The 400 State Trail

The 400 State Trail

If you visit one new trail this summer, you owe it to yourself to make it the 400 State Trail in the Baraboo River Valley in Central Wisconsin. Stretching for 26 miles from Reedsburg to Elroy the 400 Trail follows the old Chicago & North Western line which ran the 400 miles from Chicago to the Twin Cities in 400 minutes.


Maps are available at the trail heads

The 400 State Trail is a reclaimed rail bed. It crosses the Baraboo River 11 times. The 400 StateTrail runs through several towns. And finally there’s it’s connections to other great trails. Read on to hear about all these features.

You’ve probably seen us write about other rail bed trails on this blog. The US has over 22,000 miles of trails built on reclaimed railroad beds. Reusing the railroad beds lowers the cost of construction as most of the grading and prep work has been done. Additionally, many railroads have historic or cultural significance and turning them into a multi-use path allows people to enjoy and experience them. One of the biggest draws for reclaimed railroads is the relatively flat grade that was necessary for trains. Many trails built on old rail beds have a low slope of about 6%, which means that for every 100 feet of travel the elevation only changes by 6 feet. This grade is gradual enough that most kids can ride without feeling like they’re having to work exceptionally hard.


The 400 Trail – Photo By Jerry Luterman

One of the things that makes the 400 Trail unique is the scenery. The Baraboo River winds through the countryside and the trail follows its course. Sandstone bluffs, marshes and river views provide multiple opportunities to appreciate nature.

Appreciating nature is all well and good but sometimes you just want to sit down in some air conditioning and check your phone. The 400 State Trail passes through several towns; Reedsburg, La Valle, Wonewoc, Union Center, Tomah and Elroy. Many of these towns have bars and restaurants right off the trail; like the Trail Break Pizza in La Valle with their Kickstand Patio Bar and the Treasure Mill Antique shop with free tours of their 1903 Water Turbine


Coming into La Valle on the 400 – photo from the Wisconsin Explorer

If you make it all the way to Elroy you can continue on the Elroy-Sparta Trail which has three train tunnels to ride through including one that’s almost a mile long. Headlights are recommended for the Elroy-Sparta Trail because none of the tunnels are illuminated and most curve and are very dark. Indeed, Elroy is something out of an recreational paradise, offering connections to the aforementioned Elroy-Sparta trail as well as the Juneau County Omaha Trail in addition to being close to 4 State Recreation Areas; Wildcat Mountain, Mill Bluff, Devil’s Lake and Castle Rock.


Photo Credit – Rob Chapman and Dale Kiffel

Trail passes for the 400 State Trail are $4.00 a day or $20.00 for an annual pass. Passes can be purchased at both trail heads as well as along the trail. Stop in to your local ERIK’S today,  get geared up and then get out there and ride!

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