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  1. #1
    Senior Member kbblodorn's Avatar
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    Wisconsin short touring route ideas

    I have an opportunity to make my first bike tour in June (opportunity = wife and kids out of town, no business trips planned). I recently acquired a Novara Safari to use as a commuter, but with the idea of beginning to do some short touring. I'm wondering if anyone has some ideas for a nice route in WI that would work. Here are some parameters:

    Total duration: 4 days / 3 nights
    Daily mileage: Up to 75, but probably 50 is best
    Overnights: Camping
    Start/End: Preferably start and end at home (NW of Milwaukee), so as not to drive to a start point. But, if there are really great routes that mean traveling, I can do that too.

    I'm hoping to do a one-nighter before this trip, to test out my preparation, packing, etc.

    Thoughts?

    TIA!

    Keith
    Last edited by kbblodorn; 04-22-11 at 09:47 AM.

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    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    The world is out your front door. You could head over to La Crosse, a beautiful place this time of year. The Manitowoc area is within striking distance. High Cliff state park, one of my first tour destinations as a young kid, is a nice stop. Post your trip plans as you move forward. Have fun.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member mmac's Avatar
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    At first I thought you were from Menomonie (the real one) and was going to suggest you just took the red cedar to cornell/ Chippewa county rec area. Isn't there a bike path that goes from the Milwaukee area all the way to door county?

    http://wibikeroutes.net/routes.htm

  4. #4
    Senior Member kbblodorn's Avatar
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    I like the idea of taking the train to La Crosse and riding back - that looks like a great route connecting a bunch of the state trails. Just a question of how easy or difficult it is to take a bike on the train.

    I'd love to bike to Door, but it would have to be an out-and-back unless there's some public transport I can use one way. Might look in to that too.

    Just looking at Google Maps, I plotted out a course to Kohler, then up to Point Beach, back down to Kettle Moraine - Greenbush. If I can't make the train idea work, then that might be the plan.

    -Keith

  5. #5
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kbblodorn View Post
    I like the idea of taking the train to La Crosse and riding back - that looks like a great route connecting a bunch of the state trails. Just a question of how easy or difficult it is to take a bike on the train.

    I'd love to bike to Door, but it would have to be an out-and-back unless there's some public transport I can use one way. Might look in to that too.

    Just looking at Google Maps, I plotted out a course to Kohler, then up to Point Beach, back down to Kettle Moraine - Greenbush. If I can't make the train idea work, then that might be the plan.

    -Keith
    Wisconsin is blessed with many railtrails. You could ride from Milwaulkee to La Crosse almost exclusively on them. I've ridden many of these routes over several years and found them all to be enjoyable. The tunnels on the Elroy Sparta are with the trip themselves.
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    Senior Member kbblodorn's Avatar
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    I did a bit more searching to find out what's involved with taking a bike on the train from MKE to La Crosse. Looks like it's a matter of buying a box from Amtrak (anywhere from $0 to $15), popping the pedals off and turning the bars sideways, and traveling between two stations with checked baggage service. If that's the case, then I think I will give the La Crosse - Milwaukee trip a go.

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    Senior Member badger_biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kbblodorn View Post
    I did a bit more searching to find out what's involved with taking a bike on the train from MKE to La Crosse. Looks like it's a matter of buying a box from Amtrak (anywhere from $0 to $15), popping the pedals off and turning the bars sideways, and traveling between two stations with checked baggage service. If that's the case, then I think I will give the La Crosse - Milwaukee trip a go.
    I've done Amtak several times and it is worth asking at the station if they have any used boxes - usually free. As you noted bars and pedals are your only concern. Tape the box up and you are on your way. Quite simple and inexpensive. They usually do enough bikes that they know the boxes stay on edge and they don't lay them down. Have a great trip!
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  8. #8
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    Unfortunately there does not appear to be a master map that shows the whole state, so it is not that easy to figure out where each trail is.
    http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/parks/tra...e.html#touring

    Some of the county maps may be useful
    http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/...countymaps.htm

    If going through Madison, this may help.
    http://www.cityofmadison.com/bikeMadison/plantrip/

    If you go through Madison the Glacial Drumlin Trail goes east from Cottage Grove.

