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One of Wisconsin’s earliest rail-trail conversions, the 14.5-mile Red Cedar State Trail is built on the former corridor of the Red Cedar Junction railway, which served Knapp, Stout & Co. in the 1880s—then the world’s largest timber producer. Since the late 1970s, the trail has offered a serene experience for trail users from Menomonie to Peru, where it meets with the southern end of the Chippewa River State Trail, just south of the Dunnville State Wildlife Area.
Start your journey at the old train depot turned visitor center at Riverside Park in Menomonie. Here, you can access ample parking and purchase a State Trail Pass, required for all bikers, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers. (Note that hybrid bikes are recommended for an optimal experience on the crushed-limestone route.) You can also connect with the Stokke Trail, just across SR 29 Trunk/Hudson Road, which leads north to Lake Menomin.
Snowmobiles are permitted on the 2 miles of the trail between the Chippewa River State Trail and County Road Y. Hunting is also permitted along a 4-mile section through the Dunnville State Wildlife Area.
Heading south, the Red Cedar State Trail pulls you into a peaceful riverside corridor with scenic views of the water to your left and sandstone cliffs to your right. You’ll soon cross the first of several bridges built over the tributaries that feed the Red Cedar River. The crushed-sandstone trail remains level for the duration of your trip, and there are several benches along the way for rest and respite. Take some time to sit and watch the river flow by as you listen to the sounds of songbirds and small animals scurrying about in the surrounding woods.
The first 3 miles of trail to Irvington wind along the river in deciduous forest, which provides shade in the warmer months and a beautiful palette of birch, maple, elm, and aspen leaves in the fall. On the trail, you might spy some unexpected “trail users” enjoying the tranquility, including white-tailed deer, foxes, and raccoons.
As you travel 5 miles farther south to Downsville, the forest opens up to a view of surrounding farmland. Just before the Downsville trailhead, you’ll cross the 200-foot Red Cedar Trestle, which has well-maintained plank decking and an iconic rusty-but-solid steel frame.
Just north of Dunnville, you’ll pass a small waterfall, a reward for your journey from one of the state’s most beautiful trails. Nearing the southern endpoint, you’re sure to marvel at the sweeping views as you pass through the Dunnville State Wildlife Area and cross over a spectacular trestle on the Chippewa River.
NOTE: A State Trail Pass ($25 annually/$5 daily) is required for bicyclists, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers ages 16 and older on the Red Cedar State Trail. Snowmobilers must display either Wisconsin registration or a snowmobile State Trail Pass, and hunters must have a license. For information, go to dnr.wi.gov /topic/parks/trailpass.html.
To access the northern trailhead in Menomonie from I-94, take Exit 41 for SR 25 toward Menomonie and Barron. Head south on SR 25/N. Broadway St. for 2.3 miles, crossing Lake Menomin; then turn right onto 11th Ave. W. and continue west across the Red Cedar River—11th Ave. W. turns into Hudson Road. In 0.5 mile, turn left into Riverside Park. The trailhead is just west of the parking area.
Parking is unavailable at the southern endpoint, and there is no direct access to the trail from nearby 50th Ave. The closest trailhead is located in the Dunnville State Wildlife Area along the Chippewa River. From the intersection of SR 25/S. Broadway St. and 11th Ave. W. in Menomonie, take SR 25 south for 11.6 miles. Turn left onto County Road Y; go east 2 miles, crossing the Red Cedar River; and turn right onto Dunnville Road. Dunnville Road loosely parallels the trail for 1.8 miles (crossing the trail after about 1 mile) and then dead-ends just after the parking area and before a trestle bridge over the Chippewa River.
My wife's family owns Kyle's Place, a beautiful high-end vacation home in Weber Valley, about 6 miles from Downsville, so I run on the trail every time we're back in WI to visit. This is truly one of the most pleasant places I've found anywhere. We've seen bald eagles, blue birds, and dozens of bird species along the trail. The development is minimal, mostly farm land and timber. I've also done canoe trips down the river from Menomonie to Durand, mainly an easy float trip for families. It takes a full two days with Downsville an easy day trip from Menomonie. We've also cross-country skied the trail in the winter, and with fresh snow it is very nice. This is one of Wisconsin's best-kept secrets...an easy 90 minute drive from the Twin Cities and only 3 hours from Madison. And if you're looking for a luxurious place to stay nearby with a hot tub, dairy cows in the pasture, that iconic Wisconsin dairy farm look, check out Kyle's Place. This is a winning combination!
