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The Old Abe State Trail rolls for 28 miles along a paved surface from Eau Claire to Cornell. A 3-mile gap (which will one day be closed) between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls splits the trail into 8.4-mile and 19.7-mile sections. When complete, the Old Abe will be part of a 70-plus-mile-long trail system that also includes the Chippewa River State Trail, Duncan Creek Parkway Trail, and Red Cedar State Trail.
The trail begins in Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park, where it meets the Chippewa River State Trail on the east landing of a former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad trestle. The trail passes riverfront homes and businesses on its way to Eau Claire’s northeast suburbs. After 8 miles, the trail ends at 40th Avenue. Venturing farther on busy highways with no shoulders or sidewalks is not recommended.
The trail resumes in Chippewa Falls at the intersection of Seymour Cray Sr. and Wissota Green Boulevards. As you head north, the 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.
In Eau Claire, metered parking is available in a municipal lot just east of the trailhead off N. Farwell St. From I-94, take Exit 70 onto northbound US 53. In 3.8 miles, take Exit 89 toward River Prairie Dr. Head west on River Prairie Dr. for 0.6 mile, and turn left onto Galloway St. just after crossing the Eau Claire River. In 1.8 miles, turn left onto N. Farwell St. The Railroad Street parking area is located midblock to your right.
To reach parking in Chippewa Falls near the southern endpoint from the intersection of Wissota Green Blvd. and WI 178/Seymour Cray Sr. Blvd. heading north, turn right onto Wissota Green Blvd., and take another right immediately onto Beach Dr. In 0.1 mile, turn right into the parking lot. Head west for 0.2 mile on the short spur trail in the back of the parking lot to the starting point for the Old Abe State Trail.
To access the northern trailhead at Brunet Island State Park from the four-way “bird foot” intersection of WI 64 E. and WI 27 in Cornell, southwest of Cornell Municipal Airport, head west on SR 27 S./SR 64 W., and go 2 miles. Turn right (north) onto Park Road, and follow for 1.2 miles. Turn right into the trailhead.
Let me start by saying, we have ridden most of the rail trails in Wisconsin. This is a 5 star trail for scenery and surface. An easy 42 mile round trip due to the perfect pavement and flat nature of the trail. Particularly scenic from Jim Falls to Cornell.
I have to knock it down a star for two glaring omissions (especially for the stellar Wisconsin trail system).
1. As mentioned in other comments, there is no trail head at the south end. No parking, signage or anything. Very odd. We parked in a credit union parking lot at Park Ave, which is ok only when the credit union is closed. After starting north, i spotted a small lot just north of the Chippewa river on the east side that could be used. Further north just over the Lake Wissota bridge is a nice lot with a pay station. The trouble is you've already gone over the way cool bridge before you get there. So if you start north from this point you never see the bridge.
2. There are no public restrooms/outhouses on the entire trail. Not one. For a trail of this length, that is not a good thing. In Jim Falls there is a gas station right on the trail that caters to bikers, but you feel guilty if you just use their bathroom and don't buy anything. In Cornell there are several restaurants and ice cream shops that have bathrooms.
So, beautiful trail, just have a strong bladder.
Road on 8/27/2016. Just beautiful along the river from Jim Falls to Cornell.
We started our ride in Cornell. We followed the signs for parking and ended up in a large park. There was plenty of parking, but we couldn't figure out where the trail was located. We finally realized that we had driven under it, and just had to cross the street. A sign would have been helpful. We didn't know which direction was which, so we just went to our left. We ended up riding through the state park. It was a beautiful ride, but I would skip that part if I went back. Cornell also has 2 ice cream places. I highly recommend the "Main Scoop."
The trail is paved and one of the flattest rail-to-trails I've been on. Going out of Cornell, you pass through wooded areas with an occasional glimpse of the river. The Chippewa Falls end is a little more open and goes through some farming communities. The parking lot on the Chippewa Falls end is in the middle of nowhere. If you're planning a lunch trip, I would ride from Chippewa Falls to Cornell and eat lunch in Cornell.
The 10 mile or so portion between where this trail starts near downtown Eau Claire and Lake Hallie/Chippewa Falls is pretty void of scenery. Don’t come here if you want to view nature, only if you want to view industrial parks and traffic. Oh, and if you want a sunburn because you can’t escape the sun the entire trail. There is pretty much zero shade and no trees to block the headwinds. I think the rest of the Old Abe trail is okay from Chippewa Falls on to Cornell but this particular portion is boring, stinky and poorly marked. It just kind of “ended” at a field and there were ZERO signs that the trail cut off in Lake Hallie and picked back up elsewhere. Not everyone knows where the trails are especially people from out of town. I might be a little biased because I really don’t care for urban trails but maybe it shouldn’t feel so much like biking across every Nebraska industrial park strung together in the baking sun. There are far superior trails in Wisconsin such as the Elroy/Sparta, the 400 and the Red Cedar that still manage to give great scenery and still pass through cities.
