The Route of the Hiawatha is one of the most level specialty bike rides in the State of Montana, following the gradual grade of the old Milwaukee Railroad through the Bitterroot Mountains.

In fact, except for the initial level part of the route after the trailhead, the trail actually does a gradual drop into Idaho, with shuttle buses bringing riders and their bikes back up the hill.

But even for some riders, that might be a challenge and have you wondering if some people in your group can use an "e-bike". Well, it turns out you can, as long as they meet certain configurations.

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Forest Service rules apply

The Route of the Hiawatha actually operates under terms of a Forest Service lease, and that allows e-bikes to be used. However, the rules state those can only be the lower categories of electric bikes.

The Forest Service defines a Class 1 e-bike as one that is equipped with a motor but only works to assist when the rider is pedaling and stops altogether at speeds above 20 mph.

More powerful bikes are allowed, with restrictions

Class 2 e-bikes can be used on the Route of the Hiawatha, but only if the throttle has been involved. The bikes also have to be checked by the trail staff to make sure the bikes fit within the Class 1 definition from the Forest Service.

However, the most powerful e-bikes, Class 3, aren't allowed at all on the rail trail at any time.

Dennis Bragg photo
Dennis Bragg photo

It will cost more to use an e-bike

Riders planning to use an e-bike on the Hiawatha should also be prepared to pay an additional $15, which covers the additional handling and shuttle arrangements for the bikes, which don't fit on the usual shuttle racks.

Usually, the trail operators will charge that fee in advance, or if you show up to ride without letting them know you need a different shuttle. However, you do have the choice of riding your e-bike back uphill to the trailhead near Taft if you want to avoid the extra charge.

READ MORE: The Route of the Hiawatha

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