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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.
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