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The paved New Berlin Recreation Trail runs straight as an east–west compass bearing for 7 miles through the western Milwaukee suburbs, from New Berlin to Waukesha. While it is void of trestles, tunnels, and trees as it passes beneath the power lines of We Energies, many residents find it a fast and convenient commuter route, with a few distractions along the way.
This rail-with-trail follows the former interurban railway route of the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, which started running trains and providing electricity in the 1890s. Waukesha, New Berlin, and West Allis were sleepy outposts at the time, but a critical turning point came in 1892 when Wisconsin chose West Allis as the official location of the annual state fair. The electric railway launched trolley service toward the west in 1898, and the communities began to thrive. Railway business declined, however, as car and truck use expanded in the 20th century. The Waukesha line, taken over by the Milwaukee Rapid Transit and Speedrail Co., was shut down in 1951, leaving only the utility corridor.
The New Berlin Recreation Trail begins in the east at the Waukesha–Milwaukee county line on South 124th Street. Here, it connects in Greenfield Park with the Oak Leaf Trail and West Allis Cross Town Connector Trail. Two miles north is the Hank Aaron State Trail, which runs nearly all the way into downtown Milwaukee. In the west, the trail ends within 2 miles of both the Fox River State Trail and the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, which travels cross-country to within 6 miles of Madison’s bike path network.
Beginning at the 282-acre Greenfield Park, you’ll head west on a pedestrian bridge over South 124th Street and enter Waukesha County and the city of New Berlin. Railroad tracks run alongside the trail on the wide right-of-way, and trees screen leafy, established neighborhoods.
After 1.2 miles, you’ll pass the entrance to the shady Gatewood Park, and at 2.4 miles you’ll find Buena Park, which has restrooms. A bike shop sits at the corner of Calhoun Road at mile 3, with a couple of cafés nearby. The electric railway stopped at the Calhoun crossroads in the old days, and the Pabst Farms grew hops in a nearby field.
The trail takes on a more rural character as you begin a 3-mile stretch without any street crossings until Springdale Road. Two miles later, you’re waiting at the unsignaled crossing of six-lane Les Paul Parkway, named for the famous guitar player and designer. Waukesha has its share of restaurants, brewpubs, and a Saturday farmers market that make it a close-by getaway from Milwaukee via the trail.
To reach parking for the eastern endpoint from I-94, take Exit 301A south toward S. Moorland Road. Go 0.4 mile, and turn left onto SR 59/W. Greenfield Ave., heading east. After 2 miles, turn right onto S. 124th St. Go 0.6 mile, and turn left into Greenfield Park on Park Dr. To reach the New Berlin Recreation Trail, take a small trail north from the parking lot to the West Allis Cross Town Connector, and turn left. The New Berlin Recreation Trail is 0.2 mile ahead.
To reach parking near the western endpoint in Waukesha from I-94, take Exit 294, and head south onto County Road J/Pewaukee Road. Go 2.4 miles—Pewaukee Road becomes E. North St.—and turn left onto NW Barstow St. Go 0.3 mile, crossing the Fox River, and turn left onto W. Main St.; then, in 0.1 mile, turn right onto N. East Ave. Go 1 block, and turn left onto Arcadian Ave. Go 2 miles—Arcadian Ave. joins WI 59—and turn right onto Springdale Road. In 0.3 mile, look for parking on the left. The trail ends 1 mile west of here.
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