Glacial River Trail

Wisconsin

18 Reviews

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Glacial River Trail Facts

States: Wisconsin
Counties: Dodge, Jefferson, Rock
Length: 55.8 miles
Trail end points: County Road Y and Milton Ave./Ice Age National Scenic Trail (Janesville) and SR 60 and Junction Road/Wild Goose State Trail (Juneau)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6031478

Glacial River Trail Description

The Glacial River Trail provides bikers, pedestrians, and in-line skaters with a 55.8-mile off-road/on-road rural route winding through farmland, prairie, wetlands, and woodlands as it passes through three counties in southeastern Wisconsin.

Technically, the southern endpoint begins in Janesville at Milton Avenue, where you can also pick up a segment of the 1,200-mile, hiking-centric Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Note that the closest dedicated trail parking is about 10 miles farther down the trail in Koshkonong. Heading north from Janesville on the Glacial River Trail, you’ll travel through Milton and rural countryside to Kosh-konong, where you’ll leave Rock County and head into Jefferson County. A quaint covered bridge greets you just after this crossing.

Open areas and woods serve as pleasant companions as you travel north along SR 26. Take a worthy side trip by heading west (left) at Koshkonong Mounds Road to Indian Mounds Park, which features 11 Native American effigy mounds and an ancient Indian trail. The mounds, large earthworks with religious or ceremonial origins, can be seen from the trail. Look closely to see the turtle and bird shapes identified by experts. The mounds are thought to have survived about 1,500 years.

About 16 miles into your journey you’ll reach Fort Atkinson. Note that just before reaching Fort Atkinson, the trail detours from the railroad corridor for about 1.5 miles, heading northwest and then east on Schwemmer Lane (under SR 26), and then right on Groeler Road, which meets up with the off-road trail again on the northern side of where SR 26 and SR 26 Trunk meet. Nearing busy Janesville Avenue, a low stone wall next to the path marks the Glacial River Rotary Depot, which offers a drinking fountain and covered picnic area.

You might detour three blocks east onto South Third Street West (where the trail crosses Janesville Avenue), turn right (south) onto South Main Street, and then head a block and a half (veering left) onto Whitewater Avenue to the Hoard Historical Museum. The museum is named after the Hoard family, who are behind the nationally distributed dairy farm magazine Hoard’s Dairyman. Exhibits of tools, textiles, and American Indian artifacts will get you up to speed on the area’s early fort history, European settlers, and American Indian culture.

At Lorman Bicentennial Park, you can access the Riverwalk, which takes you through the park and underneath the bridge across the Rock River. Head right along the Riverwalk to find quaint shops and restaurants.

Back on Glacial River Trail, continue north over the Rock River and through a beautiful metal archway. The paved pathway unwinds along the east side of SR 26 through Wisconsin countryside and over the Crawfish and Rock Rivers in Jefferson. After you go under the Jefferson bypass, look for a connection to the 53.4-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail which heads west to Cottage Grove and east to Waukesha.

The trail then continues to Watertown and into Dodge County, using on-street and off-street sections, and ends at the southern terminus of the Wild Goose State Trail at SR 60 in Juneau.

Parking and Trail Access

The closest parking to the southern endpoint is in Koshkonong, about 10 miles north. From I-90, take Exit 163 toward WI 59 E., and head south, then east on WI 59, crossing the Rock River. After 2.8 miles, bear left at the Y onto County Hwy. N; go 3 miles, and then turn left to merge onto northbound WI 26/WI 26 Trunk. Go 1.7 miles, and then turn left onto County Line Road. Turn left onto Old Hwy. 26, and then make the first left into the parking lot.

To reach the northern endpoint from I-94, take Exit 267 to SR 26 toward Watertown, heading north. Go 18.9 miles, and take Exit 52 to SR 60, heading east. Go 1.7 miles, and turn left into the parking lot just past where the trail begins, with Junction Road on your right.



