Route of the Hiawatha Gets Tunnel Upgrades

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Nighttime Route Closure Through Summer Offers Public Close-up View of Work

May 10, 2024 — The Forest Service today announced it issued a temporary order closing at night a large section of the popular Route of the Hiawatha Rail Trail near Lookout Pass.

The closure will be in effect from May 7, 2024 through May 24, 2024—prior to the trail’s public opening for the season—as well as from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. May 24, 2024 through 6:00 a.m. Sept. 15, 2024.

Short tunnel on the Hiawatha Trail. Nine of the ten tunnels will be improved this summer. Photo by Chris Blinzinger

The trail will remain open during hours of regular public visitation throughout the summer and will not interrupt the route’s daytime operations for cycling and other activities.

The closure will facilitate tunnel maintenance activity required to ensure continued public safety and enjoyment of the route’s historic infrastructure, including survey and design for scaling, additional rock bolting, and shotcrete application on nine of the route’s 10 tunnels. The St. Paul (Taft) Tunnel will receive additional improvements.

The tunnel work this year comes two years after the Route of the Hiawatha Trail Resurfacing Project, which carried out improvements to the trail surface and drainage. Both projects were paid for with funding provided by the landmark 2020 Great American Outdoors Act.

The Route of the Hiawatha is one of the most visited sites on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests with close to 70,000 visits per year as of 2022.

Under permit from the US Forest Service, Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area operates the Route of the Hiawatha as a 15 mile scenic bike trail incorporating 7 historic railroad trestles and 10 historic tunnels including the 1.66 mile Taft Tunnel running under the state line.

The nighttime-only closure offers the public a unique opportunity to observe historic infrastructure maintenance work up close during daytime visitation.

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