Wisconsin State Park System
Wisconsin has 44 State Trails open to the public, covering more than 1,700 miles. Fourteen trails are managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and 25 are managed by county partners. The other two trails are National Scenic Trails. In 2009, Wisconsin's State Trails were dedicated as the "Aldo Leopold Legacy Trail System."
Most of Wisconsin's 44 State Trails are rail trails - trails that have been converted from former railroad corridors into recreational trails. In 1965, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail became the first rail trail in the country. Since then, 36 other rail trails have been developed by the state, as well as dozens of others by local communities in Wisconsin.
Some state trails are part of state and national bikeways. A bikeway is a road, street, path or "way" which is specifically designated for bicycle travel, may be designed for bicycle travel or is shared with other transportation modes. Examples of bikeways include paved shoulders, bike lanes, shared road lanes and shared-use trails. The United States Bicycle Route System is a network of long-distance bicycle routes across the country linking urban, suburban and rural areas and includes U.S. Bike Routes 10, 20 and 37 in Wisconsin.
The 25 State Trails that are managed by county partners are considered cooperative trails. Cooperative trails allow the Department of Natural Resources and county partners to work together to preserve corridors for trail purposes. For most cooperative trails, the department owns the land, while the counties develop, maintain and operate the trail.
- Cooperative State Trail easement
- Cooperative State Trail Memorandum of Understanding
- Rail-to-Trail process
Wisconsin State Trails Network Plan
The Wisconsin State Trails Network Plan identifies a statewide network of trails and provides guidance to the department for land acquisition and development. The plan maps detail the potential trail network for different regions in the state. The Network Plan was last updated in 2003 and identifies both state-owned trails and trails owned by other government entities.