  9. #9
    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kbblodorn View Post
    I did a bit more searching to find out what's involved with taking a bike on the train from MKE to La Crosse. Looks like it's a matter of buying a box from Amtrak (anywhere from $0 to $15), popping the pedals off and turning the bars sideways, and traveling between two stations with checked baggage service. If that's the case, then I think I will give the La Crosse - Milwaukee trip a go.
    You may also be able to take the train and get off in Red Wing, MN. That is a wonderful area to bike in. You could cross the river into WI and take the river road down to La Crosse then back to your home.

    This would maybe extend your trip a day or two but add a lot of value to it.
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  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    Unfortunately there does not appear to be a master map that shows the whole state, so it is not that easy to figure out where each trail is.
    http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/parks/tra...e.html#touring

    Some of the county maps may be useful
    http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/...countymaps.htm

    If going through Madison, this may help.
    http://www.cityofmadison.com/bikeMadison/plantrip/

    If you go through Madison the Glacial Drumlin Trail goes east from Cottage Grove.
    For planning purposes, Google Map in bicycle mode shows many, if not most, trails. You do have to zoom in some to see the trails on the map, however.
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  11. #11
    Prairie Path Commuter
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    Unfortunately there does not appear to be a master map that shows the whole state, so it is not that easy to figure out where each trail is.
    http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/parks/tra...e.html#touring

    Some of the county maps may be useful
    http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/...countymaps.htm

    If going through Madison, this may help.
    http://www.cityofmadison.com/bikeMadison/plantrip/

    If you go through Madison the Glacial Drumlin Trail goes east from Cottage Grove.

    There is a set of bicycle maps for Wisconsin called "Wisconsin Bicycle Maps" . My set is several years old now but it looks like it is put out by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. I frequently see them at REIs in Illinois.
    Last edited by robmcl; 04-23-11 at 10:07 AM.

  12. #12
    Prairie Path Commuter
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    I am a former Wisconsinite based near Chicago now. I have been planning some weekend touring trips for this summer based on point-to-point where I can get a one way car rental. Enterprise has rentals in all the towns listed. At least half of the trips I have checked and you can get a one way rental, not sure how far they will let you do that though. As you can see, I have been focusing on the Mississippi River Trail, which you can Google.

    1.) Dubuque IW to Quad Cities through Galena - 50 miles of it is paved off road along the river.

    2.) Dubuque IW to La Crosse, WI

    3.) Dubuque IW to Madison, WI

    4.) Quad Cities to Burlington, IW

    5.) Burlington IW to Quincy, IL

    6.) Quincy IL to St. Louis, MO
    Last edited by robmcl; 04-23-11 at 10:04 AM.

  13. #13
    Prairie Path Commuter
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    The Glacial Drumline trail goes most of the way between Waukesha and Madison, maybe a day's ride. West from Madison is the Military Ridge Trail that goes through Blue Mound and Governor Dodge State parks. Another day might be between Madison and Platteville. Then you can head north from Platteville to La Crosse along the Mississippi River - about another day. There are other state parks near Platteville and along the river. From La Crosse either take Amtrack or inquire about a one way car rental back to Milwaukee area. Southwest Wisconsin is very under rated.

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    If you start in LaCrosse you have a several very good options. You could go southward along the the Great River road--really nice. Or take the Rail to Trail route Elroy-Sparta, heading east out of LaCrosse. Or you could just wind your way through the backroads going through some of the very neat places like Viroqua, home of many organic growers, and hit the beautiful Kickapoo River valley, where you could rent a canoe and do some outstanding paddling for a change of pace. The first two would have you bumping into others who are "tourists" or sight-seers of one sort or another, whereas the latter course would really have you just hangin with the locals.

  15. #15
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Lots of good options as the other contributors have suggested. Wisconsin is bicycle vacation paradise. No question about it. One of my favorite bicycle tour places in the world.

