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4 Trails Area Tour 7/2/2011 to 7/4/2011

Posted by on July 5, 2011

From July 2nd, 2011 to July 4th, 2011 i took small tour of the ‘4 Trails Area’ from Reedsburg, WI to Marshland, WI. This was my first solo multi-day tour and encompassed the “400” State Trail, The Elroy-Sparta State Trail, The La Crosse River State Trail and the Great River State Trail. This trip was about 200 miles total.

Day 1 – Reedsburg, WI to Onalaska, WI 80 miles
400 State Trail, Elroy-Sparta State Trail, La Crosse River State Trail

After the 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Madison i parked at the trailhead in Reedsburg, WI and loaded up my bike. I had test loaded everything at home to get an idea of my bag space but decided to shed some extra clothing and such to lighten my load a bit. I left Reedsburg around 9:45 and began my journey to Onalaska where i would be staying for the night. The 400 and Elroy-Sparta trails were a great ride as usual. I had rode these trails a few times in the past so i knew what to expect and was not disappointed. I have a more detailed post about these trails from a few weeks back you can find here. I entered new territory when i transferred from the Elroy-Sparta to the La Crosse River State Trail.

There is really not much to say about the La Crosse River Trail. The trail is in excellent shape but i found the scenery lacking. I think they should rename this trail to ‘The Trail between the Elroy-Sparta and Great River Trail’ because that is really all it is. Most of the trail has I-90 visible a 1/2 mile away and passes thru many industrial areas which takes away the aura of being isolated. You have no view of the La Crosse River except for maybe a 1/2 mile and no real nature views worth mentioning besides a small stretch of prarie. In the end this trail is not much of a destination trail, but a means to connect the Elroy-Sparta and Great River trails. I dont want to say to avoid this trail, but i wouldnt go out of my way to see it.

I arrived in Onalaska around 5:30 and checked into The Comfort Inn located about a mile off the trail. The hotel was a little over priced probably due to 4th of July weekend, but this being my first solo tour i wanted to stay near the trails and near civilization. The hotel was located close to bars, restaurants , a grocery store and a liquor store that would rival anything in Madison. Grabbing a make your own 6 pack of micro brews really hit the spot after the 80 mile ride.

Day 2 – The Great River State Trail – 40 (50) miles
Day 2 was the most interesting day of my trip to say the least. After sleeping in a bit i left my hotel around 11 with the full intentions of doing the 50 mile round trip of the Great River State Trail. First off i was very impressed with the Great River State Trail. The trail provided some excellent river, prairie and views of nature in general. You really feel removed from society along this trail. This trail may be one of my favorite Wisconsin trails after only 1 ride, id recommend everyone check this trail out.

Unfortunately the the day did not go fully as planned. I am riding a 2011 Trek 7.5 FX that i had bought new this year. I had around 1800 miles on it before i left for this tour. Before i left i had had my derailleur adjusted at my LBS and done a few self adjustment and i felt confident my bike was in great condition for my 200+ miles solo ride. I had done a brief inspection of my tires ahead of time and even though they did have some wear, i thought they would make it thru this trip, in retrospect with 1800 miles on these tires i really should have replaced them before the trip.

About 16 miles into my 50 mile round trip i got my first flat of the trip. I didn’t think much of it, i patched the tire, replaced the tube and went on my way. Then at 21 miles i got my 2nd flat. When i got this second flat I was at the entrance to the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was going to be one of the highlights of my trip and I really wanted to check it out and take some photo’s, however i had already used up 3 of my 4 C02 cartridges and my 2 spare tubes on my first 2 flats . That meant if i had another flat id have to patch one of my already punctured tubes and use my last C02 cartridge in the unsheltered trail in 90 degree heat. About this time i was kicking myself for carrying C02 instead of a frame pump and for not inspecting my tires better. After contemplating risking it and taking the 9 mile round trip thru the Wildlife Refuge to the trailhead in Marshland i decided it woudlnt be the smartest thing. After changing out this 2nd flat i decided to turn around and go back to my hotel in Onalaska thereby skipping the last 9 miles of my 50 mile round trip. When it was all said and done this was the smart move.

After 4 miles I got flat #3. This flat was a pain. I walked my bike a bit to get away from the bugs on the trail and find a calmer place to patch things up. I had to first patch one of my existing tubes, this normally would be simple at home with a dish of water to put the tube into to find the hole, but being in the middle of the trail it took me a bit to find the puncture, i then took a look at the tire and patched a few small tire punctures in hopes of making the tire last the final 15 miles back to the hotel. I used my last c02 cartridge and prayed i had patched everything good enough, with no more C02 cartridges i would be stranded if i got another flat. This part of the ride was a bit stressful, every time i hit a softer patch of trail i was paranoid and thought i was losing tire pressure again. Luckily i was able to make it back to the hotel. Unfortunately the local bike shop in Onalaska was closed for 2 more days. I did end up going to a to a chain store i despise that will remain unnamed and bought a frame pump, some extra patches and some tire liners just to be safe since the didnt have the 700×32 tires i was looking for. At the hotel that evening I spent some time patching the existing tubes i had and patching some soft spots on my tires. I did a pretty through job and i hoped this would be good enough for the 80 mile ride home. I was confident with enough patches and a pump instead of C02 i would be able to do any emergency repairs on my tire if needed.

Day 3 – Onalaska, WI to Reedsburg, WI 80 miles
400 State Trail, Elroy-Sparta State Trail, La Crosse River State Trail

I was a little paranoid of tire punctures the first 10 miles or so but my patch jobs seemed to be holding up and i ran into no issues on my way back to Reedsburg. The traffic on the Elroy-Sparta trail was pretty calm, when talking to the host at the Sparta headquarters she had mentioned the day before had been the busiest day of the year and i was lucky to have missed the crowds. I arrived in Reedsburg before 8 and was relieved the patch job on my tires held up.

Overall i was happy with how things went on my first multi day solo tour which ended up at 200 miles in 3 days. I had done overnight tours in the past, but they were always to meet people and i always had my overnight gear brought ahead of me. I learned a lot about what to pack, how to prepare for my ride and to never push the lifetime of my tires when touring solo. I also decided to always carry a pump instead of C02 when touring. With a pump and enough patches you can infinity repair your tire in a worst case scenario, with C02 your always dependent on how many cartridges you carry. I hope to get a light weight tent soon and do some solo camping tours, stay tuned. I do plan on going back to these trails in a few weeks to see the last few miles of the Great River Trail.

Great River State Trail Map
Great River Trail Photo Album

La Crosse River State Trail Map
La Crosse River Trail Photos

400 State Trail Map
400 State Trail Photo Album (Most from 6/13/2011)

Elroy-Sparta Trail Map
Elroy-Sparta Photo Album (Most from 6/13/2011)

From Great River
From LaCrosse River
From Great River
From Great River


Bike Fully Loaded
From LaCrosse River


Tank and helicoptor in Rockland, WI
From LaCrosse River

2 Responses to 4 Trails Area Tour 7/2/2011 to 7/4/2011

  1. TJ

    Great ride report and pics. I want to do something like this. Mabye next summer.

  2. John

    Wow, this website is a treasure-trove of information! Thanks. I have a question: Do you know of a motel, B&B, or cabins that are really close to the mid-point of the trail in Sparta? 3 or 4 of my friends and I are planning a ride in Sept. Also, do you know of any companies/outfits who do a person/bike shuttle — at a reasonable per person cost — between Reedsburg and Trempealeau?

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