- Contact information
- For information, contact:
Elroy-Sparta State Trail Headquarters
PO Box 297
Kendall, WI 54638
Wildcat Mountain State Park
PO Box 99
Ontario WI 54651
Wisconsin State Park System Elroy-Sparta State Trail
Considered the first rail-to-trail in the United States, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail remains one of the most popular trails in the country. With three rock tunnels and five small towns along its 32.5-mile route, the trail is a favorite Wisconsin bicycling destination. Traveling between Sparta and Elroy, the trail stretches through the communities of Norwalk, Wilton and Kendall, passing by wetlands, prairies, farmland and unglaciated areas.
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. 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.
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.
The trail may bring a number of different users to the trail at the same time. It is important to use good trail etiquette to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all trail users.
Walking and bicycling
The level grade and limestone surface make this trail suitable for bicyclists, walkers and joggers.
Pet owners, please be sure to have your pet on a leash, 8 feet or shorter, at all times. You must pick up after your pet.
Two DNR campgrounds are available for trail visitors in season. Both campgrounds have non-reservable sites with self-registration stations available to campers to pay camping fees. Each campground offers campsites with a fire ring and picnic table. Hand pumps and vault toilets are available. No firewood is sold at these campgrounds and there are firewood rules to help prevent the spread of pests and diseases. Campsites are walk-in only and vehicles can be parked in adjacent lots. There is an open shelter at the Elroy campground.
The address for the Sparta Campground is 9890 Imac Avenue. In Sparta, turn south on John Street. John Street turns into Igloo Road. After crossing under Interstate 90, turn left on Imac Avenue to the campground.
The Elroy Campground is along Highway 71 near the intersection of Highway 80 in Elroy. An underpass allows campers to walk under Highway 71 and up a 100-yard asphalt road to the campground.
Snowmobiles are permitted on the the trail. Operators must follow all Wisconsin snowmobile laws. The trail also connects to numerous miles of county snowmobile trails. The tunnels are closed in winter and there are marked snowmobile routes to go around the tunnels.
The opening and closing of snowmobile trails is at the discretion of each county. Snowmobile trails which cross DNR lands are opened and closed consistent with the surrounding county (or counties). Whenever possible, the opening and closing of snowmobile trails is done on a county-wide basis, however localized conditions may require localized trail opening and closing. It is the responsibility of the county to provide notification about the status of snowmobile trails. The Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report, and local club and county snowmobile web pages and telephone hotlines will provide the most current information.
The trail is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, however, the trail is not groomed and skiers and snowshoers must share the trail with snowmobiles. Skiers do not need a trail pass while using the trail.
The Elroy-Sparta State Trail (and campground areas) are open to hunting during the Wisconsin state parks hunting time frame. For more information, please see:
State trail passes
Bikers should walk bikes through the tunnels.
Photo © Wisconsin Department of Tourism
State trail passes for bikers 16 and older. Daily and annual passes are available at the Sparta Depot, Kendall Depot, Elroy Commons and outlets in towns along the trail.
Sparta: The depot is at 111 Milwaukee Street, Sparta. Exit I-90 on State Highway 16/71 and go west about two miles to Water Street, then south about 0.6 miles to Milwaukee Street. The Sparta Depot serves as trail headquarters. A bridge over Interstate Highway 90 in Sparta connects the La Crosse River Trail to the Elroy-Sparta State Trail.
Elroy: Exit I-90/94 on State Highway 82 and go west for about 12 miles. There is parking at the Elroy trailhead where the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and the 400 State Trail connect.
Norwalk, Wilton and Kendall: State highway 71 runs between Elroy and Sparta through all three towns. The restored railroad depot in Kendall serves as trail headquarters and has a railroad history museum with pictures and artifacts on display.