Taft Tunnel is located on the Hiawatha Trail. The tunnel, nearly a mile high in elevation and over a mile in length, became unique because part of it lay in the state of Montana while the other part lay in the state of Idaho. Today, the tunnel has not seen a train in more than 30 years, but it sees hundreds of people on a daily basis. It is popular with hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts…which is how I came to explore it.
When I made my trek down the Hiawatha Trail, my first adventure was to bike through Taft Tunnel. It is located at the Roland Trailhead and it is a mile long tunnel of complete darkness. COMPLETE DARKNESS. Hence why the trail rangers insist you have a light on your bike helmet or handlebars. It is very important that you have the right kind of light. Just a flashlight or a cheap bike light won’t work. You need to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about and get the right one. Seriously! Otherwise, you will be lost in the dark and who knows what you could run into. Yikes!
Location: Take ID-55 into New Meadows (approximately 121 miles). Turn left onto US-95 N and continue into Spalding. Then merge onto US-12 (right) which will become ID-3 N (approximately 262 miles). Follow until you reach Deary then merge to the left onto ID-9 and follow until that merges with ID-6 (to the right). Follow until ID-6 merges back with ID-3. Then continue on ID-3 until you reach St. Maries (approximately 85 miles). Go through St. Maries and take FS 50 east to Avery (about 45 miles) then proceed north on FS Road 456, also known as Moon pass for 9 miles where you can park at the Pearson Trailhead. The shuttle will take you up to Roland, which is the beginning of Taft Tunnel.
Schedule: The trail is open from May 28th to September 25th depending upon the weather. The trail, trailheads and facilities are open 8:30 am to 5 pm daily.
The shuttle buses operate between the Pearson and Roland trailheads. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. For departure times (and lots of great information) you can go to the website.
Cost: There are costs associated with exploring the trail. However, if you are just going through the tunnel I don’t believe those costs apply. Refer to the website listed above for more information.
Lodging and Dining: Since this is part of the Hiawatha Trail, refer to my posting about the trail for more information.
Special Notes: I hate to repeat myself, but bring a good light! Super important! It is scary dark in there. The kids will love it, but there are no pets allowed on the trail. Also, the shuttle bus goes through the tunnel. They always honk before entering so you can get out of the way. It’s a little chilly in the dark so unless it’s a hot summer day, you might want to wear a thin jacket.
Don’t just do the tunnel. If you make it up there, continue for the whole trail. It’s worth it!