Elroy-Sparta State Trail

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Historical marker along the trail.
Just outside one of three railroad tunnels along the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail
A bicyclist enters one of the tunnels.

The Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail is a 32-mile (51 km) rail trail between Elroy and Sparta, Wisconsin. Considered to be the first rail trail when it opened in 1967, it was designed for foot, bicycle, equestrian and light motorized traffic. Designated a multiuse trail, it offers recreational access to the routes and is open to the public.[1]

The trail is part of the larger Wisconsin bike trail system operated by the state of Wisconsin.[2] It is one of four connecting bike trails in west-central Wisconsin that span approximately one-third of the state. It passes through rural scenery and three tunnels.

The four connecting west central Wisconsin trails, known as the Bike 4 Trails, going from southeast to northwest are:

The Elroy-Sparta bike trail connects to the 400 Trail in Elroy and the La Crosse River Trail in Sparta.

The trail headquarters, located in Kendall on Wisconsin Highway 71, is open from May 1 through October 31. There is a fee for use of the trail if one does not have an annual Wisconsin bike trail pass.[3] Camping, lodging, food, parking, bike rentals and information are available at many points along the trail.[4]

The trail, constructed upon the abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway railroad bed, is covered with crushed limestone for a smooth ride for bicyclists. The three tunnels along the trail are impressive feats of nineteenth-century railroad engineering. Tunnel #1, a short distance from Kendall, is surrounded by natural tunnels formed by the surrounding canopy of trees. Tunnel #2, stationed halfway between Wilton and Norwalk, features 20-foot-tall wooden doors on both ends of the tunnel. Both Tunnel #1 and Tunnel #2 are a 0.25 miles (400 m) each. Tunnel #3, nine miles from Sparta and three miles from Norwalk, is longer than the span of 10 football fields at 0.75 miles (1.21 km). It took $1 million and three years of digging by hand to complete in 1873.[5]

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