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Traveling the 400 State Trail is a numbers game. The trail’s name refers to the old Chicago and North Western Railway’s “No. 400” passenger train that zoomed through here between Chicago and St. Paul—a distance of 400 miles accomplished in 400 minutes. Other numbers related to the trail might interest you: 22, the number of miles between trailheads in Elroy and Reedsburg; 10, the number of times you’ll cross the Baraboo River; 7, the miles of parallel horseback-riding trail; 3, the number of junctions with other trails.
The Chicago and North Western Railway started running trains here in 1873 after completing three tunnels on the Elroy-to-Sparta section. The railroad discontinued the line, and the state acquired it in 1988 and opened the trail in 1993. It’s the eastern link in the state’s Bike 4 Trails adventure that combines four state trails—the Great River, the La Crosse River, the Elroy-Sparta, and the 400—into a 100-plus-mile bicycle trek.
Beginning in the historic railroad hub of Elroy, you’ll start a couple of blocks from the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and a mile south of the Omaha Trail, which runs 12.5 miles north to Camp Douglas.
In the first mile heading south, you’ll cross the first of nearly a dozen bridges or trestles spanning the Baraboo River. The valley provides a level ride to Reedsburg, but you’ll readily see hilltops, cliffs, and dramatic rock formations common to the so-called Driftless Area that wasn’t scraped flat by Ice Age glaciers.
You’ll arrive at a park and restrooms in Union Center in 4 miles, followed by a junction with the Hillsboro State Trail (it goes 4.1 miles west to Hillsboro). Another 3 miles puts you in Wonewoc, a narrow part of the valley that’s a tourist destination for trail pedalers as well as river paddlers. Wonewoc has two campgrounds (Baker’s Field is on the trail) and numerous restaurants, taverns, and grocery stores.
The horseback-riding trail runs from here to La Valle. The old railroad grade passes through woodlots and wetlands in this section where you might spy deer, raccoons, and skunks, as well as a variety of songbirds and waterfowl. Two public recreation areas, Hemlock-Sauk County Park and Dutch Hollow Lake, offer waterside recreation close to the trail 5.4 miles past Wonewoc on Dutch Hollow Road.
You’ll find more refreshments in La Valle. About 2 miles past the La Valle business district, County Road V takes you on a 1-mile side trip to Lake Redstone, a reservoir nestled in the hills.
About 7.7 miles past La Valle, you’ll arrive in Reedsburg. While its early history involved growing hops and brewing beer, now it’s the home to the annual 10-day Fermentation Fest that celebrates all things fermented. The trail ends at a restored railroad depot that serves as an information center. By far the trail’s largest town, there are antiques shops and a selection of restaurants, as well as bed-and-breakfasts and a campground.
NOTE: A State Trail Pass ($25 annually/$5 daily) is required for bicyclists and horseback riders ages 16 and older. Snowmobilers must display either a Wisconsin registration or a snowmobile State Trail Pass. For information, go to dnr.wi.gov /topic/parks/trailpass.html.
To reach the northern trailhead in Elroy, about 0.3 mile south of the trail’s start point, from I-90/94, take Exit 69 toward Mauston on WI 82/Gateway Ave., heading west. In 0.6 mile, bear left on WI 82/N. Union St. to head south across the Lemonweir River. In 0.2 mile, turn right on E. State St., go 0.3 mile (4 blocks), and turn left to head south on WI 82/Division St. In 0.6 mile, bear right around the traffic circle, and take the first right to continue east on WI 82/Grayside Ave. In 10.5 miles, turn left to continue south on WI 82. In 1.6 miles, turn left onto Franklin St. in Elroy. Take the first left into the parking lot, located behind the Elroy Commons Trail Shop on Railroad St. The endpoint is about 0.3 mile north along the trail.
