Greater Mauston Offers Three Great Biking Experiences In One Great Location
Looking for a great place – or better yet, three great places – to spin your spokes?
Biking Juneau County Wisconsin / Greater Mauston Area is the right choice for those wanting easy choices and premier bike trails.
Greater Mauston located just off the I-94 and half way between Chicago and Milwaukee, is the perfect base camp for multiple and unique biking experiences where the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad once rolled through South Central Wisconsin.
Elroy-Sparta State Trail
At the top of your list should be the Elroy-Sparta State Trail which holds an iconic place as the nation’s first rails-to-trails bike route. Created in 1967, this trail is widely considered the granddaddy of a movement that went on to sweep the nation.
You can check in to one of the family-friendly lodging facilities in Mauston, leave your bikes on your car rack and motor east down Highway 82 just 12 miles to the trail head in Elroy.
The trail scenery is classic rural Wisconsin with scenic rolling countryside, but there’s a twist that makes it unique. Along the 32-mile route you will pass through three train tunnels, dug by hand in the 1870s. The tunnels are awesome but relatively long, (a quarter to half-mile each), dark, cool and a little wet from constant seepage. Best to bring along a flashlight and water repellent gear. Best to dismount and walk through the tunnels, enjoying the atmospherics. The trail, itself has a smooth surface of crushed and packed limestone that makes for a smooth ride.
“400” State Trail
A bit shorter at 22 miles and less busy than the famous Elroy-Sparta trail, the “400” State Trail runs from Elroy to Reedsburg and is one of the prettiest rides you’ll find anywhere. Like the Elroy-Sparta Trail, it has a crushed and packed limestone surface. The trail runs parallel to and winds back and forth over the Baraboo River on wooden plank bridges. Sandstone outcroppings give a taste of Wisconsin’s unique geography. Trail towns like Union Center, Wonewoc and La Valley give a taste of Wisconsin’s reputation for small town friendliness.
In case you were wondering, the trail gets its name for being part of the C&N line that ran the 400 miles from Chicago to Minneapolis in 400 minutes.
Juneau County Omaha Trail
If you have time and want to go for the trail trifecta over a couple of days or just want a shorter ride, try the Juneau County Omaha Trail. Heading north from Elroy up to Camp Douglas, this short 12.5-mile trail is peaceful and lightly used compared to its cousins. A short, 875-foot tunnel and the easy length make this a great option for families with small kids or those with less time.
All three trails require passes for those over 16. The cost is $5 for a daily and $25 for an annual. Consider it money well spent for the experiences and for the upkeep of these and other treasures in the state bike trail system.
Finally, when you get back to your digs in Mauston, get changed into your swim gear and head on over to the beach at nearby Castle Rock State Park to cool off. For additional cooling off, I recommend an adult beverage at The Dirty Turtle, a classic Wisconsin waterfront bar and grill on the shores of Castle Rock Lake.