The Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail

The Elroy-Sparta Wisconsin bike trail starting from Sparta

Rock walls along the Elroy-Sparta trail

Tunnel Number 3 (the longest and closest to Sparta)

The Elroy-Sparta Trail (Wisconsin - 32m) is one of four connecting bike trails in west-central Wisconsin (for a total of 101 miles!) and is known for it's rustic rural scenes and three awesome tunnels! You will need your bike light even on the brightest summer days when you go from the bright, hot sunshine into the cool, wet, dark tunnels.

The carved rock view from inside an Elroy-Sparta trail tunnel

Exiting the cool tunnel and back to the heat of summer

Cool air and mist outside the tunnels

This article includes first hand descriptions and plenty of photos of the Elroy-Sparta trail going from Sparta Wisconsin south and east to Elroy Wisconsin (July 2003). I am including some of the standard bike trail information and stats but my intent is to capture the look and feel of the trail primarily from first hand descriptions and photos.

Bike Trail Information

The Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin is 32 miles one way and connects to the 400 trail in Elroy and the LaCrosse River Trail in Sparta. The 4 connecting west central Wisconsin trails (aka Bike 4 Trails) going from southeast to northwest are:

There is plenty of camping, lodging, food, parking, bike rentals and information available at many points along the trail. The trail headquarters is located in Kendall on Hwy 71 (open May 1 thru October 31).

Here's a copy of the map of the Elroy-Sparta Trail that I had from a Bike 4 Trails brochure (you will want to click on it for the full size version).

Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail Map
(click to enlarge)

The trail is on the abandoned Chicago-Northwestern railroad bed and passes through 3 rock tunnels. The Kendall and Wilton tunnels (closest to Elroy) are 1/4 mile each and the Norwalk tunnel (closest to Sparta) is 3/4 of a mile. The trail is not paved but is smooth and covered with limestone screenings.

The trail has a moderate incline (mostly) going from Sparta to Elroy, but it is very gradual (it is more uphill (in general) going to Sparta to Elroy but it is very minor).

Daily or annual State trail passes are required for riders age 16 and older. Currently the pass is $4.00 /day or you can choose the $20.00 yearly pass (good for all Wisconsin state trails - as of October, 2011).

Additional information:

Elroy-Sparta bike trail headquarters - 608-463-7109
Elroy/Sparta chamber of Commerce 800-354-BIKE

The tunnels are cool and dark even on a hot bright sunny day. You can feel the cool air coming through the tunnels as you approach them. Tunnel #3 is the longest and you will get a little bit wet from the water seepage. There are small streams on each side of the path within the tunnels and downhill from the tunnels (you can tell that you are approaching one of the tunnels when you see the water on both sides of the path).

One of the many bridges along the Elroy-Sparta bike trail

Riders silhouette one of the tunnel openings

Bring a bicycle light even on a bright sunny day!

I hope you enjoy this little virtual tour and hope it inspires you to take the trail(s) in the spring, summer or fall and/or provides a nice memory of your trips in the winter when you may not be able to get out there and enjoy it (although some people do ride throughout some of the winter also and those fat mountian bike tires can handle the snow pretty well too! :-) ).


Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos

Here's the photo tour of the Elroy-Sparta Trail, from Sparta south and east to Elroy. These pictures are from late July (2003).

Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 1 - Sparta Trail Head and the Bridge Over I90
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 2 - Past Interstate 90 Bridge to Tunnel #3
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 3 - Entering Deep, Dark Tunnel #3
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 4 - Passing Through Tunnel #3
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 5 - Passing Through Norwalk, Wisconsin
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 6 - Approaching Tunnel Number 2
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 7 - Passing Through Tunnel #2
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 8 - Tunnel #2 and Mossy Rock Walls
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 9 - Through Wilton Wisconsin
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 10 - Scenery and Campgrounds along the Trail
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 11 - Approaching Tunnel #1
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 12 - Tunnel Number One to Kendall Depot
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 13 - Kendall Depot and Wisconsin Bench Wisdom
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 14 - Ironsided Bridges and Elroy
Elroy-Sparta Trail Photos 15 - Wisconsin Scenery

At the time of this writing, I believe that this is the most extensive photo collection of the Elroy-Sparta bike trail online... I've kept the format to medium sized and medium quality photos split into multiple pages to keep the download times reasonable for all connections, including dial ups. Most of the photos (with a few exceptions) are sequential going from Sparta to Elroy (so the tunnels photos, in order would be tunnel 3 followed by tunnel 2 and finally tunnel 1)

...and if you would like to continue the photo tour... here are some additional Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail photos from the Fall of 2006! - Contributed by Dale Kiffel


For a great place to stay when you make your way to the Elroy-Sparta trail, and a fantastic resource for other activities in the area, visit The Franklin Victorian Bed & Breakfast
"Come to a place where you can Build a Dream."

Innkeepers and owners Jennifer and Steve Dunn, want you to come and experience their Bed & Breakfast for a rejuvenating escape, unique charm, warm hospitality, beautiful accommodations, peaceful romance and seasons of hidden beauty....