Riding the Route of the Hiawatha at Lookout Pass has become a bucket-list outdoor adventure that now attracts bike riders from around the country. And starting this summer, Lookout will have another reason for local and travelling riders and hikers to head to the Idaho/Montana border—lift-served mountain biking and hiking.
New Lift-Served Biking & Hiking at Lookout Pass
Lookout launched its first season of lift-served downhill mountain biking and lift-served hiking and scenic chairlift rides on June 12, 2021. Now in addition to riding the world-class Route of the Hiawatha scenic bike trail, riders and hikers can take advantage of chairlift rides to hike or bike Lookout’s new family-friendly trail system.
The trail system includes five top-to-bottom downhill mountain bike trails with more on the way, says Lookout Pass marketing director Matt Sawyer. The trails will appeal to a wide range of riders since there are no jumps or wooden features that may discourage some beginner and intermediate level riders. And the trails vary from singletrack that winds through the woods and across ski trails to wider mountain-access roads. Sawyer says all of the trails offer fun rides with some that have impressive views of the sub-alpine mountain terrain of the beautiful St. Regis Basin.
In addition to the new mountain biking options, guests can also grab a bagged lunch at the lodge for a scenic chairlift ride and mountain-top picnic and hike. Other summertime activities at Lookout Pass this season include a nine-hole frisbee golf course, a bungee jump, and huckleberry picking later in the season. The resort will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through Sept. 19. One exception is July 9-11 when only scenic lift rides and bungee jumping will be offered as the mountain hosts a three-day Mountain Archery Festival.
Riding the Route of the Hiawatha—A Bucket List Bike Trail
Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area opened the Route of the Hiawatha scenic bike trail. While new biking and hiking trails and other summertime activities at Lookout are sure to be popular, riding the Hiawatha is still the big draw. The popular trail may also require advanced reservations to secure a pass to ride this year. The trail will be open all of summer 2021 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 19.
Considered the crown jewel of the nation’s rails-to-trails initiative, the Route of the Hiawatha winds through the rugged Bitterroot Mountains of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The trail runs along an abandoned section of the Milwaukee Railroad with a gentle 1.6-percent to 2-percent, all-downhill grade, making for a fun experience for a wide range of ages and ability levels. The trail straddles the Idaho-Montana state line for 15 miles and includes riding through 10 dark tunnels and crossing seven sky-high steel train trestles.
The popular destination also sports shuttle bus service so guests don’t have to ride back up, although some riders enjoy that added challenge. There are also 50 interpretive trailside signs that tell the story of the railroad, the people who worked there, the forest, and the area’s rich history. “In its time the Route of the Hiawatha was considered one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country,” says Sawyer. “It’s also by far the most popular ski area bike trail in the country, attracting more than 70,000 riders last summer.”
Reservations, Rental Bikes, & Other Rental Gear
Given the growing popularity of riding the Route of the Hiawatha, Lookout Pass is strongly encouraging guests make reservations this year for the day they want to ride, especially when renting equipment. “We want to make sure we have the right size bikes, lights, burley trailers, and other gear available for your ride,” says Sawyer.
Lookout Pass offers a variety of rental bikes for adults and kids riding the Route of the Hiawatha, as well as Burley bike trailers for youngsters. For older riders and anyone who would benefit from a more stable ride, Lookout also rents trikes and recumbent bikes. For the hopeless romantic, there are also a few tandem bikes for rent. Lookout also rents powerful 300-400 lumen handlebar-mounted bike lights, which are required for riding through the 10 dark tunnels, the longest of which is 1.6 miles long.
Guests can arrange for rental bikes to be delivered to the Route of the Hiawatha trailhead for a small fee, or they can self-shuttle rental bikes from the base of operations at Lookout Pass Ski Area, which is seven miles from the trailhead. The resort provides hitch-mounted bike racks or strap-on racks at no additional charge to those who rent bikes.
Summer 2021 Events at Lookout Pass
Special events up at Lookout Pass this summer include three full-moon night rides on the Route of the Hiawatha June 24, July 24, and Aug. 22.
The Mountain Archery Festival is also set for July 9-11. This family-focused event allows archers of all abilities to shoot fun and challenging targets on five different courses. Shooters will ride the lift to the summit and walk down the course they want to shoot. They can come out for a single day, two days, or shoot on all three days of this event.
Getting to Lookout Pass
Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area is an easy 55-minute drive east from Coeur d’Alene on I-90 at Exit 0 on the Idaho-Montana state line. The ski area and its summer operations are only 200 yards off the highway, and the Route of the Hiawatha trailhead is a short 5-mile ride down I-90 to exit 5 and then two miles up a dirt road to the East Portal trailhead.
Visit RideTheHiawatha.com and SkiLookout.com for more details.