Considered the first rail-to-trail in the United States, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail remains one of the most popular trails in the country. With three rock tunnels and five small towns along its 32.5-mile route, the trail is a favorite Wisconsin bicycling destination. Traveling between Sparta and Elroy, the trail stretches through the communities of Norwalk, Wilton and Kendall, passing by wetlands, prairies, farmland and unglaciated areas.
Three railroad tunnels highlight the trail which are each over 140 years old. The tunnels near Kendall and Wilton are each about 0.25 miles long. The tunnel between Norwalk and Sparta is 0.75 miles long. Flashlights and jackets are recommended in the tunnels. The tunnels are dark and cool, even on the brightest days and water from springs above the tunnels can trickle onto the trail. Bikers should walk bikes through the tunnels.
The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is directly linked to two other state trails. A bridge over Interstate 90 in Sparta connects the La Crosse River State Trail to the Elroy-Sparta State Trail on the west end and the 400 State Trail connects to the trail at Elroy Commons on the east end. There is also a connection at Elroy Commons to the 13-mile Omaha County Trail. The Omaha trail travels between Elroy and Camp Douglas, near Mill Bluff State Park. The Omaha trail features a shorter rock tunnel that is about two blocks long.
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