Fantastic 30 mile ride from Eau Claire to Cornell and Brunet Island State Park. The trail is paved the entire way and the asphalt is in great shape (May 2016). Several miles are right along the Chippewa River...gorgeous farmland, forest, and river to enjoy. Nice stopping point in Jim Falls.
Brunet Island State Park is also well worth the trip, though it is best explored on foot.
Absolutely beautiful, relatively secluded 10’ wide smooth-as-glass blacktop 21 mile long trail, resurfaced in 2012/13 (w/another couple feet of sloped hard packed gravel sides); heavily wooded (the tall trees create a tunnel-like experience) w/scattered wetland pockets, often along the Chippewa River (north of Jim Falls); more open farmland interspersed w/rural residential (south of Jim Falls). All road crossings are signed. We rode this trail twice, 2 days apart in mid May. Riding north out of Jim Falls, our timing was exceptionally lucky on the 1st day as we were greeted with the breathtaking sight of literally tens of thousands of trilliums in full bloom carpeting the sides of the trail, peppered w/unfurling ferns, wild geraniums, columbines, marsh marigolds & others – amazingly no invasive garlic mustard. Two days later 90% of the trilliums had disappeared among the rapidly towering ferns. The euphonious symphony of birds was magnificent, among those being grey catbirds, a scarlet tanager & a bluebird. A half dozen deer bounded across parts of the trail, & a lone fox watched us approach before vanishing into the lush growth; also lots of painted turtles, including some giants, sunning themselves.
The rest of this review will only appeal to those interested in distance between cross roads (in case of those ever possible emergencies for vehicle pickup of a broke down cycle; the area visitor centers’ trail maps are quite sparse in detail). The following will use Jim Falls’ parking as the zero mileage point; all numbers are in miles. BTW, Jim Falls has a café & a c-store near the parking area.
Going north, 1st cross road is 5.4 miles/K & TT - 5.6/K – 7.7/200th Ave (aka Lemay Rd., gravel) – 8.3/K – 10.5/Spring Dr. – 10.8/Main St. in Cornell (aka Hwy. 64), on-street parking, a Subway is nearby to the east on 3rd St., visitor center to the west (this section of trail going north is older but still in pretty good shape) – 11.1/short on-wrong-side-of-road section – 11.9/end of trail, park office for Burnett Island State Park (from here you can ride several miles on the on-road loop through the park, along w/campground loops).
Going south from Jim Falls: 1.1/Anson Park (on the west side of S, no real trail to the park but it is accessible if needed; pit toilets & hand-pumped water, parking) – 1.4/S – 2.0/122nd Ave. (aka Ewings Rd.) – 2.6/115th Ave. – 4.1/175th St. (aka McIlquham Rd. – cross sign says 175th “Ave.”, but I think it should be “St.”) – 4.5/105th Ave. – 5.6/intersection of S/O/Elks Club Rd. (aka 97th Ave.), trailhead, parking; Hwy. O (w/bicycle lanes) east leads to Lake Wissota State Park (about 2 miles) – 6.3/93rd Ave. – 7.1/S (from here trail skirts Hwy 178 into Chippewa Falls) – 8.4/traffic light @ I & 178 (aka Seymour Cray Blvd.); turn east here for a 1 ½ mile loop through Chippewa Co. Riverview Reserve, or keep on trail skirting 178 for about a mile to trail end at Hwy. J); turning west on I will be the 10+ mile Duncan Creek Trail loop around Chippewa Falls (off + on-road).
Unfortunately, I doubt the Old Abe Trail will remain as such. The nearby paved Chippewa River Trail is rapidly falling victim to lack of funding & maintenance because of our current shortsighted state government (when will they learn that in order to draw tourists, things must be maintained). This degradation is the reason we did not finish the Chippewa River Trail & went back to re-ride the Old Abe Trail.
The trail also has been resurfaced from the southernmost County S crossing (just north of Chippewa Falls to Jim Falls. Most of the trail now has very smooth asphalt. Only the northern most mile in Cornell has the original late 1990's ashphalt. If there was an award for most improved trail, I would give it to the Old Abe Trail.
We rode this trail on a warm & windy autumn day. Very pleasant, especially from Jim Falls north which has new, smooth asphalt. The scenery was splendid with all the colors & the river nearby.
The trail lacks a good "trail head" in Chippewa Falls, no parking or other amenities--just a sign. We parked at Irvine Park & rode 3-4 miles on city streets & trails. I suggest starting the ride in Jim Falls or Cornell where there are gas stations & restaurants for your needs & the trail is easy to find. No biffs anywhere on the trail that I could see.
A good stretch of this trail has recently been re-paved making it a very smooth ride. The trail has a good combination of tree cover and full/partial sun. I always begin this ride at St. Joes Hospital in Chippewa Falls and ride to Brunet Island State Park. This is a great place to take a break and fuel up. I then bike back to my starting point (total of 44.75 miles). Old Abe is not too challenging so even a novice rider can bike this trail without being too exhausted.
