Elroy-Sparta State Trail In Wisconsin

Here is everything you need to know about the Elroy-Sparta State Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Wisconsin
  • Length: 32 miles.
  • Type: Biking
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR)
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: Info not available.

The Elroy-Sparta State Trail, located in western Wisconsin, holds a significant place in the history of railroads and recreational trails in the United States. The trail follows the abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway line, which was originally constructed in the late 1800s. This railway line played a crucial role in connecting the rural communities of Elroy and Sparta to larger cities and markets, facilitating the transportation of goods and people.

The construction of the railway line began in 1872 and was completed in 1873. It served as a vital transportation link for the region, primarily transporting agricultural products, timber, and passengers. The line was known for its challenging terrain, as it traversed through hilly landscapes and required the construction of numerous tunnels and bridges. The most notable feature of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail is the three tunnels along its route, which were originally built to accommodate the passage of trains. These tunnels, known as the Elroy Tunnel, the Tunnel #2, and the Tunnel #3, are now iconic landmarks of the trail.

However, with the decline of rail transportation in the mid-20th century, the railway line fell into disuse and was eventually abandoned. Recognizing the potential for recreational use, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources acquired the right-of-way in the late 1960s and began converting it into a multi-use trail. The Elroy-Sparta State Trail officially opened in 1967, becoming the first rail-to-trail conversion in the United States. Since then, it has served as a model for the development of similar trails across the country, inspiring the creation of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy organization.

Today, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail attracts thousands of visitors each year, offering a unique opportunity to experience the history of railroads while enjoying the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes. The trail’s historical significance, coupled with its scenic tunnels and bridges, make it a popular destination for hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts alike.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Elroy Commons Trailhead – Located in Elroy, Wisconsin, this is the starting point of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. It offers parking facilities and restrooms.

2. Kendall Trailhead – Situated in Kendall, Wisconsin, this access point provides parking, restrooms, and picnic areas.

3. Wilton Trailhead – Located in Wilton, Wisconsin, this trailhead offers parking facilities, restrooms, and picnic areas.

4. Norwalk Trailhead – Situated in Norwalk, Wisconsin, this access point provides parking, restrooms, and picnic areas.

5. Sparta Trailhead – Located in Sparta, Wisconsin, this is the endpoint of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. It offers parking facilities, restrooms, and picnic areas.

These are the major access points or trailheads along the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.

Transportation Available

1. Elroy-Sparta State Trail Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from various points along the trail.
2. Bike Rentals – Local bike rental shops offering bicycles for exploring the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.
3. Taxi Services – Taxi companies providing transportation services in the vicinity of the trail.
4. Car Rental – Car rental agencies offering vehicles for independent travel to and from the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.
5. Public Bus – Local public transportation system with routes connecting to the trail and nearby areas.
6. Uber/Lyft – Ride-hailing services available for convenient transportation to and from the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.
7. Train Station – Nearby train station providing transportation options for visitors to the trail.


The amenities available at the Elroy-Sparta State Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail, including at the trailheads and some of the larger towns along the route.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at each of the three trailheads – Elroy, Kendall, and Sparta. These parking lots provide ample space for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: The trail offers several camping options for visitors. There are three campgrounds located directly on the trail – the Elroy Commons Campground, the Kendall Depot Campground, and the Leon Valley Campground. These campgrounds provide facilities such as tent sites, RV sites, fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are numerous picnic areas along the trail, providing visitors with a place to rest, eat, and enjoy the scenic surroundings. These picnic areas are equipped with picnic tables, benches, and sometimes grills.

5. Water Stations: There are water stations available at various points along the trail, allowing visitors to refill their water bottles and stay hydrated during their journey.

6. Bike Rentals: At the trailheads in Elroy, Kendall, and Sparta, there are bike rental services available for those who do not have their own bicycles. These rental services offer a range of bikes suitable for different ages and abilities.

