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This 98-mile, "interstate" trail crosses into Minnesota and then back again into Wisconsin on its way from St. Croix Falls to its connection with the Saunders State Trail just south of Superior. In Wisconsin the trail is maintained and managed by Polk, Burnett, and Douglas counties. The Minnesota DNR manages the section of the Gandy Dancer trail in Minnesota.
Built on a former railroad corridor, the trail is named for the work crews who laid the railroad tracks. The crews used tools made by the Gandy Tool Company of Chicago. The crews were known to work by keeping their voices and the movement of their feet and tools in harmony. This manner of work led the crews to become known as "Gandy Dancers."
The Gandy Dancer State Trail is divided into a northern segment and a southern segment. Trail uses for the two segments are also divided. Most of the year the southern segment allows only non-motorized recreation on the trail, while the northern segment offers motorized recreation year-round.
This northern segment begins on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River. The trail runs for 32 miles in Minnesota and then crosses back into Douglas County for 19 miles. All-terrain vehicle (ATV) are permitted year-round on this segment. ATVs must display valid registration in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Visitors from Minnesota will need a non-resident ATV trail pass to ride the Wisconsin portion in Douglas County. Walking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling are also permitted on the northern segment. Bicyclists and cross-country skiers do not need trail passes on this segment.
Sections of the trail in Douglas County are typically closed each spring because of the soft trail base.
Parking is available at a several locations along the trail. Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
I have been up there quite a few times parking in the area just off the trail in Danbury, WI. The area just north across the bridge has a few trails that wander around in the area and in a few miles, you go through Marksville, MN. The trails and forest are full of cabins and camping/hunting shacks then the farther north you get it's mostly flat and new growth forest. While not challenging to ride, it's a nice area to go when you get a new machine. The few people I have met were really friendly and seemed to be fine with the utv's going through.
The trail is not maintained at all and only usable by ATV's. A total bust.
The trail north from Danbury is an ATV trail not suitable for road bikes. However, we chanced upon a group walking south and they advised us to hike to the bridge. We were glad we did as the view overlooking the St Croix River is beautiful!
We were a bit disappointed in this trail. We started at the south end, which meant a 2-mile climb out of the river valley. This part was scenic, but grueling. After that, it was flat and rather dull, running through farmland. After the first 2 miles the asphalt gives way to crushed rock (like most Wisconsin trails). It was not well-maintained, at least when we were there. Crushed rock is okay, but not when it is full of ruts from tractor wheels. There were also some puddles and lots of small branches down from a recent storm.
On the plus side, the small towns come along every 5 miles or so, offering a wide selection of taverns serving burgers and beer every day of the week (yay, Wisconsin!). We especially liked the “Glass Bar” in Centuria.
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