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The Northwestern Trail begins near the public library in downtown Ripon, a charming small town in eastern Wisconsin. History buffs may want to head a few blocks south from this endpoint to explore the Little White Schoolhouse (303 Blackburn Street), built in 1853, that some consider to be the birthplace of the Republican Party.
From the library, the trail heads northwest for nearly 3 miles to the western county line along a former Chicago and North Western Railroad right-of-way. The eastern end is gravel, which becomes hard-packed dirt and grass as you travel west. It's fairly level and well maintained year round, making the trail suitable for walkers, bikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers.
Along the way, keep a lookout for the many animals that call the surrounding wetlands, woodlands and fields home, including deer, foxes, rabbits, chipmunks, gophers and turkeys. And you can stop for lunch at Eagle Park, located near the intersection of Pearl and Eagle Streets on the trail's eastern end; the park offers picnic tables, benches and play equipment.
A parking lot is available at the eastern end of the trail at the Ripon Public Library (120 Jefferson Street).
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