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If you can’t make it to Switzerland, then you can do the next best thing: take the Sugar River State Trail to “America’s Little Switzerland,” New Glarus, Wisconsin. Settled in 1845 by a small group of Swiss pioneers, New Glarus today is a living monument to all things Swiss, with chalet-style buildings, restaurants dishing up savory Swiss fare, and annual celebrations including Polka Fest, the Heidi Festival, and Volksfest, which marks the Swiss independence day.
The Sugar River State Trail follows the route of the New Glarus Branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Known locally as the “Limburger Special,” the railroad laid tracks from Brodhead to Albany in 1880 and extended the line a few years later to New Glarus.
The scenic Sugar River State Trail crosses the Little Sugar and Sugar Rivers as it rolls southeast nearly 23 miles past gently rolling hills and meadows and through the farming communities of Monticello and Albany to Brodhead. In the section between Monticello and Albany, the trail overlaps the Ice Age Trail, a hiking path spanning 1,200 miles across Wisconsin.
Beginning at the restored railroad depot in New Glarus, you’ll ride a paved trail for 0.3 mile until it crosses WI 69 and becomes screened limestone. (Remaining on the paved path alongside WI 69 takes you on a side trip to the New Glarus Brewing Company in 1 mile.) From here, the trail follows the course of the Little Sugar River. Near mile 6, approaching Monticello, you arrive at a brightly painted railroad depot (not open to the public). You’ll also be running alongside the Badger State Trail, which you’ll cross south of Monticello nearly 7 miles after leaving New Glarus.
About 12 miles from New Glarus you’ll enter a 3-mile stretch of the Albany Wildlife Area, where hunting is allowed. Bright bicycling wear is recommended. Between Monticello and Albany there are five stream crossings with views of scenic farmland. At mile 14, the trail crosses the Sugar River on a long, curving bridge that provides spectacular views of lowlands of cattails and reeds, and woods of oak, hickory, walnut, cherry, and willow.
At mile 21, the trail crosses Norwegian Creek on a replica of a covered bridge built in 1984 from wood supplied by the DNR from demolished old barns and other buildings in the state.
You’ll arrive in Brodhead at the crossing of Decatur Road. Cross the street and take West Third Avenue south for about a mile to the trailhead parking lot at the corner of West Exchange Street.
The town was named for Edward Brodhead, chief engineer of the Milwaukee Road’s predecessor, the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad. Hopping off your bike to take in the sights, be sure to visit the Depot Museum at 1108 First Center Ave., open in the summer, which chronicles the trail’s Milwaukee Road railroad days. Also worth a visit is the Half-Way Tree, located on Halfway Tree Road between WI 81 and County Road T south of the town, designated by American Indians as the halfway point between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
NOTE: A State Trail Pass ($25 annually/$5 daily) is required for bicyclists ages 16 and older on the Sugar River State Trail. In-line skaters ages 16 and older must also have a pass, although there is only 1 mile of paved trail. Snowmobilers must display either Wisconsin registration or a snowmobile State Trail Pass. For information, go to dnr.wi.gov /topic/parks/trailpass.html.
To reach the trailhead in New Glarus from US 18/US 151, take Exit 79, and head south toward Paoli on Old County Road PB. Go 3.3 miles, turn right across the Sugar River onto Paoli Road, and then, in 0.2 mile, turn left to follow County Road PB south through Paoli. Go 5.3 miles, turn right onto SR 69/SR 92, and then, in 2.2 miles, bear left to stay on SR 69. Go 4.3 miles, and turn right onto Sixth Ave. in New Glarus. Go about 250 feet, and turn right onto Railroad St. Look for parking on your right.
To reach the southern endpoint parking in Brodhead from I-90/I-39, take Exit 171A in Janesville to southbound WI 26/Milton Ave. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right (west) onto US 14. Go 6.9 miles, crossing the Rock River along the way, and turn left onto County Road H; after 3 miles, turn right to continue west on H. In 0.9 mile, bear left at the Y to continue south on H. In 1 mile, turn right onto SR 11. Go 13.3 miles west all the way into Brodhead, bearing left (south) at 12.7 miles to continue on SR 11, and, in 0.6 mile, turn right onto W. Exchange St. Go 0.1 mile (2 blocks), and look for Sugar River State Trail Southern Terminus parking on the right, just before W. Third Ave. The off-road trail heads north on W. Third Ave. for 0.9 mile and reaches the on-road portion of trail at Decatur Road.
