Cheese Country Recreation Trail


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Cheese Country Recreation Trail Facts

States: Wisconsin
Counties: Dodge, Green, Iowa, Lafayette
Length: 47 miles
Trail end points: W 21st St & Fourth Ave W (Monroe) and Commerce St & Old Darlington Rd (Mineral Point)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017414

Cheese Country Recreation Trail Description

If you’re looking for an invigorating motorized-trail experience, the Cheese Country Recreation Trail (aka the Tri-County Trail) won’t disappoint. If you’re on foot, hoof, or self-propelled two wheels, however, the trail is a challenge. ATVers, trail bikers, and snowmobile riders primarily use the trail, leaving some areas in deep mud or dust while other sections are rutted or deeply graveled. Motorized traffic is heaviest on weekends. Be warned that some sections of the trail can even be difficult for bikes to navigate.

The 47-mile trail meanders through the heart of southwest Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, noted for its rolling hills and rocky outcroppings left untouched by glaciers. It follows the corridor of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which stopped using it in 1980. In addition to the graded route between Monroe and Mineral Point, the railroad left behind dozens of bridges, including the 440-foot Browntown trestle, whose stone supports date to the 1880s, as it followed the Pecatonica River drainage.

Beginning in Monroe just a few blocks west of the Badger State Trail, the Cheese Country Recreation Trail’s southern terminus, you’ll find yourself in a town that calls itself the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA.” The trailhead is just 0.2 mile from the Badger State Trail and 0.7 mile from the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, both east on 21st Street.

Heading west from Monroe, you’ll pass the lakes of the Cadiz Springs State Recreation Area and in 7.4 miles arrive in Browntown. Rolling within sight of SR 11, you’ll notice the countryside is primarily cropland and dairy farms.

The trail veers away from the highway just past South Wayne, 4.9 miles from Browntown, and in 9.3 miles arrives in the old mining town of Gratiot, a good place for a break at the local restaurants and shops. From here, the trail continues northwest along stretches of farmland and wooded ridges for 10 miles to Darlington. You’ll pass through the historic downtown on city streets, giving you an opportunity to explore or to stop for refreshments or supplies.

Another 5.8 miles on the trail brings you to Calamine. You’ll pass a junction for the Pecatonica State Trail, another ATV/snowmobile trail that rolls 10 miles west to Belmont. From Calamine, the Cheese Country Recreation Trail heads north 9.3 miles to the northern trailhead in Mineral Point at the old Railroad Depot Museum, built in 1856 and the oldest in the state. Mineral Point, a historic mining village, is rich with artists’ studios and galleries, restored homes, restaurants, and bed-and-breakfasts.

NOTE: Cheese Country Recreation Trail stickers are required for motorcycles, mopeds, golf carts, and dirt bikes, as well as bicyclists and horseback riders ages 18 and older. ATVs and UTVs are not required to have a Cheese Country sticker, although they do need an in-state DNR registration sticker. For information, go to

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the Monroe trailhead from I-39/I-90, take Exit 142A onto US 12/US 14/US 18/Beltline Hwy., heading west. In 8 miles, take Exit 258 and, in 0.7 mile, turn left (south) to continue on US 18. Go 9.6 miles on US 18, and take Exit 77 to WI 69 toward Monroe, heading south. Go 8.9 miles, and turn right onto WI 69/WI 92/W. Main St. in Belleville, heading west. In 3.6 miles, bear left at the Y to continue south on WI 69. In 19.3 miles, bear right (west) at the exit for SR 11 W./SR 81 W./WI 69 S. toward Dubuque. In 0.3 mile, bear right at the exit for WI 81 W./WI 69 S. toward Argyle and Freeport. In another 0.3 mile, turn right (north) onto WI 81 and, in 0.4 mile, make a U-turn south onto WI 81/WI 69/Seventh Ave. In 1.9 miles, turn right onto W. 21st St. in Monroe. The trailhead is 0.7 mile ahead on the right.

