Our main purpose for staying at Lookout Pass was its proximity to the beautiful rails to trails bike path called the Route of the Hiawatha. Commonly called the Hiawatha Trail, it is famous for its gorgeous mountain scenery, ten tunnels, and seven high steel trestles. In total the trail is 14.4 miles, but Ron and I skipped the first 1.7 mile tunnel. You can call me a wimp if you want, but I know my limitations and am not afraid to admit to them.
Most of the remaining tunnels are short enough that you can see that proverbial light at the end, so no problem.
But even with a light (although admittedly, a poor one), the two longer tunnels we biked did a good job of disorienting me. With lengths of 1516 feet and 966 feet with a curve, they bothered me more that I thought they would. I am so glad I didn't attempt the 1.7 mile tunnel. You know, I've reached the age where I don't have to do something just to say I did it.
However, I loved the trestles!
And the views.
Ooops, make that one less tunnel.
They built a bypass around this one. It is collapsing due to movement along a fault line under it.
The only wildlife we saw hardly qualifies. It's amazing these fat squirrels can run anymore.
The trail is along the former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific railroad and there are interpretive signs all along the way. I think the most interesting one referred to the fact that this section of rail was electrified with water-generated power. The name refers to a Hiawatha passenger train that operated along this route.
The grade is gentle, so much so that we pedaled downhill. What a lovely day we had!
Now for a little about the logistics of the ride. As I mentioned, we were staying at Lookout Pass, Montana exit 0 of I 90. At that location, you can rent bikes and the required helmets and lights, and even box lunches. You can also buy your trail ticket ($10) there and a bus ticket ($9) to take you and your bike back up to the trailhead. (Alternatively, you can purchase the trail ticket right at the main trailhead and pay for the bus as you board at the bottom.) The bus is optional, but very convenient since it eliminates a difficult shuttle. The main trailhead (called East Portal) is about two miles south of exit 5 of I 90 and has a giant parking lot. However this is where the long tunnel begins so we drove another 5 miles over the mountain to the Roland trailhead where there is another parking lot, not as big, but sufficient. Here's the real kicker - when the bus brings you back up the hill, it lets you out at the Roland trailhead, so everyone who parked at East Portal has to bike back through the long tunnel.
Ten years ago I did this same ride, again starting after the long tunnel. At that time there was no parking lot at Roland so that is an improvement since then. Another year Ron and I decided to just bike up from the bottom and turn around when we got tired to avoid a shuttle, but the top section is really prettier.