Being from Brodhead I have many memories of taking bike rides on the trail. But today... not so much. Is our trail less important than others? It seems to be. It is in desperate need of work. Sections of the path are down to one tire path only. Numerous holes and a lot of over growth. It was pretty sad seeing it in such disrepair.
We rode the Sugar River round-trip the weekend of July 27-28, 2019. We are experienced riders and were on hybrid bikes. The trail was in very poor condition, with many ruts, potholes and even mole holes. On the return ride, I caught the side of a pothole, fell, and broke a bone in my hand. Not good. The trail is in serious need of maintenance.
We planned to bike from Albany to New Glarus. The trail out of Albany is in terrible condition. Two "tracks" with overgrown weeds in the middle and many branches overhanging. About 5 miles in my wife hit a pothole and went over her handlebars. She landed off the trail and, minus a few bruises and scrapes, wasn't hurt. The hole was about 15" across and about 6" deep. We feel fortunate she wasn't hurt. We decided to abandon our trip. We won't be back.
I rode the Sugar River State Trail from New Glarus to Albany on July 2, 2019. The scenery was beautiful, and the grade mild.
The trail conditions from New Glarus to Monticello (5.6 mi) was very good: mostly crushed limestone surface and the trail width 5 feet. The shoulder was recently mowed, this was the best portion of the ride.
South of Monticello into Albany (10.4 mi), the trail conditions were really unsatisfactory. The surface was overgrown with grass, weeds, and wild flowers, with a resulting pair of narrow trail paths, ranging from 6- 12 inches.
There were multiple gopher holes in the trail, some marked with dead branches and one with an orange traffic pylon. These were hard to see given the weed and grass overgrowth.
Until the trail in overhauled between Monticello and Albany, I recommend turning around in Monticello.
I have purchased trail passes for $25.00 a year from the Wisconsin DNR and cycling and jogging this and the Badger Trail since 1986. This year, high weeds, horrible cutting, trees down for a long time and almost hard to find a clear path though the weeds have been the order.
Worst maintenance since 1986. Last week the first cut in ages left it worst than cycling through a farmers fresh cut hay field. Disappointing and Avoidable I would advise. You'll never know if or when it will be clear and enjoyable. I have called, but had to leave messages with the DNR.
Very disappointed in The Sugar River and Badger this year. Embarrassing for the care its not receiving.
It was terrible . This trail needs lots of "tender loving" care. High grass on both sides & in the middle of the trail. I would never go back there. The state should be ashamed!!!
If you're an urban rider used to asphalt and concrete trails you may be disappointed in the Sugar River Trail. This rider however enjoyed the scenic 10 miles from New Glarus to about 3-4 miles past Monticello. Trail is definitely off road fashion mainly dirt with grass and 2 tire paths for most of the trail. The trail was dry and extremely firm and manageable with some holes (usually marked with a stick stuck in them) to avoid. The tall grass that lines the trail was recently cut in the section I rode. There is a picnic bench, drinking fountain, and bathroom available in Monticello along side the trail which made for a convenient lunch stop. Many wooden bridges with some offering scenic rolling hills and farmland views line the trail. Use caution when riding past the golf course as golf carts have to cross the trail for play on 2 holes. Bring bug spray to keep the gnats and small flying bugs at bay. You don't notice them much when you're moving but when you stop you'll know they're there. Trail intersects with the Badger State Trail outside of Monticello. Yes, the trail can use some TLC but this rider is not disappointed and enjoyed the casual afternoon ride nonetheless. Hopefully next time I can go the distance to Brodhead and back. FYI snowmobiles are NOT allowed on the Sugar River Trail. Enjoy your ride!
What a mistake. I averaged 6.3 mph for 20 miles and then gave up. I was on three wheels and that was a big mistake. Have yet to see any rideable asphalt. Mostly mud and tall grass. Don’t even try it on a horse.
