Skip to main content

State Trails

Wisconsin State Park System

Biking the 400 trail Biking the 400 State TrailPhoto credit: DNR

Wisconsin has 44 State Trails open to the public. There are 43 land-based trails covering more than 1,700 miles. Thirteen of these trails are managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and 27 are managed by county partners. Two trails are National Scenic Trails. The State Trail system also includes one water-based trail - the Lake Michigan State Water Trail, which extends along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreline. In 2009, Wisconsin's State Trails were dedicated as the "Aldo Leopold Legacy Trail System."

Rail trails

Most of Wisconsin's 43 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, 39 other rail trails have been developed by the state, as well as dozens of others by local communities in Wisconsin.

U.S. Bicycle Route System

The United States Bicycle Route System [exit DNR] is a network of long-distance bicycle routes across the country linking urban, suburban and rural areas. A bicycle route may include shared-use trails, paved shoulders, bike lanes and shared road lanes.

In Wisconsin, U.S. Bicycle Routes 30 and 230 travel east to west, connecting Milwaukee to Minnesota. These routes travel on over 170 miles of state trails including the Hank Aaron, Glacial Drumlin, Capital City, 400, Elroy-Sparta, La Crosse River and Great River state trails. 

Funding for Wisconsin's Trails

This manual features a variety of funding sources available for trail development and maintenance in Wisconsin. The manual is designed to empower trail advocates to access financial support from state, federal and private sources to develop trails in their communities.

Cooperative trails

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.

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.