My wife and I took on the challenge to do a round trip bicycle trip on the Elroy-Sparta bicycle trail, about a 64 mile round trip. We did complete the trip and had a great time on this trail. We started in Elroy and proceeded to Sparta and back. The trail meanders its way in the Wisconsin countryside with some nice views of rolling hills and forested areas. The trail is for the most part flat, but there is a consistent, noticeable upward grade for a couple of miles before each of the three tunnels that will definitely slow you down a little and make you work. On the plus side, once you come out of a tunnel you have a couple of miles of downhill ride. The trail is crushed limestone and is well maintained and plenty wide for passing and riding side by side.
A few pointers. If you are going to start in Elroy, there is a large parking lot in the downtown area located a couple of blocks just to the south of the trail head just in case you aren't familiar with the area (which we weren't). You do have to buy a trail pass for $4/person, but we didn't see any place to buy the pass in Elroy. We rode about 6 miles to Kendall where there is an official bike path building right on the path where passes could be purchased. We were glad we purchased our passes as further in our ride we were stopped by a ranger who nicely asked to see our passes. If you start in Sparta, there is an official path building in Sparta with some parking where you can purchase a pass as well.
There are a handful of towns along the way where there are places to eat and get more water/sports drinks. You should still plan on bringing plenty to drink with you on your bikes.
You will definitely need flashlights to get through all 3 tunnels, and each person should have one. Once you get about 50 feet into the tunnel you will realize how dark it gets and you actually lost your sense of balance a little. There is a lot of dripping water in the tunnels, which was refreshing but we didn't get soaking wet. You are asked to walk your bikes, and that is highly recommended as on both sides of the path there are low drainage areas that you can easily ride into and will most likely crash.
The town of Sparta is larger than Elroy and is livelier than Elroy with more places to stop get a quick bite before you make the return trip.
Make sure you bring what you need to repair flat tires (repair kit, spare tube, small pump and tools to get the tire off the rim) as I did get a leaky tire on the return trip and there don't appear to be any on the path repair shops, and you could find yourself making a long walk if you can't fix a flat tire.
We stayed in Mauston, Wi, about a 15 minute ride from Elroy, as there aren't a lot of good hotel options at either trail head. We did see two campgrounds right off the path, one near Elroy and one near Sparta. We made our trip on a Sunday, and there is a sporting/gun club near the campground in Elroy and the shotgun noise from the gun club was loud and easily heard at the campground. For the campground near Sparta, it is very close to the interstate, and so noise from the interstate could be heard at the campground.
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