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Sugar River Trail

The Sugar River State Trail

*Please note that use of state trails requires either an annual pass (available at Michael's Cycles), or a daily pass (available at locations near the trails).

The Sugar River Trail is the closest state trail to Janesville. Easily accessible by going west on Highway 11 for about 20 miles to Brodhead. Look for signs right after the baseball diamond on the right. Our family has done this trail dozens of times, but the 46-mile round trip may be too much for the young ones, or those that don't ride often. I would recommend starting in Monticello or Albany and making New Glarus your destination. (See map below.) New Glarus is a wonderful town to walk through. It is filled with great Swiss architecture and influence. The shops are fun, restaurants great, and there is even a nice park in which to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Listen to the church bells and you can just imagine yourself in the Alps among the cows in the fields! 

The Sugar River State Trail is a 23-mile long, 265-acre, recreation trail connecting four small communities:

  • New Glarus, a village with a pronounced Swiss heritage;
  • The villages of Monticello and Albany, which are primarily agricultural; and
  • The City of Brodhead, with an economy of farming and small industry.

The limestone-surfaced trail is used for bicycling, hiking, snowmobiling. A mile in New Glarus is blacktopped and can also be used for in-line skating.

The depot in New Glarus offers bicycle rentals in season.

Prairie remnants exist in many areas along the right-of-way. During the summer, a continual change in colorful prairie wildflowers and grasses can be seen. Lowland cattails and reeds are found in the wetlands; and woods with oaks, hickory, walnut, and cherry are interspersed between the dry prairies and other areas that have been invaded by sumac, willow and elderberry. The diverse vegetation contributes to a spectacular display of color in autumn.

A Wildlife Corridor

Mammals found on the Sugar River Trail include deer, coyote, fox, bobcat, beaver, otter, woodchuck, skunk, mink, rabbit, fox and gray squirrels, chipmunk, ground squirrels, moles and shrews. Many kinds of snakes, turtles, salamanders are found along the trail as well. Almost every bird found in Wisconsin can be seen on the Sugar River Trail, more than 100 different species. The corridor totals 265 acres, but this provides more benefit to wildlife than a block of land the same size, because it gives access to more land along the trail and a variety of habitats.

A National Scenic and Recreational Trail

The Sugar River State Trail, from Bump Road to Exeter Crossing Road, is part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The Ice Age Trail is a National Recreation Trail that, when completed, will travel over 1,000 miles of Wisconsin, along the terminal edge of the Wisconsin lobe of the last glacier to cover the state. More than 500 miles of the Ice Age Trail are open to the public now. The trail highlights the many topographic features that were created by the glaciers.

The National Park Service also has designated the Sugar River Trail as a national recreational trail. 

For more information, ask:

Sugar River State Trail
418 Railroad St.
New Glarus WI 53574
(608) 527-2334 (summer), (608) 527-2335 (off season)

For a printable version of the map below, set your printer to high-quality printing,
and click here: