Rails To Trails: Wisconsin
by Phil Van Valkenberg (The Globe Pequot Press)
© Phil Van Valkenberg/The Globe Pequot Press. All Rights Reserved.
Our day on the Sparta-Elroy was terrific! The weather was typical for late summer - early fall, slightly hazy sunshine and not too warm. The trail itself shows subtle signs of the seasons in the amount of tree debris present...noticable, but not enough to slow us down. We did the entire length from Sparta to Elroy and back in one day (72 miles total). We had a great time, but butts were dragging at the end.
Nice Ride. My advice... Skip the Elroy to Kendall portion. It is open, not too interesting and hot. .Use the shuttle service from Kendall to Sparta. Bike from Sparta to Kendall. 28 miles, all the tunnels and a nice, long downhill finish.
What a great adventure. The tunnels are amazing. I took my two daughters 8 and 10. We started in Wilton and rode towards tunnels 2 and 3. Tunnel 1 is just as long as tunnel 2 so we didn't think we would miss not seeing it. Riding from Wilton to tunnel three and back was about 18 miles. The slopes are very gradual and the ride was just right for their ages. The tunnels were fascinating. Tunnel three is a little chilly and you get wet from the rain of dripping water but it feels good on a real hot day.
We camped the night before. We had reservations at the Tunnel Trail campground. We thought it would be great. It has a pool, a game room, hot showers....I DO NOT recommend it. It's a mass of humanity. The camp sites are inches from each other. We asked for another campsite but it was no better. We left and asked for our money back. We drove to the center of town in Wilton and found a campground near the community center. Not crowded, with a pool, $2, and the camping was cheaper as well. You set your tent on the grass and sometimes the cows come by on the hills behind the campground. Nice place. The trail is not too far, just on the other side of town. You have to go to the hardware store on Main Street to buy a pass for all people over 16 yrs old in your party.
Nice trip. I would go again. Next time we would set aside time to visit the Amish homes that sell crafts. They fascinated my daughters, seeing them drive up the rode in their horse drawn buggies.
This trail is considered the Grand Daddy of Rails to Trails. You will travel through 3 tunnels,bring a flash light for it is dark,one tunnel is 3/4 mile long. As you ride along the trail toward the tunnels you will actually feel the temperature drop way before you can see the tunnels. Beautiful scenery, lots of wooded areas, many towns that you can stop and visit. The trail connects to several other trails. The State of Wisconsin does a great job of making bikers feel welcome.
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