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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.
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