To reach the Mineral Point trailhead, follow the directions above through the second sentence. Follow US 18/US 151 west-southwest for 43.9 miles. Take Exit 40 onto SR 23 toward Mineral Point, go 1.5 miles, and turn left onto Commerce St. Go 0.8 mile, turn left onto Old Darlington Road, and turn left immediately into parking for the Mineral Point trailhead.

Cheese Country Recreation Trail Reviews

Beautiful countryside

I rode just part this trail today on my electric fat tired bike (Monroe to South Wayne and back). Most of the trail is gravel/crushed limestone. I’m afraid if I didn’t have the fat tires it could have very difficult. It was a little rough also. Overall it was a beautiful ride, I just had to be very careful. It was a weekday and I didn’t see anyone else.

Great of ATV's - Not for Walking or Biking

Recently rode this trail with my hardtail MTB. Not a pleasant ride with the ATV riders zipping by at high speed. There are several spots that are chewed up from ATV's and are not bike friendly.

Good ride with the right bike.

If you ride on skinny high pressure tires and wear a lot of lycra, this trail may not be for you as other reviews indicate. However if you ride a mountain bike with good suspension and are reasonably fit, (I'm 63) it's a nice ride. There are always one or two jerks on ATVs but the vast majority slow down and give a friendly wave as they go past. I recommend weekday travel.

Just rode this today and all the negative reviews are spot on.

Just rode this today and all the negative reviews are spot on.


This ride will just tear up your bike and your body.

This ride will just tear up your bike and your body.

This is basically an ATV ride. There is no reason for anyone on a bike to do this unless you like fixing flats and rewelding bike parts.

This is basically an ATV ride. There is no reason for anyone on a bike to do this unless you like fixing flats and rewelding bike parts.

Went 20+ miles without seeing a sole, great trails, little rough in spots. One washout we barely missed that would have put you deep into your seatbelts

Went 20+ miles without seeing a sole, great trails, little rough in spots. One washout we barely missed that would have put you deep into your seatbelts

Tough but doable

Date of ride: 09/20/2020 Bike: hybrid with 42mm tires The Cheese Country trail, as other reviews state, is not a relaxing ride. You have to work for every mile. The gravel is large and there are lots of soft patches. I rode on a weekend so there was quite a bit of ATV traffic. All of the riders were respectful and slowed down to pass, but they kicked up a lot of dust. The 47 miles from Mineral Point to Monroe took 6 hrs. The scenery is nice, but you won’t get to enjoy it much as you’ll be focusing on the trail. If you are looking for a pleasant cerusged limestone trail

Your gravel bike can handle it

Rode from Monroe to Mineral Point on a gravel bike loaded down with camping gear and it was just fine. It was a weekday; other traffic on trail was minimal. Some really pretty segments right along a gently-gurgling Pecatonica, other segments a slog, but that tends to be the case on any rail-trail. I did not experience any of the very uncomfortable conditions other bike travelers have reported - maybe a product of the weather, or it being a weekday, or the trail association doing a good job with upkeep. Either way, don't feel like a mountain bike or fat bike is necessary, and if you're concerned about ATV traffic go on a weekday.

Great trail

I was hesitant to drive this far (about 2 and a half hours since I live in marshfield area.) because I have been disappointed with all other ohm trails. Was a great ride for me and my dirtbike. No sand was great and I highly recommend it to all dirtbike riders of all skills.

Nice ride

If you are looking to take it easy and just go for a nice ride this is it. Smooth and simple. Very well maintained.