Glacial River Trail Reviews

north branch Glacial River Trail

We absolutely loved this trail. We started near the airport in Watertown Wisconsin and took the back roads all the way to the end of the marked trail. There’s a small 2 mile segment that’s a long state route 16 but it’s a dedicated trail on the side of that road. Loud traffic but just a small section so not that bad of a deal. Everything else is beautiful country roads very little traffic absolutely wonderful rolling Hhills and farmland. It took us three hours round-trip very leisurely pace of 9 mph Be sure to eat at the Main Street diner in Watertown

not well marked

Attempted to pick up trail in Jefferson County where it intersects with the Glacial Drumlin State trail; it was poorly marked and I was unable to follow it in either direction. Very disappointed.

Beautiful August afternoon

We began our ride at the Farmco Ln trailhead, just south of Fort Atkinson. The paved trail is in good shape and has a nice mix of shade and sun. Riding south, there is a swing to the west to cross a highway that is not well marked, but not hard to navigate. It follows country roads past the public boat launch. A lovely covered bridge over a stream highlights the early miles. No real grades here to push the effort. Take care at the several driveways that exit onto the adjacent highway. I saw a car not slow for bike traffic ahead of us! We turned around at Hwy N (Business 26). South of this point, rolling terrain seems likely.

I've upped my review to 5 stars

This has easily become my favorite frequent trail ride in the Rock County area. I've now completed the trail from Janesville to Johnson Creek and it is gorgeous and not busy and I don't even notice the traffic anymore. Excellent trail for road bikes. Quick tip: my favorite place to get on the trial is north of Janesville near the Janesville Animal Medical Center at 5021 N Wright Rd in Milton. You skip the road ride on HWY Y, which is the only section I don't care for. And then it is just miles and miles of well maintained trail and beautiful country scenery. Enjoy!

Accordion

A Return to Finish the Trail

I returned on one of those great Midwestern fall days to complete the portion of the Glacial River Trail south of Jefferson. I found the few miles that were in-fact a former railroad. The rest of the trail is in the WI-26 freeway corridor or on rural roads and city streets, but the trail is all paved.
The city of Fort Atkinson is very attractive with trail amenities including public art. I again found that the TrailLink map was a necessity as the signage on the tail is sparse.
My only negative is there is no need to do the on-highway portion south of N Wright Rd unless you want to continue to the connection to the Spring Brook Trail that will take you into Janesville.
For an out and back trip consider places where you can use the parallel old WI-26 for a different landscape view.

Paved Trail Makes for a Nice Long Ride

The Glacial River Trail in the Rock River valley is untypical for Wisconsin state trails in that it is entirely paved and not a rail-to-trail. It has a great mix of segments in the WI-26 freeway corridor, city streets and rural roads, with some good grades. I did the north part of the trail from Jefferson to the junction with the Wild Goose State Trail. There are no services provided by the trail owner, but the trail is free to use. The signage for the trail-turns is minimal so the Trail-Link map downloaded on your smart phone is a must. I especially enjoyed my ride thru the river towns of Jefferson, Johnson Creek and Watertown, where I took the time to ride around the downtowns. I will come back someday to do the south portion.

Uninhabited but lovely

I grabbed the trail north of Janesville on my road bike. Crossed the bridge over the highway and did about a mile on the county road before winding through a new housing development and finding the actual trail. It's in great shape, lots of gentle rolling hills and a couple of roundabouts but not a single person anywhere along the trail. I rode to Milton and most of the trail parallels the highway so it's loud on one side but beautiful and agricultural on the other side. I saw hawks and finches and no humans of any kind. It was pretty sweet. I only gave it 4 stars because of the highway driving . Otherwise it's a 5-star paved trail.