Biked on our hybryds May 31, 2019 starting in New Glarus. Sunny 84 degrees. We biked south to Monticello and jumped over to the Badger State trail (Ice Age Trail) and went up to the tunnel ... about 5 miles...and back to New Glarus. Total trip was about 22 miles. Even though a DNR site recommended not using the trails because of conditions( due to the rains, but they were not closed) , we found no conditions that warranted aborting the trip. A few blow-downs and muddy spots, but nothing out of the ordinary for remote trails. They *could* lay down a little crushed limestone in spots...not sand please....and replace the mile markers please. The wild Phlox was blooming along the trails and it was gorgeous. This and the Badger State trails are two of our favorites
Gorgeous perfect day for a ride but I ended up abandoning the trail and sticking to the lovely roads. The trail has no maintenance, no shoulder, in many places not even two tracks. A couple of serious potholes, and weeds everywhere. The scenery was spectacular but the trail feels like it's just been left to its own devices and nature is taking its course. Brodhead, however, has a gorgeous river trail and parking off Decatur St. and excellent roads with not much traffic, so the trip was saved by finding an alternative. Could be a glorious ride if someone bothered to clean up the state trail!
This could be a sweet trail if someone actually cut the weeds. The only thing in good repair on several trails in this area of WI. are the drop- box's for your $5.00 dollar a day, per person, fee. We spent over a thousand dollars in the area on motels, food , gas, fee's etc. The experience, while still fun, could have been so much more. Pa. Tandem Team, (72 and 69 yrs. of age)
The trail needs more mileage markers. Only miles 1,2,3,5,8,and 10 are posted. It would be helpful to know where on the trail you are at and how far it is to each end. Mostly flat with gopher holes present in many places. Beware of the wild Parsnip growing alongside the trail.
I love riding this trail as it's yards from my house, but honestly, the DNR hasn't done jack shXX to maintain this trail for years! It is full of holes and ruts. DNR solution to holes is simply dump sand all over them. That way if you survive hitting the hole, you can always injure yourself by having a wheel slip away from you in the sand! Was on the trail yesterday afternoon, tree branches all over the place covering the trail... full of ruts. I don't understand why the DNR won't roll the trail in the spring when the ground is soft to even it out some.
I don't mind buying a trail pass every year for my wife and I, but it's high time some of that money went into real maintenance. Another big problem is that the trail to bridge transitions are terrible. You hit the bridge and the first plank is 3-4 inches above the ground on MANY bridges! Again, enough is enough. Fix it already!!!! I live in Green County and love the trails, but this one is basically unusable since maintenance has been ignored for so long.
A nice path, not as bad as some comments may lead you to believe. From New Monticello to Broadhead, the center grass is problematic for a 3 wheel as one and sometimes two tires will be in the grass the entire time. Adds another level of resistance. There is a restroom/water stop in Monticello and one in Albany.There are a tremendous amount of Walnuts on the path and a few branches. Since I am low to the ground, I usually try to grab what branches I can and move them off the path as I ride by them, but in some areas there were more than I could handle. Nothing really of any size, but would not be good for a road bike tire. The surface can be fairly spongy if it has rained recently. Scenery is ok, mostly tree covered and what isn't is usually by a farm field.
We triked the trail today, other trikers be warned. This is a snowmobile trail grudgingly given to the cyclers in the warmer months. The trail appeared to have no maintenace of significance for along time. We started from the southern terminus in Brodhead and turned arounf before getting to Albany. The trail has a middle crown that is weed filled and rough, the trail shows marks of severe snowmobile damage that should be rectified. There were many small branches obstructed the trail.
The trail fees are not going toward Maintaining the Trails as they should.
We biked this trail on July 2-3, 2016. We traveled roundtrip from New Glarus to Albany. We almost didn't take the trail due to some recent poor reviews; however, we found none of the problems mentioned by others except for the occasional rut, which would be expected on a trail. The trail is flat with very slight grade changes here and there. The ride is often under the shade of trees interspersed with beautiful open farm areas. I would highly recommend this trail! We will probably return again from Illinois in the future.
