I said to Karen, “Did you know that Sparta, Wisconsin is the bicycling capitol of America?” Duh. It was a layup, right? We all know that. She thinks to herself, what does he know? Less and less as I prove every day.
However, there is a billboard on Interstate 90 in Wisconsin that tells you that what I said was correct. If it says it on a billboard, is that not proof it is true? Would marketers lie??
We camped in West Salem, WI for a few days (on our way to Colorado), so that we can bike on some of the bike trails here. There are many miles of trails here, but specifically there are 101 miles of connected bike trails as part of Bike 4 Trails – and all can be accessed from our campsite at Veterans Memorial Campground.
You know it is a veteran’s park when you are greeted at the gate by an armored tank.
The campground is great, although it was unclear to us where the office was when we arrived, so we upset the camp host (Darlene) within seconds of arrival. I say my charm won the day. Karen says Darlene thinks I am an ass. Darlene would be correct. But all is good and we camped almost right on the La Crosse River.
Karen had researched this area as an opportunity to explore some new (to us) trails with our ebikes. This was a win. According to one fellow camper, one of the trails adjacent to our campground was the first rails-to-trails bikeway in the country.
For location purposes, we are located in western Wisconsin just east of the Mississippi River, and just a few miles east and north of La Crosse in West Salem, WI.
The bike trails include the Great River (Marshland to Onalaska), the La Crosse River (Onalaska to Sparta), the Elroy-Sparta (Sparta to Elroy), and the “400” State (Elroy to Reedsburg) trails, and are maintained by the Friends of the Four Trails. To support their efforts, there is a small charge ($5.00) to use the trails, but well worth it. We were happy to contribute.
From our campground in West Salem we road on the La Crosse River Trail to Onalaska, and then up the Great River Trail to a railroad trestle just north of Lytle’s Landing – about 15 miles one way. This is a beautiful ride, with views at one point overlooking Lake Onalaska, which is part of the Mississippi River. The trestle where we turned around was another beautiful view overlooking the Black River.
It helps to keep in mind that (any) rail trail has been converted from an expired railroad infrastructure in support of industrial enterprises (harkens back to Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged), to an enduring and invaluable public resource. In a few places on these trails you get views of the back sides of industry, but far more often you get fabulous views of lakes, rivers, wetlands and Audubon Society bird nesting areas.
If your travels bring you anywhere near La Crosse, Wisconsin, check out these (and other) trails in the area. Safe cycling!