Definitely NOT for bicycles

This was a difficult trail for bike riding. I must say that ALL ATV riders we encountered were respectful. They all slowed down and gave us space. Won’t be doing this again unless with an ATV.

atv trail

we love the trail and we will be going this weekend

Easy ride

Easy ride from Monroe to Mineral Point. Weekends on trail are too busy. Plenty of places to get gas and/or supplies approx every 5-7 miles. DNR and Sheriff always on trail. Trail can have some serious jagged rocks so bring repair kit or spare. Watch out for erosion some serious wash outs in places.
Most of the small towns are very welcoming to atv/utv except Mineral Point (most Mineral Point businesses only take cash) experienced rude and unwelcoming town folk / businesses and an atv route that does not let you drive or park in the business area. You have to park on the atv route which runs on the outskirts of town then just stops at a gas park blocks away and walk in. Most businesses closed during the week in Mineral Point..think they would want, need and welcome the revenue...guess they don't. Bring cash if you decide to visit. Check out Leftys and Ponchos in Monroe great food and people!

Great Trail

Went on it the first time with atv's and my young son. Loved it. Both of us cant wait to go again. Easy park and ride in Monroe and loved the animals we encountered on the way. We also r two hours away and will go over and over again.

Nice trail

Spent a nice quite five days in the area. Also enjoyed good food, shopping, what a beautiful area.

Great scenic family ridin

We've been coming n riding the Cheese Country Trail Co Trail since 1993 when our children were 1 1/2 and 3yrs old. It's a wonderful trail for family riding and a great place to teach young ones n new riders "the rules n ways" of the trail. We enjoy camping n 4wheelin A LOT! It's level, well groomed and has many neat features such as bridges, wooded "tree tunnels/ overgrowth, great scenery including farms, rocky bluffs, fields, rivers n streams. There's lots of wildlife to see too.
Our kids grew up ridin this trail n many others in Wisconsin n Iowa. They're 23 n 25 now and still love coming back as do we.
¿...the Turnis Family, Cascade, IA

Good family fun

I ride the trail at least once a year. I come from about 2 hours away! I enjoy bringing family and friends and have never had any problems. We bring our atvs and utvs and enjoy. Yes it could be more challenging and maybe have a bit less dust but all in all good fun for all. We personally have never had problems with any other riders or people up there. I suggest giving it a try!!

Great for Horseback riding during the week!

Since I live next to the trail and have horses, I have ridden this trail for over 17 years. Most four wheeler and all other motorized vehicles are very generous and are cautious when encountering horses. Trust me when I say it is better to come slowly on your side of the trail than to come to a stop and expect my horses to pass the machine. The horses are used to traffic, and noises, but do not like to pass vehicles that may start in any direction. Please keep coming slowly, and do not wave. Smile and nod but waving at an animal while coming towards them can be very threatening. One other word of advice would be that joggers should be encouraged to stop jogging when coming up to a horse. I have had many near mishaps due to someone running towards my horse than motorized vehicles, and bicyclists are just as bad as they have no engines. Hope this helps others enjoying this wonderful trail.

Needs grading more often

Seems like they don't spend much time with the up keep on the trail, it's extremely rough, full of ruts, washouts and we had to move several trees off the trail. But grading is a must it's horrible and because of that we won't be using that trail again.

OK for biking

I am reading a lot of bad reviews of this trail for biking and need to chime in.

I recently rode the entire length of it from Monroe to Mineral Point and found it to be fine. (I expected much worse). Lots of ATV's but everyone of them slowed down when passing and most of them gave a friendly wave. Many parts of the trail are loose gravel but I had no problems going through those sections with my mountain bike. There were other sections that are in much better shape than the DNR controlled trails in Wisconsin.

Because of the rough sections and ATV traffic, I would not recommend it for family biking. But if you are looking for a good challenge and workout, give it a try.