7. Information Centers: There are information centers located at the trailheads, providing visitors with maps, brochures, and other helpful resources about the trail and its surrounding attractions.

8. Trailside Shops and Restaurants: Along the trail, there are several shops, cafes, and restaurants where visitors can stop for refreshments, snacks, or a meal.

9. Scenic Overlooks: The trail features several scenic overlooks, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. These overlooks provide a great opportunity for visitors to take photos and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

10. Wildlife Viewing Areas: The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is known for its diverse wildlife. There are designated areas along the trail where visitors can observe and appreciate the local flora and fauna.

Please note that amenities may vary in terms of availability and quality, so it is always recommended to check with the official website or local authorities for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Franklin Victorian Bed & Breakfast – Charming B&B offering comfortable lodging in Sparta.
2. Super 8 by Wyndham Sparta – Affordable hotel with basic amenities near the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.
3. Best Western Plus Sparta Trail Lodge – Modern hotel with a pool and fitness center, conveniently located for trail access.
4. Subway – Popular fast-food chain serving sandwiches and salads in Sparta.
5. Culver’s – Casual restaurant known for its butter burgers and frozen custard in Sparta.
6. Elroy Commons – Quaint café offering breakfast and lunch options near the trail in Elroy.
7. Elroy Family Restaurant – Local diner serving American comfort food in Elroy.
8. Sparta Family Restaurant – Homestyle cooking and all-day breakfast in Sparta.
9. Mayo Clinic Health System – Nearby medical facility providing emergency services in Sparta.
10. Sparta Police Department – Local law enforcement agency offering emergency assistance in Sparta.

Elroy-Sparta State Trail Difficulty Notes

The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is known for its moderate difficulty level, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. The trail spans 32.5 miles and is primarily a crushed limestone surface, which can be slightly challenging for beginners or those with limited biking or hiking experience. However, the trail is mostly flat, with a gentle incline in some sections, making it manageable for most individuals. Additionally, the trail features three impressive tunnels, adding a unique element to the experience. Overall, while the Elroy-Sparta State Trail may present some challenges, its moderate difficulty level allows for an enjoyable and rewarding outdoor adventure.

Features And Attractions

Info not available.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets are allowed on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail but must be kept on a leash no longer than 8 feet.
– Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.
– Bicycles, pedestrians, and skiers are allowed on the trail.
– Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
– The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may be closed during winter months due to snow or maintenance.
– Camping is not allowed on the trail.
– Fires and fireworks are prohibited.
– Hunting and trapping are not allowed on the trail.
– Littering is strictly prohibited.
– Alcoholic beverages are not allowed on the trail.
– Motorized equipment, except for wheelchairs, is not allowed on the trail.
– Horseback riding is not permitted on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.

Seasonal Information

The Elroy-Sparta State Trail, located in western Wisconsin, is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. This 32-mile trail is known for its stunning scenery, charming small towns, and unique tunnels that add an element of adventure to the experience. When planning a visit to the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, it’s important to consider the best times of the year to make the most of your trip.

One of the best times to visit the Elroy-Sparta State Trail is during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery, creating a picturesque backdrop for your outdoor activities. The weather during this time is generally mild, making it ideal for hiking, biking, or even horseback riding along the trail. Fall, on the other hand, offers a breathtaking display of autumn colors as the leaves change, providing a stunning and memorable experience for visitors.

It’s worth noting that the Elroy-Sparta State Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Due to the harsh weather conditions and potential hazards, the trail is closed for snowmobiling, skiing, and other winter activities. However, if you’re a fan of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, there are nearby trails and parks that offer these winter sports. It’s always recommended to check the official website or contact the park authorities for the most up-to-date information on closures and trail conditions before planning your visit.