I rode the entire length, round trip, of this trail in June 2016 on my ElliptiGO. Long stretches had strong growth of weeds, more than a foot tall, in the center of the trail. There were too many gopher holes to count, and some had decayed into actual deep potholes. I was surprised that I didn't lose spokes or have wheel damage. All of the forested sections had a lot of dead leaves and sticks covering what limestone is left on the trail. There was a short sandy section near Brodhead. Much of the trail resembles two parallel single-tracks about 18 inches wide. I started in the state park above New Glarus, where I paid $11 to park. The paved spur leading out of the park was well maintained, but it's a steep descent, and I walked my GO up it on the return. Going through New Glarus, the pavement deteriorates and is quite rough. If I had it to do over, I'd park down at a local business in New Glarus and avoid the steep parking fee and the steep hill. If you're riding a mountain bike or a trail bike, and you don't mind a rough ride, you'll enjoy all the shady coolness on a hot day. Otherwise, try a different trail. The State of WI charges $25 for an annual trail pass, which expires at the end of the calendar year, or $5 for a day pass. I don't think any of that money is finding its way back to this trail for maintenance. I was disappointed.
My wife and I enjoyed the trail so much we've encouraged friends and family to join us this year.Trouble is, last year our shuttle to Brodhead quoted us one figure, and as we unloaded the bikes, insisted that the price was for him and now we owed him for the fuel and mileage on the truck, doubling the rate...in short, extortion.
I was between Monticello and New Glarus and hit a hole in the middle of the trail caused by an animal. I crashed and I was surprised my front wheel is still OK. I have hit holes before because I live about 10 miles away. In Wisconsin we have a governor who is running for president and refuses to fix trails and highways. I would recommend go someplace else.
Rode this trail for the first time in years. Doesn't look like they have done much in that time period. Animal hole repairs are sand or gravel if done at all. I do expect more from a state that charges to use the trail system.
Rode from New Glarus to Albany mid July. Trail could use some attention to growth, but overall a great ride. Ate lunch in Albany and headed back to New Glarus in time to go to the New Glarus brewery. Great view from the hilltop on which the brewery sits. Great beer, too, which is only sold in Wisconsin. (They also have great root beer for those not wanting or old enough for beer.)
Did a round trip between New Glarus and Albany on a hot July day. Trail was level, well-groomed and not bumpy at all. Just south of New Glarus we skipped over to the nearby Badger State trail and rode up about a mile to the old train tunnel, which was fun and worth the extra couple of miles. If you're biking in summer, stop in downtown Albany just to see the zillions of people lining up to go tubing down the Sugar River - what a hoot. Signage at the trail showing the way to downtown could have been better.
We got on this trail in Monticello thinking that we were on the Badger State Trail. It wasn't a bad trail from Monticello to New Glarus. The ride through the trees was nice and kept us cool on a July day. Since we were there on a holiday weekend, we couldn't find anyone to make change for the trail pass, but we were never stopped either. There were some soft spots in the trail, but our family enjoyed the ride. It's a pretty flat ride. 13 miles round trip from Monticello to New Glarus and our 7 year old daughter made it without much complaining.
Would like to hear more about the shuttle service from New Galaris back to Brodhead. Would appreciate a contact.
I think this is a very scenic trail and at the end of the trail an over night in New Glaris is perfect, great restaurants and bars to catch a Badger game!
Not really that scenic, rode it in the Fall. It was a nice ride, but it was nothing special. The covered bridge was cool, and the trail is pretty straight with easy elevation. Rode from Brodhead to New Glarus and back.
It is easy to get on the Sugar River State Trail at Brodhead but just as easy to wind up on an auxiliary trail. Stay on West 3rd Ave from the trail head by the police station and you will run right into the trail when the road dead ends into Decatur Rd.
We enjoyed our ride but stopped and returned to town after finding a tree down about 5 miles out past the covered bridge. It appeared to be newly fallen so don't know how quickly the trail is maintained (still down the next day- we were able to lift the bikes over the tree with some difficulty). There are gopher holes along the way so you do need to keep an eye on the trail.
There are some crossroads that could be dangerous since the trees obscure your view and it is difficult to see approaching cars without stopping.
Would like to go and ride the full distance without obstacles. Beautiful farmlands!