Glacial River and Glacial Drumlin

The two trails do cross at the trailhead north of Jefferson, just like it looks on the map! I went south the long way around, being told by another biker there was no other way to get there from here. Made the fortunate discovery on the return trip that the G.R. trail does indeed go through from the Fairground entrance all the way to the trailhead on the G.D. and is twisty but well marked. All that's missing is a sign to that effect at the trailhead. Just take that road to the south around the bend and there it is! A little bit of city an you're on the wonderful, smooth paved trail, all the way to Janesville if you like.

Glacial River Adventure

I started my ride from Janesville, in a subdivision right off of Wright Road, and turned around at a boat launch by Lake Koshkonong. The trail is paved, which is definitely a plus. For those who are used to Rail-Trails with a gradual grade, this trail is not, and there are some rolling hills and one switchback. There are several intersections as well. The portion I rode follows closely to Hwy 26 and does not go through any towns, yet I always appreciate riding through Wisconsin's farm country. I did enjoy the covered bridge, and did stop to take a picture of it. In that same area, do be careful of walnuts (in some areas on the trail during the fall months). I will have to try the northern part of the trail another day, but did truly enjoy today's ride. I will ride this one again!

Fort Atkinson to northern Janesville, Sunday 4/14/16

Fort Atkinson trailhead was easy to get to and we easily parked on a residential street one block away.

We started out at 4th st in Fort Atkinson and took the entire trail to past its end on Fairmont Drive. There were additional bike signs that we followed to Wright Rd and Co Rd Y. 20 miles one way to this point.

This trail was paved and in good condition the entire way. One reason we liked the trail is that it basically followed Hwy 26. Anytime the trail ended you just needed to look where it crossed to the other side of Hwy 26. I think eventually brush will grow up and screen the redone highway but it was pretty neat seeing the old cars from the car show driving past.

Fort Atkinson was very scenic, people fishing on the rock river and extremely beautiful bronze statues along the trail. It also had a drinking fountain for dogs (arf, arf arf) and a park across the street with playground, baseball field, and nice bathroom. Very nice town.

After downtown Fort Atkinson there is some riding on country roads without paved shoulders to get under Hwy 26 but we didn't see any cars so it was OK.

After Fort Atkinson it was pretty much rolling hills. We saw a variety of scenery from Fort Atkinson's business district, to grain elevators, farm fields, rivers, streams, subdivisions... Saw turkeys. We rode on a covered bridge for bikes. On this particular Sunday the trail had light to moderate use.

The trail was fairly well marked. However the trail arrow told us to go right on Storrs Lake Rd into Milton. We rode past a log cabin and The Milton house following bike signs all the way to Central Park. Making a right turn was obviously wrong but not to us at first. We should have went Left at the extremely large greenhouse and under Hwy 26. Trail resumed immediately on the other side. (My husband is convinced that someone flipped the arrow.)

I liked the switchback down the hill after Storrs Lake Road near Cargill grain elevator. It made it easier to ride back up the hill on the way back.

After that you had the choice to avoid the roundabout by taking a loop under the bridge.

On the way out we didn't have trouble crossing Co N but on the way back the traffic was heavy and fast.

Overall very nice trail. Except for Hwy N we probably could do it with kids, maybe even the country road part.





Fun Family Trail

I really enjoyed the quality of this trail. It was the first time our family went on a Rails to Trails trail. However, we will definitely ride this one again. We did have to drive here from our home, however we started right at 30 N. Water Street area where the boat loading dock/area is, and took the path over the bridge to the 3 mile mark and back. Round-trip just 6 miles for us - on the way back we stopped at a park near a baseball field and ate a picnic lunch and were able to use the restrooms and refill our water bottles as well. There are several comfortable spots to take a break if the younger kiddos get tired and the ride is very safe. On the 3 mile portion we went on, it passed through town, and around several neat bronze statues, a Lion Park, a pavilion, a nice rest area for bikers as well as two bridges - one over a creek and one over a river. We saw at least three rabbits, butterflies and several birds so the kids got a kick out of that! I would recommend this to any first timers, including those practice bike rides with children or seasoned bikers who want a simple trail ride.

