Preparing for Elroy-Sparta

I finally pulled my bike out of the garage Tuesday for the first ride of the season. Normally, this would be early for a first ride. But we were spoiled in Milwaukee this year with not only a mild winter, but also the warmest March on record. With highs in the 60s and 70s for most of the week, I’m cautiously optimistic I can store the winter jackets until November and start preparing for my Elroy­–Sparta trip.

The Elroy–Sparta State Trail was the first rail-to-trail route in the country and celebrates 35 years this year. What draws most people is the fact that the trail passes through three train tunnels that date back more than 100 years. And because it follows an old railroad route, the grade is slight and easily biked by even the most recreational biker. Roundtrip, the route is about 65 miles. This wouldn’t be impossible to do in one day, but it would certainly be challenging, even without hills. Plus, I’d prefer to take it at a leisurely pace and actually enjoy the ride. I’d like to do the entire route and make it a two-day trip, so I’m thinking I will start in Elroy, bike to Sparta and camp there, then bike back to Elroy the next day. This means I’ll have to do a little more planning of where I’ll leave my car, when I’ll set up camp, if I’ll carry my gear on my bikes, etc.

The only catch is the campsites in Sparta are non-reservable, which means I might have to drop off my camping stuff in the morning to make sure I have a site before I start riding. This creates a little extra driving, but ensures I have a site at the end of the day.

The other challenge will be getting my camping gear back to Elroy in the morning. I’ve backpacked before, but I’ve never carried my gear with me on my bike. I think you can rent bike trailers in Kendall, so maybe I’ll go with that.

Have you biked Elroy–Sparta and camped at one end of the trail? Any suggestions for how early we should plan on getting there to get a site?

This entry was posted in Biking, Camping, DNR, Outdoors, State Park and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Preparing for Elroy-Sparta

  1. swell says:

    there’s another campground, I think a state one, right on the trail where it comes into Onalaska(La Crosse River State Trail ) it would be a few miles more but if it’s a state campground you should be able to reserve a spot. I’ve been by there many times, nothing fancy. Also a good village campground in Wilton Village Park 608-435-6666 and an even better one in Norwalk! You’d only have to backtrack from Sparta a little bit. Of course uphill back to tunnel 3, but downhill almost all the way back to Norwalk!

  2. swell says:

    Just 1 more thing – there’s a little known gem of a county trail between Elroy and Camp Douglas called the Omaha Trail. It’s 13 miles and paved with asphalt, so we sometimes go there when it’s too soggy to ride the other trails. Halfway thru there is a cool 800 foot tunnel next to a small wayside with picnic tables and a pit toilet and water pump. Great place for a picnic. The county boys take real good care of it, so make sure you spend the $1 on a trail pass! Wildlife is everywhere, in the spring the Peepers are deafening!

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