Overall, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail offers a unique and enjoyable experience throughout the year. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of spring, the warm weather of summer, or the stunning foliage of fall, there’s a season for everyone to explore and appreciate the beauty of this trail. Just be sure to plan your visit accordingly, considering the seasonal closures and activities that best suit your interests.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces are available near the trailhead, providing easy access for individuals with mobility challenges.
2. Accessible Restrooms: ADA-compliant restrooms are located at various points along the trail, ensuring convenient facilities for all visitors.
3. Paved Pathways: The trail features smooth, paved surfaces, allowing wheelchair users to navigate comfortably and safely.
4. Accessible Trailhead: The trailhead is equipped with ramps and accessible features, enabling individuals with disabilities to easily enter and exit the trail.
5. Rest Areas with Benches: Regularly spaced rest areas with benches are available, providing opportunities for individuals to take breaks and rest during their journey.
6. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail are designed to accommodate wheelchair users, allowing everyone to enjoy outdoor dining experiences.
7. Accessible Water Fountains: ADA-compliant water fountains are strategically placed along the trail, ensuring individuals can stay hydrated during their visit.
8. Trail Signage: Clear and visible signage with large fonts and symbols are installed along the trail, aiding individuals with visual impairments in navigation.
9. Assistance Animals: The trail welcomes service animals, allowing individuals with disabilities to have their assistance animals accompany them.
10. Accessible Trail Experiences: The Elroy-Sparta State Trail offers inclusive recreational opportunities, ensuring individuals of all abilities can enjoy the scenic beauty and outdoor activities it provides.

Safety Information

1. Trail Conditions: Check for any closures or maintenance work on the trail before your visit.
2. Weather Awareness: Be prepared for changing weather conditions and dress accordingly.
3. Trail Etiquette: Respect other trail users by following proper etiquette, such as yielding to pedestrians and announcing your presence when passing.
4. Wildlife Encounters: Stay alert and maintain a safe distance from any wildlife you may encounter on the trail.
5. Sun Protection: Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
6. Hydration: Carry an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated during your journey.
7. Trail Maps: Familiarize yourself with the trail map and carry a copy for reference during your trip.
8. Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts handy in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
9. First Aid Kit: Carry a basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
10. Bike Safety: Wear a helmet, use proper hand signals, and obey traffic rules if cycling on the trail.
11. Pedestrian Safety: Stay on designated paths, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid distractions like headphones.
12. Lighting: If planning to use the trail during low-light conditions, ensure you have proper lighting equipment.
13. Cell Phone Reception: Be aware of areas with limited or no cell phone reception and plan accordingly.
14. Trail Access Points: Familiarize yourself with the trail access points and parking areas before your visit.
15. Trail Hours: Be aware of the trail’s operating hours and plan your trip accordingly.
16. Solo Travel: Inform someone about your trip plans if traveling alone and establish regular check-ins.
17. Insect Protection: Use insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquitoes and ticks.
18. Poisonous Plants: Learn to identify and avoid contact with any poisonous plants along the trail.
19. Restrooms: Be aware of restroom facilities along the trail and plan your breaks accordingly.
20. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by disposing of trash properly and respecting the environment.

Conservation Notes

The Elroy-Sparta State Trail, located in Wisconsin, holds a significant conservation status due to its unique natural features and the efforts made to preserve its ecological integrity. The trail passes through diverse landscapes, including forests, wetlands, and prairies, which provide crucial habitats for a variety of plant and animal species. These habitats support a rich biodiversity, contributing to the overall conservation value of the trail.

Efforts have been made to protect and conserve the natural resources along the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. The trail is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which has implemented measures to minimize human impact on the surrounding environment. This includes the establishment of designated areas for camping, picnicking, and other recreational activities, ensuring that these activities do not disrupt the delicate ecosystems.

Additionally, the trail is subject to regular monitoring and maintenance to address any potential threats to its conservation status. This includes the removal of invasive plant species, restoration of degraded areas, and the implementation of erosion control measures. By actively managing the trail, authorities aim to preserve the natural habitats and ensure the long-term sustainability of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail as a valuable conservation area.

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