Sparta became “The Bicycling Capital of America” by completing the first Rails-to-Trails project converting an abandoned railway track into a bicycling trail system. The Elroy-Sparta State Trail, built in 1965, is 32.5 miles long. Pedal bikers have it made in Sparta, but motorcycle riders also have great riding options to the north in the Coulee Country, and in the Driftless Region, south of the city.
Approximately 180 miles round-trip
Rudy’s Drive-In is a seasonal restaurant across from the small high-wheeler park on the east side of the city. Find it at 100 W Wisconsin St, Sparta, WI.
The Alma Hotel restaurant in downtown Alma is across from the Mississippi River Lock & Dam #4. Find it at 201 N Main St, Alma, WI.
Scenery (4 out of 5)
This route is all about scenery: Mississippi River bluffs and turnouts, and ridgetop vistas of farm fields, marshes, and forests nestled in deep coulees and valleys. You can expect to see wildlife, too.
Difficulty (3 out of 5)
The majority of curves and up/down hills can be handled by most street bikes. The winding paved goat trail climbing 500 feet to Buena Vista Park above Alma is an experience that must be taken slowly with a hand covering the front brake on the descent.
Road conditions (3 out of 5)
Most pavement on the route is in decent shape. There are a few stretches of rough pavement on SR 108 south of Mindoro and Hwy 71 W, but the curves and steep climbs make these roads worthwhile rides. Caution: Early spring riders may still encounter winter sand in corners on less traveled backroads.
Points of Interest
Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum
This museum in Sparta covers the career of astronaut Deke Slayton and the history of bicycling, with bikes ranging from the 1800s high-wheelers to current carbon fiber mountain bikes.
This county park, located on Hwy 71 just west of Hwy 27 and south of Cataract, is an outdoor display of the sculptures built in the 1920s and ’30s by Paul and Matilda Wegner using broken glass, pottery shards, and concrete.
Buena Vista Park
Located 500 feet above Alma on the bluff, this park allows incredible views of the Mississippi River, the lock and dam, and the activity in town. The paved one-lane path that winds up to the park is a worthwhile climb and descent on a motorcycle.
World’s Largest Bike Display
The 30-foot-tall high-wheeler bike is located in a riverfront park at Hwy 16 and Water Street on the east side of Sparta.