Sunday, September 2, 2012

Biking Wisconsin's Omaha Trail

This 12.5 mile trail is paved with chip-seal, and though it is no problem for a mountain bike or a hybrid bike, it could be pretty bumpy for a road bike and fast speed would be impossible. Clumps of grass even break through the paving all along its length. Road crossings are minimal and only involve quiet rural backroads or farm driveways.  When there are services available down a crossroad, the local trail organization has posted signs as to what businesses are which direction. The trail runs straight as an arrow for its length!


I began at the northern end in the quaint town of Camp Douglas right off I-94. The Volk Field Air National Guard base is here and I thought perhaps Camp Douglas derived its name from military use, but it was named after James Douglas who established a camp to provide wood for the locomotives of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, whose right of way the bike trail now uses.

After pasing farms and pastures for 3 miles, you reach the tiny town of Hustler. Below is its tractor pull "arena" with grandstands and a motor-cross track adjacent to it. 

Around mile 4 you begin a gradual uphill to the 300 foot long tunnel which is past mile 6, a highlight of the trip, and you'll also enjoy views of the scenic limestone bluffs of Tunnel Hill which are prevalent now. A very nice park north of the tunnel offers water pump, washrooms, and picnic facilities. They suggest you walk your bike through the tunnel because of a rougher surface and drop off on either side of the paving.

The trail then descends to the town of Elroy, also famous for the Elroy-Sparta Trail. You pedal through woods and pasture lands most of the way now, as the terrain is too hilly for farms.  You can connect to both the Elroy-Sparta and "400" Trails, or enjoy ice cream by turning right, going up a short hill, and turning left at Highway 80/82.  The ice cream place is a mere hundred feet away!  There are also numerous shops and eateries in town.

Here's a photo of a creek from a bridge...

Several places have signs saying  "County Trail Pass" is required of all users, but there are no signs displaying cost and no forms available to fill out as on Wisconsin's State Trails.  I later got the feeling that the signs refer to winter snowmobile users, not bikers.

To get to the Camp Douglas trailhead from Interstate 90, take Exit 55 and head west under the overpass (going east takes you to the National Guard camp gate).  Immediately turn right on County Road C and go a few blocks. Follow the sign left for Highway C which then curves to the left and becomes Main Street. Eddy Street is the next street over on your left and the trail starts right in the middle of town at the intersection of Murray Street and Eddy. Parking is along this wide Eddy Street.

The Elroy trailhead is located near the intersection of State routes 82 and 71. From this intersection follow Cedar Street east, and the trail will be on the left.

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