Rail to Trails: Your Guide to the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail

Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, photo of a lone biker on a paved road

The Elroy-Sparta bike trail is one of the best routes in the country for avid or beginner cyclists. Located within minutes of Justin Trails Resort near Sparta, Wisconsin, this route was the first rails-to-trails project of its kind. The scenic countryside and historical landmarks make this quite the adventure! As one of the most popular trails in Wisconsin, the trail extends for a total of 32.5 miles, connecting the small towns of Sparta, Norwalk, Wilton, Kendall, and Elroy.

Three 140-year-old railroad tunnels are the most popular attractions on the Elroy-Sparta bike trail, but the scenic vistas of prairies, wetlands, farmland, and unglaciated areas provide a stunning backdrop throughout your ride. Two tunnels are 1/4 mile long, but one is an astounding 3/4 mile long! It’s very dark, so come prepared with a flashlight, and know ahead of time that it’s best to walk your bike.

The Elroy-Sparta bike trail is most densely traversed from May through November, and while the course is open and available for snowmobiling in the winter months, the tunnels are closed during the snow season. There are marked trails to avoid them.

For those interested in excursions on the Elroy-Sparta bike trail, our resort in the Driftless Region offers the perfect place to make your home away from home. We offer an array of pet-friendly lodging experiences, from bed and breakfast suites and glamping options to two of the most beautiful log cabins in Wisconsin, built in the traditional Scandinavian Full-Scribe style. On our property, you’ll also find miles of maintained hiking trails (perfect for off-leash adventures), two championship disc golf courses, and much more. Check our availability and make your reservations today! 

Elroy-Sparta Trail, photo of the path along a bike trail in Wisconsin

Take a Ride on the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail

Direct access to the Elroy-Sparta bike trail is not far from our luxury accommodations and log cabins in Wisconsin. Be sure to join us for a bountiful breakfast each morning; the best way to start your day filled with exploring this area on two wheels.

Here’s everything your need to know about the Elroy-Sparta bike trail before you go:

  1. The Elroy-Sparta trail passes through the nearby communities of Norwalk, Wilton, and Kendall, but between those areas, you’ll wind through a variety of lush habitats, including wetlands, prairies, farmland, and unique places. These unglaciated features give the Driftless Region its special charm, but it also adds a level of challenge and difficulty to the Elroy-Sparta bike trail.
  2. While most bike trails in Wisconsin are considered flat, that’s not the case on the Elroy-Sparta trail! You’ll encounter many ups and downs along the 32.5-mile stretch, with a total elevation gain of 1.162 feet. Thankfully, the grade is never more than 3%.
  3. The three railroad tunnels are each over 140 years old, and they are an unforgettable part of the adventure. Cyclists will often stop at the tunnels to catch their breath and admire the history and engineering. Two of the tunnels, those nearest Kendall and Wilton, are around a quarter of a mile in length, respectively, while the tunnel between Norwalk and Sparta is a whopping three-quarters of a mile long. That’s quite a stretch to be walking in the dark! 
  4. You can expect these tunnels to be dark and chilly—so jackets and flashlights are always a good idea when traveling along the trail. Getting off your bike and walking through the tunnels is recommended, as you won’t see well enough to ride.
  5. The tunnels are a lovely cool break from the sun on a hot day!
  6. There are also plenty of amenities and pit stops along the trail, including bathrooms, water, and food. This fact alone makes the Elroy-Sparta bike trail a fantastic family-friendly destination! 
  7. For those who want to continue their biking adventure, The Elroy-Sparta Trail connects up to the La Crosse River State Trail, the 400 State Trail, the Great River State Trail, and many more. There are over 100 miles of excellent bike trails in Wisconsin.
  8. A State Trail Pass is required for the Elroy-Sparta bike trail and will be valid for others in the area.
  9. If you don’t want to bring your own bike, you can rent one and arrange a shuttle at Speed’s Bicycle Shop in Sparta.
Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, photo of justin trails resort luxury cottage

The Best Log Cabins in Wisconsin at Justin Trails Resort

As the weather turns warmer and we start planning our springtime getaways with biking and hiking adventures, you’ll want to consider your lodging options. There’s nothing more exciting than experiencing a getaway in one of our luxury log cabins in Wisconsin. These cabins are beautifully designed and offer a long list of incredible amenities for a fantastic getaway. All of these cabins in Wisconsin on our property are family and pet-friendly as well! 

One favorite amenity that sets our property apart from other lodging options in the area is our beautiful breakfast service—included in your stay for those booking our B&B suites, cottages, and log cabins in Wisconsin. For those camping, breakfast can be added on for a small fee. Join us each morning in the lodge from 7:30 to 10 for a gourmet, homemade feast with sweet and savory options, local ingredients, and freshly brewed coffee. 

However you spend your days exploring the Driftless Region, whether riding the old rails on the Elroy-Sparta bike trail or just relaxing on our beautiful property, our fantastic accommodations are the ideal home base. We offer farmhouse suites, cozy cottages, or Scandinavian Full-Scribe log cabins in Wisconsin. Each offers a slightly different experience but all come with our excellent hospitality and service. Start planning your next getaway and book your lodging today!

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Give The Gift of Justin Trails Resort This Christmas

Give your loved one a very special gift of a stay at Justin Trails Resort.  We offer gift certificates in many amounts.