This is a short photo essay of my ride of the Route of the Olympian. I completed the 45 mile ride on 7/6/13. It took me about 5 total hours to do with 4 hours of riding time.
Brief background: The Route of the Olympian is a multi-use rails-to-trails project that runs from St. Regis, MT up to the east portal of the Bike only Route of the Hiawatha. Both trails use the old Milwaukee Rail Road grade as the trail. Near the connection point, at Taft, you can connect on to the old Northern Pacific grade and ride up to Lookout Pass and down into Mullan, ID and connect to the Trial of the Coeur d’alen’s. The map below shows the 33 miles from the East portal to St. Regis. While the trail can be rough in places, it is an easy ride if you have some experience and a mountain bike.
Even though the trail is on private property in some spots, you can still ride it.
We started our day up at Lookout Pass, deciding it would be easier to ride downhill. It was about 45 degrees out at the start, although it felt a lot colder riding. About four miles into the ride we came upon the first tunnel of the day. It was short, but really bumpy inside and could use some work.
Right on the other side was a really nice scenic overlook. I wish it had been lighter out so I could have got a better picture.
We followed the trial for another five miles as it worked its way down to Taft, MT. The trail was really smooth all the way down and seems to get a fair amount of use. At the bottom there was a nice sign showing were the trials went. As you can see, the Northern Pacific symbol is marking the trail we had just rode. We also saw a deer and a coyote running down the trail on this part.
From here in Taft, which is now nothing more than a DOT storage area, we turned and rode road 506 up to the East portal of the Route of the Hiawatha. It was a climb. We gained about 1,200 ft in 2.5 miles. I did manage to ride the whole way. Once we reached the top, instead of going east to the Route of the Hiawatha, we went west to the other end of the parking lot where the Route of the Olympian connected in.
We stopped for a quick break here, as there was a restroom. There was some nice flora near the trail here.
3.5 miles down from this point is the place to visit. Its called Dominion Creek. There is a short tunnel there and a brand new trestle that you can ride across. If you don’t want to ride the whole trail, this is the part I recommend because it is a short trip and very smooth. You could even do it in conjunction with the Route of the Hiawatha.
After a few more miles of riding, you come out along side the St. Regis river, which you follow all the way to the end. It is a very pretty river and very clear. We saw a lot of people fishing and playing in the river.
While the trail was smooth for most of the ride, there were some rough patches that were of some challenge. I was able to ride the entire way and found no need to get off my bike unless I wanted to stop or had to let the ATVs pass. Some of the riders were nice and slowed down so they didn’t kick up any dust, others went zooming by going 40 miles and hour with a could of dust.
Overall it was a good, all be it long, ride. I think the ideal time would to be to go on a nice fall day and see all the changing colors in the Mountains. Do it with two cars, one parked in St. Regis, so you don’t have to ride back up. You can park for free in St. Regis at the visitors center. Bring plenty of water and sun screen as the trial is all in the sun by mid morning. Parking is free at both the East Portal and Lookout Pass. They are also very knowledgeable about the rail and can answer any of your questions. There is also a giant map there of the Route of the Olympian. After you get done you can enjoy a Huckleberry shake at the travel center in St. Regis.