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Connecting the cities of Eau Claire and Cornell, this 37-mile multiuse trail meanders through a variety of landscapes and environments including lively cities and communities, farmlands, forests, open fields, rivers, and lakes. Portions of the route run closely along the Chippewa River and the eastern shore of Old Abe Lake—offering scenic views of the water and boating access. The Old Abe State Trail is part of a 76-mile trail system that also includes the Chippewa River State Trail, Duncan Creek Parkway Trail, and Red Cedar State Trail.
At its southern end in Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park, the rail-trail meets the Chippewa River State Trail on the east landing of a former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad trestle. The route passes riverfront homes and businesses on its way to Eau Claire’s northeast suburbs. Continuing northeast, the trail leaves the city and heads through the village of Lake Hallie towards Chippewa Falls.
As you head north through Chippewa Falls, the rail-trail passes farmland and industrial areas on a flat, easy route as it crosses or travels near the Chippewa River, also known as the Old Abe Flowage. About 6 miles north of the trailhead, you’ll encounter Jim Falls; here you’ll find food options near the post office on County Road S and parking at the Jim Falls–Anson Town Hall.
Farmland and woods greet you for much of the rest of your journey to the city of Cornell. Upon reaching Bridge Street, head west off the trail to the Cornell Visitors’ Center, where you can catch a nice sunset over the water and learn about the city’s paper milling past. You can also view the world’s only stationary pulpwood stacker—now listed in the National Register of Historic Places—as it would have looked in the early 1900s when the Cornell Wood Products Company set up shop (it ceased operations in 1972). Signs in Cornell invitingly point you to the quaint downtown area along Main Street, where you’ll find several restaurants, ice-cream shops, and pubs. Parking, restrooms, and water are available next door to the visitor center at Mill Yard Park.
Upon leaving Cornell, the trail continues north a short ways and then bends left to cross Park Road before heading northwest, briefly sharing space with the roadway. Park Road is a lightly traveled street that leads directly to Brunet Island State Park. The trail leaves the road after approximately 0.5 mile and then weaves its way another 0.5 mile through forestland to the Brunet Island State Park entrance. You can continue into the park and enjoy a circular trail system around the island to extend the trip.
NOTE: A State Trail Pass ($25 annually/$5 daily) is required for bicyclists, horseback riders, and in-line skaters ages 16 and older. Snowmobilers must display either Wisconsin registration or a snowmobile State Trail Pass. For information, go to dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/trailpass.html.
Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail, including at Brunet Island State Park, at the Jim Falls trailhead (13836 County Hwy S, Jim Falls), at the Anson Station Trailhead (9740 162nd St, Chippewa Falls), and at Phoenix Park (330 Riverfront Terrace, Eau Claire). Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
TrailLink is a free service provided by Rails-to-Trails conservancy
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