    I would strongly suggest you Ride to Sturgeon Bay and back. Ride along the shore of Lake Michigan there and along Green Bay and Lake Winnebago on the return.

    Camp day one at Point Beach State Park in Two Rivers.

    Camp Day two at Peninsula State Park in Sturgeon Bay.

    Return via Green Bay and Appleton.

    Camp Day three at Bay Shore County Park in Dykeville ...-OR-..., if you have the horsepower, make it to High Cliff State Park on the north shore of Lake Winnebago.

    Return to Milwaukee day 4.

    75 miles each day. Beautiful ride. Lots of towns along the way if you need a break or bike maintenance. You can even eat your meals at good restaurants along the way. All campsites are only a few easy ride miles to towns with great dining and lots of choices.

    Last edited by mike; 04-23-11 at 11:59 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    Lots of good options as the other contributors have suggested. Wisconsin is bicycle vacation paradise. No question about it. One of my favorite bicycle tour places in the world.

    I would strongly suggest you Ride to Sturgeon Bay and back. Ride along the shore of Lake Michigan there and along Green Bay and Lake Winnebago on the return.



    Camp day one at Point Beach State Park in Two Rivers.

    Camp Day two at Peninsula State Park in Sturgeon Bay.

    Return via Green Bay and Appleton.

    Camp Day three at Bay Shore County Park in Dykeville ...-OR-..., if you have the horsepower, make it to High Cliff State Park on the north shore of Lake Winnebago.

    Return to Milwaukee day 4.

    75 miles each day. Beautiful ride. Lots of towns along the way if you need a break or bike maintenance. You can even eat your meals at good restaurants along the way. All campsites are only a few easy ride miles to towns with great dining and lots of choices.

    Correction: the State Park in Sturgeon Bay is Patawami. Peninsula is in Fish Creek — further north, but worth the miles. Summer time can be pretty busy there.

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    I could be wrong but I thought that you typically have to reserve a year in advance to get a camp site at one of the State Parks in Door County. Reserve America is the place to go for reserving spots at State Parks in Wisconsin.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceNine View Post
    I could be wrong but I thought that you typically have to reserve a year in advance to get a camp site at one of the State Parks in Door County. Reserve America is the place to go for reserving spots at State Parks in Wisconsin.
    Excellent question with an answer that many people are not aware. If you bicycle or hike into a Wisconsin State campground, they must make space for you. You might not get a designated campground - ie you might have to camp at a picnic site or wherever they put you BUT you will have space. I double confirmed this last year and receive in IN WRITING from the Wisconsin DNR.

    By the way, the same is true for National Parks. I found this by accident a couple of years ago when I friend and I hiked completely through the Bob Marshal wilderness, then north into Glacier National Park. We were told at the gate,
    "sorry, we are full" When we turned around to hike out the ranger stopped us and asked if we had hiked to the park. We said "yes" and described our route. He told us it was our lucky day and asked us to wait while he finished checking in what looked like five miles of bumper to bumper cars with reservations. Sure enough, they let us camp at Glacier National Park that day.
    Mike

  19. #19
    Senior Member kbblodorn's Avatar
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    We go camping at Peninsula SP every year. Great biking in and around the park with little kids. I like the Peninsula-and-back idea, but I think the mileage might be a bit high for me as a first tour. Maybe I'll convince my wife to pull the camper up there this year, so I can ride up and meet them there! (Highly unlikely...) I keyed in on the La Crosse to MKE route because of the Amtrak access, but I will definitely think some more about the suggestions of alternate routes to the rail trails.

    FWIW, I know that Peninsula does have some "first come first serve" sites, but it's also good to know that the parks will try to accommodate cyclists.

    Thanks for the great input! I'll try to post more as my plans come together.

    -Keith

  20. #20
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    If you are game for a car/bike combo trip, then you could start at Luxemburg/Casco at the trail head of the Ahnapee trail. It is about 35 mile on bicycle/hiking only trails all the way to Stugeon Bay and Potowatamie (sp?) State Park.