Biked from Brodhead to Monticello and back 8/24/13. Although there is nothing major wrong with the trail, it's evident that much of the surface has not had any maintenance for a long time. Some nice new-looking packed crushed stone in spots, especially near Brodhead, but other stretches are just packed dirt. There had apparently been many trees down across the trail recently (big storm?) which were all cut up and pushed to the side, but the heavy equipment required to do this had left its mark on the trail. Be aware there is a steady rise in elevation from Brodhead all the way to New Glarus. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant ride with some nice scenery.
This isn't a review, but I thought hotels right in New Glarus, such as the Swiss Aire (2 stars app.$60.00, the Chalet Landhaus (3 stars app. $120.00) and the New Glarus Hotel (2 and one-half stars app. $100.00) ought to be listed!
I rode from Brodhead to New Glarus in July of 2012 (during a short break in the heat). It had just rained the night before and the trail was bit slow for me, but I was fully loaded for camping. The trail is very level, with only minor changes in elevation. As with many limestone trails, there were occassional gopher holes and bumpy patches, but nothing serious. Much of the trail is tree lined, and almost all of it goes through rural scenery. Coming back from New Glarus, the trail was blocked by a huge poplar tree that had falled over night. There was no way around it, and it took a while to get all my gear and bike over the tree. If you need food, drink, or supplies, the Mobil station in Albany (which is just few dozen feet from the trail) offers a bit of everything--including Blue Bunny ice cream cones. In Monticello, the business district is about 1 mile from the trail, and offers a grocery store, bars, and restaurants. Of course, New Glarus has even wider options. There are water fountains along the trail at Albany and Monticello. If you are heading to New Glarus Woods State Park (which I love to camp at because the tent sites are all private and nestled in the woods), you can get off the trail where it crosses Exeter Crossing road, and head west on Exeter Crossing until it meets Hiway 69. The entrance to the park is less than a hundred yards to the north. One caution about this short cut--you have to go up two steep hills. I opted for walking my bike, but appreciated the time and distance saved. If you approach the park from the trail head in New Glarus, you will have to up a long, steep hill to get there, too. Tent camping at the park costs $10 for in-state, and $14 for out-state. The two times I've camped there this summer, the park office was closed and payment was on the honor system.
I was going to do a partial ride today from Brodhead to Monticello and back. The trail was quite rough and there was no way I could go as fast as usual (about 14 mph). (I'm used to riding northern Illinois' Long Prairie Trail (paved) and Stone Bridge Trail (unpaved, but smooth). On this trail I found patches of SAND, patches of gravel - now there's a dirty trick! Lots of debris - sticks, branches, GOPHER HOLES, etc. Turned around early because I saw a white PICKUP TRUCK - ON the trail - heading toward me - in the middle of nowhere. Being a woman alone, it scared the daylights out of me so I turned around and beat it as fast as I could to the nearest town. Truck was behind me for about 5 miles - my heart rate was through the roof! In retrospect, I think it was probably a state park vehicle, but I wasn't about to approach the truck to find out! I may tackle that trail on another day, but not alone, and maybe I'll rent a mountain bike with a suspension and fat tires.
Worst thing is, the state of Wisconsin charges you 4 bucks for the privilege of getting your teeth rattled for 26 miles. Geez - rent a grader! Too bad, too, because it's a beautiful trail, otherwise.
A map of my ride:
We arrived in New Glarus around mid-afternoon Sunday afternoon September 11 and there was a festival in progress. I purchased my permit for the next day's ride and we checked out the event and the wonderful little town and when up to the New Glarus Woods State park where there were nice campsites, but had pit toilets and no showers (a sign said "near by, but there wasn't).
Monday was a great biking day and the trail was a good non-paved trail. The last mile or so into Brodhead was on the street with no clear indication that is was the bike route.
If you are looking for an asphalt trail, this is limestone. At the Trail head in New Glarus, you can call ahead and make a reservation with a volunteer to drive your vehicle to the other end of the trail at Brodhead. There is a small fee.
I rode this trail on September 11, 2007 with my Scorpion Fx trike.
This trail is composed of compacted crushed limestone which held up perfectly from an all day downpour which occurred the day before. The trail was dry and ready to ride.
I found this trail a delight to ride. The trail is almost completely level except for a few slight grades which are barely noticeable.
I started at the old depot and information center in New Glarus. The trail is asphalt for the first 3-4 blocks until it crosses Hwy 69, and then becomes crushed limestone.
The trail crosses 14 wood bridges including the historic Clarence covered bridge, and passes a variety of scenery along the way including woods, meadows and farmland.
There is a rest area at the historic depot in Mnticello, and another one in Albany. The trail ends after 23 miles in the village of Brodhead.
The Sugar River Trail crosses paths with the Badger State Trail which goes from Clarno passing through the Stewart Tunnel on it's way to Paoli."
"I rode the Sugar River Trail
in Sept. and Oct. 06. Started
the ride at the Depot in New
Glarus. Biked the 23 miles
to Broadhead. Very scenic
trail through woods, farmlands and small towns.
Both times had lunch at a
small cafe in Broadhead. On
the return trip included the
trail ride to the State Park.
This is a wonderful ride and
I plan to ride this trail several times in 07 also.
I ended the day with a stop
at the New Glarus Brewery
for some samples and a case
of beer to take home. Green
County is a wonderful part
of the state. Well worth
the time spent."
"This trail was built in the mid 1970s. I have been riding this trail since 1979. The trail is still as good, if not better, than it was when I first rode it. This trail also has several nice quiet paved back road crossings that allow for scenic side trips in either the Sugar River Valley or the surrounding hills. "
"We loved this trail. We stayed in New Glarus and rose to brodhead and back with a stop in Albany for a snack. This is an easy ride just watch out for gopher holes. Beautiful scenery and mostly shaded. We stayed at the Chalet Landhaus Inn in the family room. If you ride with a family or group this is a great deal. The family room has 4 Queen size beds and a table and frig. The motel has a pool and restaurant. Make sure to save a day to explore New Glarus their are some cool shops, restaurants, and a museum. This was one of our favorite Vacations."
"We ride this trail several times a year. The trail is generally well maintained and expect to see interesting flora and fauna along the way. (And, yes, watch for the gopher and chipmunk holes.)
The segments between villages have a nice variety of scenery. The trailhead in New Glarus is in the old train station. Don't miss the limestone bluffs just North of Monticello as well as the covered bridge North of Brodhead. Try the warm chocolate chip cookies at the Mini Mart in Albany."
"This trail is fun: it is flat and winding, shaded, and therefore cool in some areas and travels through some genuinely beautiful country. On the other hand, it is very bumpy in spots, with indentations the size of cereal bowls. There are also gopher/groundhog holes. These can be very problematic when you hit them riding at even a moderate pace. Although many parts of the trail are shaded, many parts aren't. In the sections that are not, it can be very hot and tiring on a sunny summer day. You will also ride through an area that is very well shaded and there are ponds and/or bogs on either side of the trail. It is in this area that you may, like I was, be attacked by deer flies. These pernicious little beasts are about the size of, or slightly larger than a common housefly. They are attracted to your sweat and their bite is quite painful. One hot Sunday this past summer I was viciously attacked by at least a dozen of these foul creatures. They are difficult to kill and it takes great effort just to dislodge them from your skin. Yes, it is as bad as I am describing. Now, I have been on the trail many times and have only been besieged by these insects once. I just thought that potential riders should be warned. "
My family and I were very happy riding our bikes on this trail. We all rode 23 miles and it was a piece of cake. I even rode this trail being overwieght. We all had a wonderful ride together. It was worth the trail fee. We will have to ride it again.
This trail has a nice even grade of crushed limestone. I suggest bringing a little extra water if you plan to ride long as there didnt seem to be enough places to refresh along the way. Start off in New Glarus as there is plenty of lodging and good resturant. Try Jimmys for the alfredo!
Shuttle service allowed us to ride one way from Brodhead to New Glarus.
The trail head in New Glarus told us about numerous amenities along the trail. We did not take advantage of those.
Generally well packed with a few repairs with oversized gravel. Very few soft spots on the trail.
Nice trail and wonderful people made for a great day.
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