Trail Update (2015)

The repairs to WI-26 have been completed as of winter 2014. The trail has been restored and the crushed stone section that was torn up during construction has been rebuilt and is now completely paved (asphalt).

The southern end of the trail can be accessed at the dead end of Fairmont Dr. in Milton, WI. From there, the trail goes north up to the intersection of WI-26 and highway 18 in Jefferson, WI.

The Fairmont Dr. trailhead is a dead end of a barely populated subdivision behind the Janesville Animal Medical Center. I have had no issues parking there. There is a new trailhead at the intersection of WI-26 and County Line Rd. south of Fort Atkinson, WI.

Traveling north, there are three sections that require use of the road: the North Harmony Town Hall Rd. overpass over WI-26, Schwemmer Ln. and Groeler Rd. which is an underpass to WI-26 that goes by a public boat launch, and N 4th St. and N High St. of Fort Atkinson.

The total length is now 24 miles.

Trail Update

Due to a construction project on Highway 26, the southern trailhead, parking area, and several hundred years of the Glacial River Trail have been obliterated. At this time, the most southern parking area on the Glacial River Trail is a large boat launch on the Rock River. It's located on Schwermmer Lane where it passes under Highway 26.

Eclectic Trail

I road from the southern trail head to where the trail intersects the Glacial Drumlin Trail. I enjoyed this trail, not because it's ideal, but because it offers a mix of riding conditions. Sometimes you're biking on a gravel path, sometimes the path is paved. Sometimes you're on a city street, sometimes a country road. Sometimes you're gliding down a hill, other times you're puffing up a long grade. Sometimes you're in a tunnel of trees, or in a sunny prairie, or a covered bridge. BTW, there's a nice bike shop in Fort Atkinson just off the trail where it crosses Sherman Ave.

Excellent walking trail

I walked this trail from Fort Atkinson to its southern end and back again on June 5, 2013, starting around 4:00 pm. Bit rainy but very interesting with several turkeys, six deer, a good view of the Rock River halfway through at a boat landing, very good surface, both paved and gravel, with a short section on a quiet road, lots of trees but several nice vistas -- even the industrial part had its interest, and the country music at the miniature golf range made the last half mile fly by.

Well marked mile markers.

No separate lane for bikes and walkers, just a painted divider down the middle, but bikers and skateboarders were considerate.

Bob

Really a decent trail

You can do everything on this trail from walking to roller-blading to biking. It has several terrains with gravel, asphalt and the road in different spots. If you like biking like I do, you don't get bored because of the constantly changing scenery. It also has slight hills and valleys, so it isn't just a long, flat boring ride.

Real good place to bike

The trail is now 8.6 miles long. Over 5 miles of it paved. The crushed stone section is packed hard and in good shape except for the occasional rodent hole. The portion that is on road is on ultra low traffic roads. The northern section is really nice paved offroad town trail. Only the southern section does go right along route 26 and traffic noise is not to bad. You can stay at the Holiday Inn Express which is about 2 miles from the trail and the road to the trail has a wide bike lane. The northern half goes through a city park with nice gardens and statues. The ride from the hotel to the end of the trail and back to town will give you 20 miles or so. It is a good workout as this trail seems like it is slightly uphill in both directions , not steep but very long slight inclines. It will make you work. Fort Atkinson is a great place to stay. Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and lots for those antique and boutique do dad stores for the ladies.. The river walk has bars and places to eat. The morning I rode it lots of people were fishing right in downtown. A+

"Go south on hwy 26, you will see a sign on the right pointing to the parking lot. Trail is smooth, some road travel but lightly traveled roads. Once you get off the roads look for bird houses on the left, there were bluebirds and swallows in the area. The non-paved portion of the trail is also in good shape. Downside of trail is that it parallels a highway so not the most scenic.
"

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