    Along the way, you pass through Algoma which is a nice town on the shore of Lake Michigan. Nice place for lunch.

    There are two private camp grounds just north of Algoma right on the trail. You could stay there, but... they are crowded treeless campsites. Lots of semi-permanent trailers which often makes for a friendly environment. If you can make it all the way to Sturgeon Bay and just camp at Potowatami, that would be the best.

    Try that and then use your extra day to take day trips in Door County.

    If you are going completely car-less, maybe you can get close to the trail-head by bus?
    Mike

  21. #21
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    Lots of good options as the other contributors have suggested. Wisconsin is bicycle vacation paradise. No question about it. One of my favorite bicycle tour places in the world.

    I would strongly suggest you Ride to Sturgeon Bay and back. Ride along the shore of Lake Michigan there and along Green Bay and Lake Winnebago on the return.

    Camp day one at Point Beach State Park in Two Rivers.

    Camp Day two at Peninsula State Park in Sturgeon Bay.

    Return via Green Bay and Appleton.

    Camp Day three at Bay Shore County Park in Dykeville ...-OR-..., if you have the horsepower, make it to High Cliff State Park on the north shore of Lake Winnebago.

    Return to Milwaukee day 4.

    75 miles each day. Beautiful ride. Lots of towns along the way if you need a break or bike maintenance. You can even eat your meals at good restaurants along the way. All campsites are only a few easy ride miles to towns with great dining and lots of choices.


    I couldn't for the likes of me figure out why someone more familiar with wisconsin hadn't already posted up about riding towards door county.

    Seems like the most sensible destination from the OP's location. Inland wisconsin is nice too, but they're called "the great lakes" for a reason!
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  22. #22
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    I am currently in the beginning stages of planning a ride from Kenosha to the Dells area in early August. I know that the Glacial Drumlin Trail takes me all the way to Madison but from there it looks like only road. Has any body done some riding from Madison north to the Reedsburg/Dells area? Thank you for your input.

  23. #23
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    Highway 12 heading northwest to the Dells area out of Madison/Middleton has a bike path that follows along beside. I think it continues to Prairie du Sac. You can see it on MapMyRide. I've only taken it as far as Indian Lake County Park area where I get off and take the back roads. I would try to avoid riding on Hwy 12 due to all the traffic. What I would do is take the bike path from Middleton to Prairie du Sac, then take Highway 78 north to 113 and ride leisurely through Devils Lake State Park.

    I didn't realize that cyclists can always get a camping spot at a State Park. Hot Damn, I may have to bike up to Devils Lake a few times this year. It is only 36 miles from my front door, taking that route above.

  24. #24
    It's as easy as riding a dannwilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DByers View Post
    I am currently in the beginning stages of planning a ride from Kenosha to the Dells area in early August. I know that the Glacial Drumlin Trail takes me all the way to Madison but from there it looks like only road. Has any body done some riding from Madison north to the Reedsburg/Dells area? Thank you for your input.
    I rode from River Falls down to Harvard, IL a few years back and went through the area you are talking about. The County and town roads are excellent! Go here: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/...countymaps.htm and download the counties you will be going through. I used these exclusively when I was not on the bike trails, and worked great.
    Here is the link to my CGOAB journal of this portion of the trip, to give you an idea of my general route: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...e_id=35968&v=y
    Have fun on your trip!
    "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster."

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceNine View Post

    I didn't realize that cyclists can always get a camping spot at a [Wisconsin] State Park. Hot Damn, I may have to bike up to Devils Lake a few times this year. It is only 36 miles from my front door, taking that route above.
    You will find most Wisconsin DNR park staff are great people as long as you are following the rules (including buying the trail pass for riding on the bike trails) and they will try to accommodate your needs. BUT, there has been a huge upheaval since the election and many of the best staff are leaving in droves.

    Bottom line is that you can't predict the future based on the past. I used to work for the Wisconsin DNR. A lot of my former co-workers have recently left and several more are planning to leave in the next few months. It will be a completely different agency in the future compared to the past.

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