On our 2016 Glacier vacation, we ran into a paraplegic doctor biking one of the trails. This particular trail was very sunny, and our kids were complaining like crazy. After we ran into this inspiring guy, we didn’t have one more complaint, and we were all excited about the new trail he had told us about – the Hiawatha Trail. The Hiawatha is a 15 mile rail-to-trail conversion, especially for bikers. The trail gradually falls 1000 feet over the 15 miles, going through 9 tunnels and 7 trestle bridges through both Idaho and Montana. The tunnels were as long as 2 miles, and the trestles over 200 feet! We were able to camp out for free right at Lookout Pass ski area after a long day of driving so we were fully prepared to pick up our rental bikes at opening time the next morning.
This was definitely not the cheapest part of our trip, as adult permits are $10, and children over 5 are $6 each. The bike rentals were $32/adult (luckily we had one bike with us already), and child bikes were $22. All bikes come with helmets and much-needed lights. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze both girls into one rental Burley ($24). Yikes! In addition to this, many bikers take the shuttle back to the trailhead to avoid the gradual incline- tickets for that cost $9 and $6. We decided to take the trail back to get more use out of our rental bikes, making it a 30 mile ride, something we had never done as a family!
We were anxious to hit the trail early, with highs in the 90s this week in sunny Idaho. The start of the trail was well equipped with knowledgeable staff, checking for permits, lights, and answering questions.
We had been warned ahead of time that the tunnel temps were in the 40s despite the high temps along the trail. We carried sweatshirts, especially for the 2 mile Taft Tunnel.
The kids were super comfortable riding through the dark, while Chuck ended up with vertigo and I rode slowly to avoid the troughs of water on each side. We were again reminded just how resilient kids are!
Along the whole trail are signs explaining the history of the old rail system and trail conversion. Our kids were so excited to ride the awesome mountain bikes, we barely got to read the signs. Luckily, we took pictures of all of them so we could read them in entirety later!
The boys do not own bikes with gears, so when they hopped on these nice Trek bikes, they were instantly in love. They wanted to ride all day, so our decision to ride both directions was definitely not an issue for them!
We made it to the Pearson trailhead in no time, watched every other biker load up on the shuttle, and ate lunch before our ride back.
The girls had no complaints about riding in the Burley, and enjoyed eating the many snacks we packed for the day. We did pack lots of water, but were pleasantly surprised by all the water stops along the way.
While you couldn’t really see the 1-2% incline on the way back, Chuck definitely felt it with the girls in tow. Every biker we passed pumped up his ego with praises for pulling them along.
The boys zipped ahead of us, and it took everything I had to catch them 😉 It’s amazing how speedy three little boys can be on nice bikes!
It was a blast to go back through all the tunnels and trestle bridges again, as we hadn’t really had enough of them on the way down.
By the time Chuck caught back up to the boys and me, you could see one of the trestle bridges we had crossed in the distance, and it was apparent that we had definitely been climbing!
Even though we had not biked all summer, the kids were completely unfazed by the 30 mile ride, a promising fact for trips to come!
The cold tunnels were a welcome break from the gradual increase in heat as the day went on.
We never really know what is going to be the family favorite on each trip, but I think it was safe to say the Hiawatha Trail topped the boys’ list! We look forward to riding the Hiawatha again someday! (travel dates 7/22-7/23/17)