Not for Bicycles

I ride a dual sport motorcycle and thought that I would give this trail a shot. I also have a hybrid and road bike in the garage. For a bicycle, this is a poor trail,even for mountain bikes. For a dual sport motorcycle, this is a boring trail. I'm not sure how anyone on an ATV would want to ride this trail more than once. It is flat and the speed limit is 30MPH. I can't even get out of 2nd gear at 30MPH. I ride it once a year to remind myself why I only ride it once a year. Right now it is April and the trail is still closed to all motorized traffic waiting for some spring thaw. So for six months out of the year, this trail is closed to me and I am okay with that as I don't plan on supporting it this year.

not much excitement

If you want a trail that is like a driveway then this is the place to go. The trail itself was flat, no hills or even humps. It was well maintained. It was pretty boring to us. It would be a great place to take a person new to ATV'ing to get use to their equipment. It is 40 some miles long...but if you go at a speed of 30 mph you can get it done in no time....then what? It's hard to see any scenery because of all the trees on both sides of the trail. Guess you could say we were disappointed.

Great Trail!

Yes, we are ATV riders. We are respectful of walkers, pedal bikers, other ATV RIDERS. This trail is full of great scenic views. It offers many stops to rest and chat. We enjoy going down to Belmont to our favorite restaurant-Sports Page. We are from the area and do see some that do not slow down and some that abuse rental ATVs. But why the negativity to our trials from the pedal bikers. This is our one trail down this way in Southern Wisconsin. We are not allowed to go on Military Ridge, Capital Trail, roads etc. When driving in cars and there are 3 bikes across the road on the other side of the hill do we have a place to complain? I live in one of the busiest cities that have very arrogant dumb *** racing bikers who love to hog the whole road and not obey traffic signs. Well on the ATV we do! Yes there are some on both sides of the fence that do stupid things, Shame on you!

Don't Bother

I was in the area, and thought I'd give this trail one more try. After a couple hundred yards, I turned around and got on the highway. The Cheese Country Trail is unsuitable for road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers, and hybrids. You might have some success with a fat tire sand bike, but other than that, watch out. The surface is loose sand, gravel, and stones, and it's pocked with ATV divots.

Not a trail for bicycles

This trail is not suitable for bikes. The crushed gravel is too large and deep to ride with a bike. The ATV riders were very courteous to us on the trail but the trail surface is just not ride-able for any length of time on a bike.

I really enjoy riding this trail. Beautiful scenery, fun trails, the occasional mud pit. Good times! Plenty of stops along the way for restaurants, shops, gas stations, etc. Definitely not a disappointing trail!

Mountain bike at best. Way to rough and soft for road or even hybrid tires. The ATV riders I encountered were very polite and gave me plenty of room.

As a Avid Hiker, Mt. Biker, Dirt Bike Rider ans ATV Enthusiast , It annoys me to no end how certain people think an Activity should be ONLY what they think it Should be, I Do not like certain things but i would not think of Demeaning other peoples Activity like many of the Reviews here about ATV's. or try to get them removed just because they annoy me. Most Trials are not Motorized Friendly, but that is not good enough for some people.Please, Go to other places where activities will not bother you instead of Negative Comments, please . We all like to go on the Trails so lets get along and ENJOY!!.

This is not a bike trail

Do not ride this trail if you are expecting a nice roadway of crushed limeston (e.g., on the Badger Trail). This is a lose gravel trail meant for 4-wheelers.

Sorry I posted twice but meant to give 5 stars.

I rode the trail from Gratiott to mineral point and back in a Kawasaki Mule on a Saturday in early May. Was not to crowded but it was early in the year. No problems with ATVs and even though my Kawasaki is governed at 25 mph not one person passed me in the four hours we were on the trail. Had a great burger in darlington overall liked the trail and plan on heading back soon.

Nice trail

I rode the trail from Gratiott to mineral point and back in a Kawasaki Mule on a Saturday in early May. Was not to crowded but it was early in the year. No problems with ATVs and even though my Kawasaki is governed at 25 mph not one person passed me in the four hours we were on the trail. Had a great burger in darlington overall liked the trail and plan on heading back soon.

