike trail. It’s a fifteen mile ride through a pine forest. Often dubbed the crown jewel of the Rails-to-Trails, it includes seven trestles and nine long tunnels. With a solid recommendation from our friend Kim, we decided to give it a go.

Because of limited space we were not able to travel with our own bikes so our best option was rental bikes. We tried to avoid the crowds and departed early in the morning for the cycle shop but it seems many others had the same plan. It was a long ordeal to collect and load our gear but with everything finally sorted, we googled directions to our next stop…the trailhead.

The start of the trail was an unexpected fifteen mile drive up a curvy, single lane gravel road. It was a chore to navigate as we honked our horns around blind curves and prayed there were no cars driving the opposite direction. Stephen and I looked at each other and wondered if we’d gotten in over our heads.

Two hours later with bikes unloaded and helmets donned we looked at the view in front of us. Wow!

While our drive up to the trail was rather hairy, the bike ride itself was relaxing and quite easy. We hardly needed to pedal with a slight two percent grade and gravity propelling us to the bottom of the hill. Our biggest challenge through the tunnels was remembering to remove our sunglasses.

There were many people enjoying the trail but we all kept at a safe distance.

After two hours of easy riding and multiple photo stops we pedaled to the end. While we could have jumped on a bus that would return us to our car, we chose to turn around and cycle back to the top. The fifteen mile return was more challenging but we never tired of the view. Stephen and I have been on several Rails-to-Trails and we both agree the Hiawatha truly is the crown jewel.

10 thoughts on “Hiawatha Bike Trail—The Crown Jewel

  1. What a great ride. Had never heard of the trail, sorry to say. Would have enjoyed it. Do you know when it opened? Thanks for a great report.


  2. I am so jealous–the scenery looked just outstanding. I’m not so jealous of the trail surface. Was it crushed rock? I tried to see what kind of tires you had — couldn’t have been the usual narrow high speed ones for black top. I noticed you had jackets–probably didn’t need them for the trip back if it was 15 miles up hill–even a small grade is tough when it continues that far. I’m sure you wish you had your own bikes — but you probably wouldn’t have had tires for this trail surface. Most of the Cannon Falls – Red Wing Trail was crushed rock when we started biking, as was the Faribault – Mankato. I know the Cannon trail is completely blacktopped ; not sure about Faribault. What a wonderful use of old railroad lines.
    Work is progressing slowly — so far two solariums have been removed; not much else. This will take more than two summers I’m afraid. Take care of yourselves. Carry bandaids just in case.


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