May is National Bike Month – Biking in Walworth County…

national-bike-month-artwork-by-illustrator-carolyn-vibbertSo let’s see if this thought process works – the last blog was done with the idea that winter would be ending soon and what’s there to do when it does. Mother Nature must not have liked my reference to her not paying enough attention to it being April and so she gave us all this snow. Well, maybe this blog and putting the onus on it being National Bike Month in May will be enough to get things turned around with the weather. Here’s hoping, ‘coz I’m sure over the white stuff, like I’m betting all of you are, too.

As I said, May is National Bike Month. And yes, it’s still only April, but if you need to get your bike tuned up like I do, or maybe even purchase a new bike, there’s time to get it done by talking about this now. Besides, I’m hoping talking about it will help melt all the  snow we just got that much faster…

Walworth County is home to a variety of ways to get rolling on two wheels, be it mountain biking on a state trail or on some private trails accessible for a fee or road biking on scenic back roads. Let’s check out some of the options and get planning on how to celebrate National Bike Month!

First up are the State trails. Being State trails, there are requirements to meet, so let’s go over those: Each bicyclist, age 16 or older, needs a WI State Trail pass while using the trails. State Trail passes are available at self-pay stations at the trailheads, or at the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, 2375 E. Geneva St., Delavan (across from Lake Lawn Resort). WI State Park Vehicle Admission Stickers are required as applicable and are purchased at the state parks.

Okay, that’s out of the way. Now on to the fun part of the trails themselves!

  • The White River State Trail is a 19-mile trail that follows a former rail corridor as it travels by numerous bridges, scenic vistas, quaint towns, farmlands and wetlands. The trail offers a fairly level grade and smooth limestone surface. It can be accessed in Elkhorn at County Highway H, south of the Interstate 43 and US Highway 12 interchange – from Highway 12, take the County Highway NN exit west and then turn left (south) on Highway H; go about 0.6 mile south to the trailhead parking lot.
  • The Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit – Emma Carlin and John Muir Trails, with a Connector Trail between them:
    • The Emma Carlin Trail System goes through a hardwood forest with mostly hilly terrain. There are three color-coded trails ranging from 3.5 miles to 8 miles, each being a single-track mountain bike trail, and ranging from moderate to hard in difficulty. The trailhead can be reached on County Highway Z, just south of State Highway 59, between Eagle and Palmyra. Here’s a breakdown of the three loops:
      • Brown Loop, moderate, 3.5 miles: skirts in and out of pines and hardwoods, passes a kettle lowland, then after joining with the orange loops, proceeds uphill along a moraine and back downhill to the trailhead.
      • Orange Loop, moderate/hard, 6 miles: traverse the contours of the glacial geography, generally uphill to the scenic overlook where the Connector Trail (to the John Muir Trail) meets the Carlin Trails, then get ready for lots of ups and downs until meeting back with the Brown Loop to proceed uphill along a moraine and back downhill to the trailhead.
      • Green Loop, hard, 8 miles: this Loop is continuous with the Orange Loop until it splits off on the southern half of the Orange Loop, where you are now in for several difficult ups and downs as you return to the trailhead.
    • The John Muir Trail System is the most popular trail system within 100 miles. It is again a single-track mountain bike trail of rough, natural surfaces, with five different color-coded loops ranging from 1.25 miles to 12. Difficulty ranges from easy to hard/most difficult. There is also a short skills course to practice trail skills on. The trailhead can be accessed on County Highway H, north of the Town of LaGrange and US Highway 12, and south of Palmyra. Here’s a breakdown of the five loops:
      • Brown Loop, easy, 1.25 miles: mostly flat trail with some small rolling hills; two moderate uphill climbs, one fast downhill and a little rocky ending.
      • White Loop, moderate, 4.25 miles: moderate hills, some rocky trail sections; one long downhill, one fast steep downhill and one moderate uphill before reconnecting with the Brown Loop.
      • Rainy Dew Pass (purple), hard, 4.7 miles: moderate trail with a hard rocky up and down hill before reconnecting with the Blue/Green Loops.
      • Orange Loop, moderate/hard, 5.0 miles: the first half of this trail is the White Loop. Includes moderate trail with a hard, long uphill before reconnecting with the Brown Loop.
      • Green Loop, hard/more difficult, 7.0 miles: moderate trail with very rocky and sandy trail sections; many hard ups and downs, with many fast sections.
      • Blue Loop, hard/most difficult, 12.0 miles: hard trail with very rocky section, many hard uphills and several fast downhills.
      • Skills course: a very short course to practice trail skills.

