4 Trails Bike Trip

Labor Day Weekend, 2002

Kathy and I did part of this trail (the best part between Elroy and Sparta) a year earlier. This time we took the whole crew and planned to bike all 4 trails.

The Great River State Trail, La Crosse River State Trail, Elroy-Sparta State Trail and the "400" State Trail make up 101 miles of Rails-to-Trails on the western side of the state.

We loaded up the bikers and bikes (the food and the gear was coming later) into two cars and headed to Reedsburg, the end (or beginning) of the "400 State Trail. There we left our cars in the parking lot of the renovated train depot.

At the depot, we met up with the shuttle service that loaded our bikes into a trailer and loaded us into a 15 passenger van. There are a number of shuttle services to take your crew to the other end of the trail. We found a cheaper mom & pop shuttle service (but I've lost the number).They drove us all the way to Trempealeau (not the trail head but they told us there was nothing to see in Marshland). I don't remember but I think our shuttle fee was about $15 a head.

We started our trip right on the Mississippi River and made the 36 miles to West Salem - completing the Great River State Trail and about 12 miles into the La Crosse River State Trail. We found a place to set up camp at Veteran's Memorial County Park and Campground. We collected "firewood" (a pile of scrap building material) in "firewood carts" (old push mowers with the motors replaced by metal buckets). Our one driver arrived with the food, tents and gear. We took turns driving so no one person was stuck with the car.

The next day we finished the La Crosse River State Trail and made our way through the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, by far the most impressive leg of the trip. There are three old train tunnels on the trail, one almost a mile long. Its completely dark so you need to walk your bike and a flash light is helpful. A light jacket is also useful no matter what the temperature is outside. The tunnels are cold and water drips from the ceiling.

Two bikers drove the car (and gear) ahead to Winton to our next campsite then biked back to meet the rest of us. We biked 32 miles and arrived in Winton, where Kathy and I had to take everyone to Gina's Pies are Square, a great little cafe with fantastic sandwiches and 9" square pies. The pie is amazing. Trust me.

While the campsite was nice it rained very hard all night. We got soaked. But it was better than biking in the rain.

The next morning, two more bikers drove the car back to Reedsburg where the other cars were parked then biked back to meet up with the group. The last day was our longest trip of 37 miles, finishing up the Elroy-Sparta State Trail then making the 22 mile trip to Reedsburg on the "400" State Trail. We passed through some great wet lands along the way.

This my favorite rails-to-trails ride so far. The trails are easy, the towns are inviting and the scenery is amazing. I find the towns on the Military Ridge Trail not as inviting where as every little burg along the Elroy-Sparta State Trail really celebrates the fact they are part of this trail system. Its a trip I would definitely do again.


Starting in Trempealeau

Locks on the Mississippi

Dam fishing

Camping in West Salem

Nice fire

A better fire

Riding grandpa's chair


Water break

Waiting outside the tunnel

Tunnel entrance

From inside the tunnel

Camping in Wilton

Sparta depot

Back in Reedsburg

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