Wisconsin August 07, 2018
The Tunnel Trail In Wisconsin That Will Take You On An Unforgettable Adventure
Located over in the western-central part of our state, the Elroy-Sparta trail is primarily known as a bike trail, but it’s also open for walkers and runners. Though rails-to-trails conversions aren’t very rare anymore, this is actually the first ever done in the US. This awesome trail goes through not one, but three different abandoned train tunnels for a totally amazing and unique experience. In fact, the path, which goes between the towns of Elroy and Sparta, crosses 34 bridges and through three tunnels over the course of its 32 miles.
This awesome, first-of-its-kind trail celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. It's a quite popular path, with lots of small towns that cater to those using it along the way.
One of the coolest parts about these tunnels is that they were originally dug and constructed to serve the up to six passenger trains and 40 freight trains a day.
This is Wisconsin, though, so it gets cold and wet and snowy. So the tunnels have doors. The tunnels all experience dripping and moisture due to natural springs coming through the rocks. Blasting these tunnels was difficult enough the first time around, so to protect the structural integrity, the doors were added to help keep the inside of the tunnel warm during the winter months. There used to be lookouts who's job it was to watch for the trains. They'd head out and open the doors in advance of the train coming through and then shut them again after the train went through.
Two of the tunnels along this path are 1/4 mile long and the third is 3/4 of a mile long. Trail users are asked to walk their bikes through the tunnel for safety reasons. The longest tunnel is more than three football fields long and you are in pitch black darkness for most of the trip. The tunnel was dug by hand in the 1870s, so passing through really is a bit of a marvel.
In the summer, you'll find vendors on either side of the tunnels set up to sell refreshments, but also flashlights that can be rented for your trip through. When you enter the longest tunnel, you cannot see the light on the other side.
Though it's known as a bike path, don't be afraid to use this path as a walker or runner - just be aware of your surroundings and stay clear of the bike lane.
Riders older than 16 are required to purchase a $5 trail pass each day or can buy a yearly pass for $25.
There's really no other trail like this in the state, with so much history and three tunnels to pass through and explore. It's something conservationists from around the world travel to experience and Wisconsinites are lucky to have it right in our own backyard.
Have you traveled on the Elroy-Sparta Trail? Let us know about it in the comments!
Looking for more awesome Wisconsin bike paths? Check out
The Trail In Wisconsin That Will Lead You On An Adventure Like No Other.