The Chainlink

Hey Chainlinkers:

I'm afraid the flooding in Missouri has put a hold on my Katy Trail bike camping plans this year. Does anyone have suggestions for a multi-day bike camp route, within 5 or so hours drive of Chicago? I'll be with my two kids (5 and 2), so I'd like something that's pretty close to all trails. Right now, I've got my eye on a loop that uses the Badger State Trail, Military Ridge Trail, and Cheese Country Trails in SW Wisconsin. Generally, this is Monroe, New Glarus, Madison, Dodgeville, South Wayne and back to Monroe. Any done this one?


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I like the idea of a loop, rather than a back-and-forth trip.

But if don't mind riding back the same way you came, you might consider driving up to Reedsburg, Wisconsin, and riding the 400 State Trail, the Elroy-Sparta Trail, and the LaCrosse River Trail to LaCrosse right at the Mississippi River.  

Lots of places to camp, tho few with facilities.  One picnic area I remember is just outside of Elroy, which you approach by going under the highway thru a tunnel and then up a very steep climb to the top with a large view over the area.

In rough estimates, this is about the same distance biking as your loop.

Thanks Bob! We did the Sparta-Elroy last year as a one-day out-and-back. Highly recommended! I'll never forget walking through a train tunnel so dark and so long you can't see light on either side, while bats flapped overhead. Sadly, much of the S-E and the 400 are closed right now due to the wet spring.

The Cheese Trail is rideable, but the gravel is deep, loose and much more chunky than a typical rail trail. I wouldn't suggest it with kids, or on anything less than 2" tires. The roads that bipass the Cheese Trail are super scenic though, and very lightly traveled. 

That loop seems really ambitious with kids, Kudos! I'd probably stick to Blue Mounds, Madison, and then to New Glarus. Not a loop, but those are all the best stops and you'll be on paths the whole time! I suppose you could also go out to Sandhill Station in Lake Mills if you wanted more trail miles. 

Thanks! It looks like the Cheese Trail is specifically an ATV trail. After some more consideration, we're doing almost exactly as you suggest. We'll go a bit further to Gov Dodge State Park and then all the way back to either Monroe or Brodhead.

Good suggestion, Mike.  I've been there, done that.

Katy Trail west of Booneville does not follow the river and is open. 


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