My wife and I had done every interesting mountain biking trail within several hundred miles of the San Francisco Bay area so we headed about 1000 miles north into Idaho. We researched and found many rather easy but pretty trails, including the Trail of the Hiawatha,
about which I will provide the information below:
How to get there?
Cross the border from Idaho into Montana on Highway 90, go 5 miles into Montana and take exit 5. There will be a weird gravel road right away that crosses through what looks like a large parking or storage lot and look for signage directing to East Portal Trailhead. Follow the nice gravel road for about 2 miles till you reach the large parking area at the trailhead.
What to bring?
You will definitely need a helmet and a good strong flashlight for each person to get you safely through the first one mile long tunnel. After that the flashlight is helpful but is not as necessary as the tunnels are much shorter and you can see the end soon after entering. You will need cash to pay for the return shuttle and in 2015 $10 to pay for the trail usage if you can find an official to take the money. We paid our usage fee to the shuttle people when we paid for the shuttle just before boarding. I would suggest starting before 9am because by noon the temperature goes way up.
Is it ok for kids?
Definitely, unless they freak out in dark, poorly lit places or can’t bike slightly downhill for 17 miles. We saw several young children and they were doing fine, but it is a 3 to 4 hour trip.
How does one get back to the car?
Most people go just the one way. Starting at the East Portal trailhead, after going through the first long tunnel and dropping slowly downhill for 17 miles you reach the Pearson trailhead where shuttle buses (old yellow schoolbuses) are available every hour or so to take you back. The shuttle schedules for different times of the year are available online. The cost in 2015 was $9 per person and it took the bus well over half an hour returning on various roads to take you back to the end of the first long tunnel, which you then have to bike back through to get to your car.
What is it like riding the trail?
The trail is easy, long, has beautiful scenery, but to me was not real exciting (except for the initial 8000 feet going through the tunnel). It was dark and wet and a bit scary – you have to pay attention.
One of the highlights was the great descriptive information pedestals along the way. They were fun to read.
The scenery was lovely, especially liked the long trail bridge seen from a distance.
All good things must come to an