A very nice easy trail, surprisingly not very many people out as the weather was perfect. I did have to stop for directions at the visitor's center downtown to find the trail head. Enter 921 Brickyard Road into your gps and it will take you in sight of the trail head. It is worthwhile to stop for information there are adjacent trails to explore and a beautiful, historic downtown.
The trail is relatively flat and easy, following the Red Cedar river pretty much the entire trip to the Dunn County wildlife area which is about 14 miles. The trees are just turning, I can imagine how fantastic peak color must be. Lots of shade as well would make this a good summer trip as well.
I have traveled many trails in and around Wisconsin; this by far is the most appealing to me and my wife. The shear beauty of the countryside and how close you travel next to the Red Cedar River is spectacular! I would highly recommend this trail for any age bike rider.
You will not be disappointed.
Beautiful, scenic and very pristine. The trail surface was excellent and trail was well maintained. Fifteen of the riders from all club rode the trail and although it was a hot early Sept. day (over 90) the shady trail and river provided a cool, comfortable climate. We had experienced and beginner trail riders and all found the ride extremely enjoyable!
I rode the Red Cedar during the week (few users) in May in conjunction with the Chippewa River trail. The scenery is lovely and you get a very remote feeling, far away from traffic, noise, congestion. Since the trail is crushed rock (not paved) I recommend a hybrid bike as I used a road bike & got a flat returning to Downsville from Menomonie. Silly me, I forgot tubes & tire tools, so (since it was the front) I just rode on it for 6 miles; only the tube got wrecked. Even little rocks can work their way into smooth road tires. I'm replacing all my tubes with "thorn resistant" ones; and the tires with Kevlar belted. I hate flats!
After you cross the bridge at the southern end you can take a right & head towards Durand; which is a wonderfully smooth & wide trail. Durand lacks signs & you have to ride on either fairly busy roads or concrete sidewalks; nonetheless well worth it. There's some pretty good restaurants & lots of bars (this is Wisconsin afterall).
2 thumbs up for the Red Cedar trail! Not crowded, well-kept and scenic.
This trail has many memories for me and my family. I have pedaled countless miles with my Dad over the years on this trail. The Red Cedar trail heads south out of Menomonie and it used to end around Dunnville. But, over the past 5 years the trail has been connected to the Chippewa River trail and we can now make long trips all the way to Eau Claire and back. The trail surface is excellent for hybrids and mountain bikes. Road bikes will find the crushed limestone neatly packed and sufficiently hard in most sections. It's an excellent trail and it's great to spend time with Dad.
I rode this trail in October on a beautiful fall day on my Scorpion Fx trike. The temperature was a comfortable 65 degrees, and the Foliage was just beginning to change to red and gold.
This 14.5 mile trail is composed of crushed gravel with parking at either the old railroad depot in Menomonie, or at the Dunville Wildlife Area where the Red Cedar Trail meets the Chippewa River State Trail. The Menomonie railroad depot has restrooms and a gallery of historic photo's, and is located next to Riverside Park.
As you go south along the trail you'll cross eleven authentic railroad bridges. The trail parallels the Red Cedar River passing through wooded areas, marshland and open farmland. About 4 miles down the trail you'll come to an impressive weeping rock wall with trickles of water streaming down from the top across the face of the rock, just before you reach the small town of Irvington.
Another 4 miles down the trail you'll reach Downsville, and pass the old Downsville cut stone Quarry and interpretive center at mile 10. Another mile south of that is a riverside picnic area on a bend of the river where it's not uncommon to see heron feeding. There are benches for resting and enjoying the sights and sounds of the river every few miles. Once you reach the Dunville Wildlife Area be sure to cross the 860 foot
railroad trestle over the Chippewa River. The view is spectacular.
I found this trail very enjoyable to ride and peaceful, but it was a little slow with a trike because of the uneven surface.
This trail has a lot to offer with it's scenic beauty and wildlife viewing.
I rode this trail consecutively with the Chippewa River State Trail starting at Eau Claire, and working my way up to Menomonie and then back for a total of 78 miles.
I would highly recommend both of these trails to anyone that enjoys being among nature.
"This a highly scenic, easy-to-ride trail that sticks tightly to the Red Cedar River and features at its midpoint one of the best restaurants in the Midwest--the Creamery at Downsville. The trail connects to the Chippewa River trail, creating flexibility for overnight trips to several communities along that river."
This trail parallels the Red Cedar river. Numerous bluffs and rock outcroppings flank the trail. South terminus is a l-o-n-g bridge at the confluence with the Chippewa River. Great opportunity to combine biking with a fine canoe trip.
"This trail is our favorite in Wisconsin so far. Excellent surface, outstanding scenery, peaceful and beautiful."
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