To reach the southern trailhead in Reedsburg from I-90, take Exit 89 for WI 23 toward Lake Delton/Reedsburg, heading south. In 0.1 mile, turn right onto County Road P, and head west 4.9 miles. At the T, turn left onto County Road H, and follow for 6.8 miles. In Reedsburg, turn right onto Main St., and go a little more than 1.1 miles. Turn left onto S. Walnut St., and go 0.2 mile. The parking lot is to the left, just before South Ave. and behind the Reedsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
If you want decent speed, choose to route from reedsburg to Elroy. Otherwise you spend your time with pedalling all the time. There are no steeps on the trail but slightly goes up. It is kind of non-scenic version of Elroy-Sparta trail. Plus not recommended in rainy weather. Not Asphalt
I set out on this trail expecting to go six miles to Lake Redstone and then come back, as the text suggests. But there are NO SIGNS for Lake Redstone on the trail and NO WAY TO GET TO IT via bike trails. I had gone more than two miles past it before I realized this.
As far I can tell, the only way to get to Lake Redstone is to turn off on Highway V, which has no bike lanes and looks very dangerous for bikers. I decided not to bother with it.
Otherwise, the trail is not bad. Very flat and the cross streets are few and far between, except for a few close together right at the beginning.
I would rate the 400 trail as the best of the (4) connecting trails for the natural beauty and ease of ride. I rode the 4 trails on a 3 wheel recumbent which is probably not the best choice for these trails as some have killer potholes due to ground squirrels digging them up. The 400 has abundant wildlife such as Geese, Deer, ducks, squirrels, turtles, snakes and a variety of birds. The bluffs and marshlands are picture worthy scenery.
I rode this trail in mid October as the first part of the four linked trails between Reedsberg and Marshland.
The scenery was good, the trail conditions ok, the crowds nonexistent, and the fall colors, although not spectacular this year, were still very nice.
I recommend Hillsboro for an overnight stop. It is only 4 miles off the 400 trail on a side trail so no streets or traffic. The Hotel Hillsboro was bike friendly.
We did get some prevailing headwind, so you could consider riding the other direction (Marshland to Reedsberg) in the fall.
I just rode the 400 several times this week. I started in Hillsboro and rode the trail north to the Omaha Trail one day and then south to Reedsburg the next. The trail is taken well care of and is flat. Other than being 22 miles long, there is nothing demanding about the ride. I rode early and saw no one before 9am on the path. There are a few nice views of the river but for the most part it is a tree lined path without a lot to look at. Don't get me wrong, I like the path but it doesn't change much over the 44 miles if you ride from one end to another. The Reedsburg trail end was a bit disappointing. The train depot was closed so no bathrooms or water was available. Also don't expect much in the way of signs - they just don't exist or I just missed them. There was some roadway construction at both ends. The other end is in Elroy and again the store there was closed. They did however have water and an open bathroom. The 400 is one of six paths in the area (counting the Hillsboro as a path). I rode five of the six in three days but bad weather stopped me from riding the last one. I chose a 29er for my rides which is overkill but I am glad I did just for the comfort and the few pot holes I ended up hitting. A good cyclocross bike or hybrid would be fine. The path can be ridden on a road bike but it would not be as enjoyable. There are patches of sand that can be annoying if you hit them at speed. For some reason, someone had the idea to put sand in place of the path when it crossed a road. If this was done to slow people down before crossing a roadway - it was real dumb. Overall it was a fine path to take. If your in the area hit all six, it will make you rides / trip more enjoyable.
We went out this past Saturday. We rode from Reedsburg to LaValle with 6 kids under 16. The trail & weather were beautiful. This was an easy ride for all in our group.
400 Trail is very well taken care of - we've rode several of the other trails in the area and 400 was in perfect condition!
Rode the 400 trail in July 2013. Started in Reedsburg and road to Elroy. Due to a lot of recent rain the trail was soft. We had taken road
bikes which made the ride a bit more difficult.
Should have taken my mountain bike. The wider tires would have made the ride more pleasant.
All in all it was a great ride and well worth the
1700 round trip.
I rode this trail last weekend. I was pleasantly surprised to find the trail in good shape. The ride from Reedsburg to Elroy was sprinkled with bike friendly towns and is mostly shaded. The trailhead in Reedsburg is a lovely old train depot, but is not the easiest to locate. Al in all, a great flat ride and one I would do again, especially in the fall, where I bet the colors are awesome!