Contrary to the 2008 review, this trail must have been recently resurfaced and extended. It rode extremely nice. I have to rate it as the smoothest rail trails in the country. I rode over 25 miles so the DNR must have added 5-6 miles since TrailLink posted the description of the trail. Cornell, the north trailhead of the Old Abe trail, has the only existing pulpwood log stacker in the world.
We rode this trail round-trip on a cool but sunny fall day. The mileage from 97th St to the end of the off-road trail within Brunet Island State Park is 18 miles, not 19.5.
The 97th Av. trailhead has no facilities, but there is a porta-potty at the edge of the golf course just south of the parking area on the way to the Lake Wissota bridge.
There is a continuation of the trail south of the bridge heading into Chippewa Falls. We rode 2 miles then turned around as the trail just paralleled a highway.
The whole trail is a very easy ride on a road bike with narrow tires. The first 4 miles of trail north of 97th Av was very smooth but there is no view of the river until you reach the town of Anson park, just west of the trail. There are rest rooms and picnic tables here and 2 miles further north at Jim Falls. On the north side of Jim Falls begins 10 miles of trail with many stretches of rough pavement. I had to watch out for frost heaves and potholes (a few of them are marked with paint), but it was still no issue for the skinny tires and would not dissuade me from riding this trail again.
About a mile past the Cobban bridge you leave the river again. The pavement improves as you get to Cornell, which has a marked trailhead within site of the river again and a city park with visitor center and rest rooms (closed for the season). The trail continues with a short on-road segment on the shoulder of a lightly traveled road, then parallels that road into Brunet Island State Park, ending suddenly at the RV dump station.
I rode the trail on sunday July 18th and enjoyed it very much. It is a nice flat trail easy to ride. The sign in Jim Falls that says rough trail next 10 miles makes it sound like you would need a mountain bike to ride that part of the trail. That is totally untrue. The blacktop has a few bumps in it, but actually it is no rougher than riding an unpaved trail such as the Elroy Sparta. I actually had a helmet cam mounted on my handle bars and did not have any problem with vibration due to a rough trail. I would ride this trail again any time.
We were on vacation and drove from Illinois and I would do it again. I came from the Chicago area and you could make this just a weekend trip if you wanted to even do it in one day if you did not mind a long day.
Pretty typical midwestern trail - easy, pleasant enough, but kind of boring in the scenery department. The trail surface is paved, but not well-paved. How do you get a washboard surface on an asphalt trail?? We rode in a light rain, and noted that the drainage wasn't very good either - the water pooled on the trail instead of running off to the sides. The trail is very flat and is probably moderately shady on a sunny day. Bottom line: a pleasant enough ride if you're in the vicinity anyway, but not worth a long drive to get there.
We rode the southern end of the trail, Chippewa Falls to Jim Falls.
I began my journey from the city of Chippewa Falls on my Scorpion Fx Recumbent Trike on October 3rd.
The weather was perfect with sunny blue skies and a temperature around 65 degrees.
A good place to stay in Chippewa Falls, with reasonable rates, is the Lock Nest Motel right on Hwy 124 which is a main highway thru town.
To find the trailhead, turn East on First Street which is a few blocks south of the motel off of Hwy 124.
Follow First Street until it makes a slight jog in the road onto Hwy I. Follow I until it crosses Hwy 178. You'll immediately see the asphalt trail on your left beyond the stop & go lights. Go about another block, and park in the lot at the Wisota Wildlife Preserve.
About two miles into your ride you'll cross a lengthy expansion bridge over an inlet to the Chippewa River on your left, and Lake Wisota on your right. The trail is smooth asphalt up until Jim Falls. Jim Falls is a good place to take a break with it's Mini-Mart right next to the trail. You'll find fast food an refreshing ice cream cones here.
After Jim Falls the trail turns into an asphalt washboard resulting in a bumpy ride the majority of the way. I was told by another biker there were plans to fix this portion of the trail in the next year or two. The trail parallels the Chippewa River right up to the village of Cornel and Brunet Island State Park, and passes through many wooded areas and over at least one or two wood plank bridges. The foilage was abound with fall color, and a fresh clean smell of fall filled the air. On my way back, the sun was beginning to set backlighting the yellow leaves like gold gems. The air was still except for a slight russel through the leaves.
The day I was on the trail, two trees had blown down across the trail in two different locations, a few days prior to my ride. I had to maneuver around one tree, and pull the bike over the other. Hopefully, Obstacles such as this, can be removed as soon as possible to avoid injury and delays to bikers.
I found this trail to be approximately 22.5 miles from Chippewa Falls to Cornel. This trail is very peaceful and scenic, but repair is a must beyond Jim Falls to smooth out the surface.
"The trail extention across Lake Wissota and into the east end of Chippewa Fall is complete. The trail provides some scenic views of the Chippewa River. One caution, watch out for occasional stretches of washboard asphalt."
"This asphalt trail is pretty flat. It doesn't connect with Wissota State Park, but it does connect with Brunet State Park on the north end. On the south end the trail goes through farming areas, in the middle it goes next to Lake Old Abe and on the northern end it's mainly forested. "
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