The historic trail....
In 1965, after a tremendous effort by citizens from all the communities along the abandoned Chicago & Northwestern Railway, the creation of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail became the first of its kind.
Once a section of a very busy Railway, steam locomotives hauled grain, livestock and passengers along this route from 1873 to 1964. When the railroad ceased operations on the line, concerns mounted on what could be done with 32 miles of railroad line? It was decided that the rail line would be converted into a rails-to-trails destination. Since then it has become one of the most popular recreational trails in the country as thousands travel the 32-mile route by biking, hiking and snowmobiling every year.
Three railroad tunnels highlight the trail which are each over 140 years old. The tunnels near Kendall and Wilton are each about 0.25 miles long. The tunnel between Norwalk and Sparta is 0.75 miles long.
These unique rock tunnels offer a refreshing break when pedaling the entire distance. Even on the hottest summer days, these tunnels remain dark and cool. Springs seep through the limestone and trickle down the walls.
Flashlights and jackets are recommended in the tunnels. The tunnels are dark and cool, even on the brightest days and water from springs above the tunnels can trickle onto the trail. Bikers should walk bikes through the tunnels.
This spectacular trail links five communities - Elroy in Juneau County and Sparta, Norwalk, Kendall, Wilton, all in Monroe County.
The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is directly linked to two other state trails. A bridge over Interstate 90 in Sparta connects the La Crosse River State Trail to the Elroy-Sparta State Trail on the west end and the 400 State Trail connects to the trail at Elroy Commons on the east end.
There is also a connection at Elroy Commons to the 13-mile Omaha County Trail. The Omaha trail travels between Elroy and Camp Douglas, near Mill Bluff State Park. The Omaha trail features a shorter rock tunnel that is about two blocks long.