The “family friendly” Wisconsin 400 State Trail is so close to Devil’s Lake State Park that it should be packed with people and yet, it’s often quiet. How can that be?
From the time I worked at Devil’s Lake back in the 90’s and right up to today, people who visit Devil’s Lake State Park have been disappointed that the park lacks bike trails where they can take their kids or just have a relaxing ride. While visitors have often heard that the park has a bike trail, they’re mostly unaware of the type of trail it is. The park’s only bike trail, the “Uplands”, is a mountain bike trail. Full stop. It’s not for everyone.
With cycling so popular these days and almost no moderate trails in the area or even much in the way of safe bike lanes in the Baraboo area, it’s no wonder people are excited about the new Great Sauk Trail which will finally provide a safe and fairly easy ride nearby. (Thanks to Culvers for jumping in with needed funding on that!) But really, we’ve always had a great family-friendly trail nearby. The 400 State Bike Trail is just 15 minutes from Devil’s Lake State Park.
The 22-mile long Wisconsin 400 State Trail is located between Reedsburg and Elroy. It was developed on an old Chicago-Northwestern Railroad bed and was named after the Chicago-Northwestern passenger train that traveled the 400 miles between Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul in 400 minutes back in the day. The 400 State Trail features beautiful rural scenery including rolling farmland, healthy wetlands, and some awesome sandstone outcroppings. The nearly flat, packed limestone trail runs parallel with the Baraboo River so is also a great spot to see wildlife, especially during a morning or evening ride. The 400 is just an awesome trail! (We’re partial to the La Valle to Wonewoc section.)
So why isn’t the Wisconsin 400 State Bike Trail super busy? Yeah, that’s a great question. It should be hopping on weekends at the very least. I think it comes down to perception. It might be that we think of a location in a different city as “far away”, a long drive or whatever and then simply write it off. But we shouldn’t. I mean, what’s a 15-minute commute in Milwaukee or Chicago? If you live in a large city, you’d easily drive 15 minutes to do some shopping or see a concert or whatever. Not a big deal. We also don’t think twice about that 15 minutes if we are within a park. For instance, If we are visiting Yellowstone National Park, we think nothing of driving 17 miles from the West Thumb over to see Old Faithful. So why not do the 15-minute drive from Devil’s Lake State Park over to the 400 trail for a day’s bike ride? If you put it in perspective, the 400 is basically right here. 🙂
Taking the family for a safe, fun and relaxing bike ride is often one of the highlights of an outdoor lover’s vacation and in our area. The 400 State Bike Trail is not only a perfect choice, it’s also just minutes away.