I've biked this trail from Reedsburg to Union Center and then taken the extension to Hillsboro. I've also traversed the trail from Elroy to Reedsburg. This is a well-maintained, level trail that offers plenty of scenic beauty and periodic small town to get a cold drink, snack, or meal. As a side note, this August, I biked from Hillsboro to Wildcat Mountain State Park, a 13 mile trip on a black topped highway. The surface was smooth, the scenery beautiful, but the hills were tough--especially with a bike loaded with camping gear. I don't know if I would do it again!
I rode this trail a couple of days ago. From Reedsburg to Union Center. It is really nice. It is a rail trail so it is very level and straight as a gun shot. There was a lot of rain several days before I rode. The trail was dampish (a little slow under wheel)but not soggy anywhere. No standing puddles at all. The bridge planking is rough because of all the snowmobile use in the winter but not bad. There are great towns along the way like Elroy-Sparta before WalMart ruined Sparta. Lots of small local business all very welcoming all cyclists. I saw about 30 Blue Jays while riding.
After hanging out at the Wisconsin Dells Riverfest kayak races all morning, we decided to head over to Reedsburg to ride the 400 Bike Trail to LaValle and back(approx 16 miles). Usually, it's still too wet this time of year for comfortable riding, but it has been extremely dry lately, so we gave it a shot. Glad we did, it was great riding. Our old friends, a pair of nesting Eagles, were sitting on eggs in a rebuilt nest, and we found a crane nesting just 20 or so feet off the trail! We were careful not to stress her out. The first wildflowers were starting to rock out, but it's still too early for the Trilliums & such. The grocery store/butcher shop in LaValle has a nifty little ice cream shop for replenishing your energy for the trip back to Reedsburg.
I rode this 22 mile trail in August and October of 2008 with my scorpion Fx recumbent trike starting at the Commons in Elroy where you can also begin the Sparta-Elroy trail and the Omaha Trail to Camp Douglas. This trail is composed of crushed limestone, and easy to ride with it's perfectly flat surface. I enjoyed the views of the distant bluffs, and the x-crossing of the Baraboo River over the old wooden plank bridges. The bridge to the South of Wonewac was still out because of torrential rains we had here in early June, so this was as far as I was able to ride. It was about 12 miles from the commons to the washed out bridge. Just after crossing Hwy. 33 in Union Center you'll get to the branch of the 4 mile Hillsboro Trail which parallels Branch Creek through mostly woods, and some open meadows. Thnis trail is worth the extra miles.
I would highly recommend this trail for it's scenic beauty, and easy ride.
We rode this trail on Sept 23rd during a period of great weather. The trail is very flat and very well maintained. Part of the trail was and is closed due to some bridge damage caused by some recent flooding. The trail goes through the Baraboo river valley and is covered with a tree canopy about 50% of the time. There were all types of birds along the the trail. For us the highlight was a beautiful large bald eagle only 50-100 feet off the trail in an old snag. It sat there long enough for us to get numerous shots at it, with our camera of course. There are places to eat, rst areas, and water along the trail. Go ride this trail for sure, BUT call ahead for details of the short trail closure.
"Started ride in Reedsburg at 1pm on a hot Friday afternoon
in July 05. Due to weekday at times went for 2-3 miles
without seeing anyone. The trail was packed well and easy
riding. All the towns along the way was neat and plenty
of rest stops with bathrooms and water. Biked all the way
to Elroy. The commons there had a store where you could buy water, sodas, snacks,ice cream bars ect. On the ride back I stopped in La Valle and had a burger and soda at the resturant along the trail. Total ride was 44 miles round trip with a
pedal time of 3hours 20min. Back to Reedsburg at 5:15pm. The scenery on this trail is great. This trail is well
worth the ride.
"Our ride report, including photos, can be found at www.great-trails.com/state.shtml"
"The 400 trail has a little more character than the Omaha Trail(although the Omaha has a tunnel). There are quite a few small towns along the trail, so you really can carry the minimum in supplies. Also the grades are not demanding at all."
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