Four-wheeler hell

On the same day a few years ago, I rode both the Pecatonica and he Cheese Country trails, both "multi-use," in that they both seem to be favored by crazy, speeding, sometimes drunken drivers in their obnoxious four-wheelers. These clowns apparently think nothing of churning up the trail itself (so that a lowly bicycle has to slog through inches of pulverized gravel to a depth of several inches in many places), but also of bullying bikers off the the trail and irresponsibly leaving the trail in their machines and wreaking havoc in the surrounding natural areas. I will never return to either of these two trails because they have been co-opted by the local four-wheeler gangs.

Multi use trails from a perspective of all around use.

I was sad to see the multitude of negitive comments concerning the ATV usage on the Tri-County trail (or any other legal trail for that matter.) I've been utilizing this trail for over 25 years for everything from bicycling, X-C skiing, as well as for motor sports with motorcycles, snowmobiles, and atvs. I believe this is one of the nicest trails dedicated as a shared trail in the midwest since motorized vehicles we no longer permitted in the forest preserves. We will always have multiple opinions concerning the use of motorized vs non on trails. The motor sports clubs place a great deal of time and well as club money into assuring the trails are safe for anyone who choses to utilize them. Many of the volunteers that utilize the trails for motor sports also us the trails for non motorized sports as well.
Without the support of these clubs and the generous volunteers the trails would be in far worse shape for bicycles, running, and all other non-motorized activities.
As far as the "smelly fumes" there has been a great deal of time and money spent by the manufactures to make them more environmentally responsible. I'm also fully aware that there are people who don't follow the rules of the trail and I'm ecstatic to see that those people have been fined as well as banned from the trails in many cases.
The trails are for all to use as long as they're respected as well as those others on the trails.

No Respect

not sure why so many are giving salty reviews because of off road (atv's,motorcycles,ect..)
yes weekends can get alittle busy, but Its prob because some work all week and like to ride
and relieve alittle stress on their day off! There are plenty of non-ATV trails for hikers,mountain
bikers, enjoy! So lets keep the dirty looks ,to yourself and try to
respect eachother. Offroaders have to respect not being able to ride on most trails so I find
it a little ridiculous when getting (bad reviews) for ride'n on the few trails were allowed too! You
dont see off-roaders whinning about having to lookout for hikers,ect.. Shouldnt be labled a mixed
trail, yea right?! Im sure hikers, bikers would respect that!

Motorized Recreation, indeed!

Don't use this trail unless you're 4 wheeling, because the surface isn't ridable with a bicycle, and not enjoyable at all because of the dust and gas fumes, especially on weekends. The other posts are right on. This shouldn't be categorized as a multi use trail.

For ATVs Only

"I agree with the other reviewers. This was once a nice scenic trail until the ATVs beat it to tears. If you like dust, mud, rusts, stench, noise and flying stones, you'll love this trail."

Not on Weekends

"This multi-use trail is primarly used by ATVs and weekends are very busy. I suggest you avoid Saturdays and Sundays unless you are motorized. The ride from the Monroe trailhead west to the Cadiz Springs Recreation Area near Browntown is a nice, easy ride but watch for ruts and loose surfaces on the trail."

Poor for biking

"I rode this trail on June 20, 2003, from Gratiot to Mineral Point and back. For forty miles I was the only person on bike while 140 others were using ATVs. The bridges have gaps between planks that can catch bike tires. The ATV's fishtailing has loosened packed gravel on 2/3 of trail.

Take the mixed use bicycle sign down before someone gets hurt. I will never ride this trail again."

ATV trail

"This trail is primarily used for ATVs so while its maintained by their club, it also gets ripped up a bit.
The first time I rode here was after a rain storm and the trail was quite beaten and muddy. I rode again this past summer and it was in much better shape. If starting in Mineral Point keep in mind that its a downhill ride south. My last 62 mile ride was a little difficult for those last 10 miles back uphill.
Mineral Point is an excellent place to start as there is a brewery/bed&breakfast at the trailhead. Theres nothing like ending a ride with a good microbrew.
Theres plenty of wildlife along the trail. Large turtles, deer, eagles, turkeys, frogs, and (not so wild) cows are frequent sites."

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