If you can't make it to Switzerland do the next best thing: take the Sugar River State Trail to "America's Little Switzerland"New Glarus, Wisconsin. Settled in 1845 by a small tribe of Swiss pioneers, New Glarus today is a living monument to all things Swiss. Chalet-style buildings line the streets, restaurants dish up savory Swiss fare and a chorus of annual celebrations include Polkafest, the Heidi Festival and Volksfest, which marks the Swiss independence day.
Leaving the accordions and bellowing alphorns behind, hop on the scenic Sugar River State Trail at the restored railroad depot in New Glarus. The 23-mile rail-trail crosses the Little Sugar and the Sugar rivers, and travels gently rolling hills and meadows through the farming communities of Monticello, Albany and Brodhead in the southeast. Less than 0.5 mile into the ride you cross State Route 69. From here, the trail follows the course of the Little Sugar River. Near mile 6, approaching Monticello, you arrive at a brightly painted railroad depot (though it is not open to the public).
Between Monticello and Albany there are five stream crossings with views of scenic farmland. At mile 14, the trail crosses the Sugar River on a long, curving bridge that provides spectacular views of lowlands of cattails and reeds, and woods of oak, hickory, walnut, cherry and willow. In June or July you will get an added treat in the wild raspberries found sporadically along the trail. At mile 21 the trail crosses Norwegian Creek on a replica covered bridge built in 1984 from wood supplied by the DNR from demolished old barns and other buildings in the state.
Arriving in the small farming community of Brodhead, named after Edward Brodhead, who was chief engineer of the Milwaukee and Minnesota Railroad, you can hop off your bike and take in the sights. Be sure to visit the Depot Museum, open in the summer, which chronicles the trail's Milwaukee Road railroad days; and the Half Way Tree, located south of the town, designated by Native Americans as the halfway point between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
Cyclists over 16 years of age much have a state trail pass
to use this trail. (Note: inline skaters over 16 years old must also have a pass but there is only 1 mile of paved trail.)
To access the northern end in New Glarus, from just west of the intersection of State Routes 69 and 39 (6thAvenue), head north on Railroad Street 1.5 blocks to the depot on your right.
To access the south end in Brodhead, park at Exchange Street and W. 3rd Street, two blocks west of State Route 11 (Center Avenue). Head north on 3rd Street to the trailhead at Decatur Road.
Parking and access are also available in Monticello and Albany.