There are a few private trails available for mountain biking in the area. In no particular order (other than alphabetical – hahaha ):   

  • Alpine Valley Resort, Elkhorn – This is a single-track mountain bike trail, 8.1 miles in length, ranging from intermediate to difficult. Built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, with miles of twists, turns, punchy climbs and fast descents, after an ascending, leg-burning climb to start.

Fee based: Daily pass $2 | Annual pass $20
On-your-honor box for payment, insurance waiver (do once) to be completed

Fee based: ½ day $10 | Full Day $15 | 2 days $25

Bike rentals:
Adult Bike                                        2 hours $25 | 4 hours $40 | 8 hours $65
Youth Bike (6-12 years old)          2 hours $15 | 4 hours $25 | 8 hours $45

Helmets required for all bikers. Helmets are available for rent $10

  • Lake Geneva Canopy Tours, Lake Geneva – The Arbor Trails single-track mountain bike has almost 9 miles of trails offering beginner, intermediate and expert levels. The trails wind through the woods and features plenty of obstacles on the intermediate and expert level routes, which include ladder bridges, jumps, and switchbacks. The trails are unpaved and built around the trees using the natural topography creating the varying levels of difficulty.

Fee based: Day pass $10 | Annual pass $40 | Annual Family Pass $75

For the more subdued and leisurely road bike rider, like myself, there is the Sharon Cycling Series. This series of routes was created to invite bicyclists to the area for the scenic riding available. The center hub of the five routes is in the picture-perfect downtown of Sharon, with a cloverleaf of routes going out to area towns. Riding through the countryside, you’ll pass farms & fields, rural churches, and just be able to lose yourself in the quiet peace of the ride. Loops range from 11 miles (the Classic Sharon Road Race Route) to 23 miles (Fontana loop), and include 18 miles (Darien loop), 22 miles (Clinton loop) and 16 miles (Capron IL loop). All together they make 90 miles of well-marked roads, with each route designated with Bike Route signs or color-coded arrows at each corner. Most of the roads have a traffic count of less than 10 cars per hour. Each community has an ice cream shop, so what better way to refresh after a ride!

Another road bike option would be to bike the Rustic Roads of the area. Walworth County is home to six Rustic Roads.

Rustic Road 11 mapRustic Road 11 (R 11) is a 10.3 miles, gently winding route, that provides excellent views of glacial Kettle Moraine topography. It passes through large wooded areas of oak, maple and hickory, with glimpses of a game farm and scenic agricultural land. East of Lake Geneva, R 11 includes South Road, Steel Road, Spring Valley Road and Knob Hill Road between WI Highways 50 and 36. R 11 adjoins Rustic Roads 12 and 36, so you get a 3-for-1!

 

 

 

 

 

Rustic Road 12 map Rustic Road 12 (R 12) is a 5.7 miles route that at various points offers panoramic views of lush green hills and valleys. The sharply curving route passes outstanding Kettle Moraine formations, pine and spruce plantations, a tamarack swamp, and several ponds. R 12 crosses the White River and runs through the community of Lyons with its several quaint churches. The route includes Back Road, Sheridan Springs Road, Spring Valley Road, and Church Street, between WI Highways 50 and 36. R 12 adjoins Rustic Roads 11 and 36 for added driving and viewing pleasure.

Rustic Road 29 may only be 2.7 miles in length, but it’s located in a countryside of natural beauty, passing through an area of natural vegetation and wildlife, bounded in some places by split rail fencing. Another perspective is to think of it as the back yards of the gorgeous lake homes, whose front yards you’ve seen from Geneva Lake, hopefully while taking one of the boat cruises offered by Lake Geneva Cruise Line!Rustic Road 29 map

Rustic Road 36 (R 36) includes Cranberry Road and Berndt Road, east from Wisconsin Highway 50, and adjoins Rustic Roads 11 and 12. At 3.6 miles, this narrow, hilly route got its name from from early settlers who harvested cranberries from nearby marshes. The route winds through Wisconsin farmland, glacial marshes and knobs, featuring a wide variety of trees and shrubs.Rustic Road 36 map

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rustic Road 85 map

Rustic Road 85 (R 85) is 2.5 miles and includes portions of Potter Road and Kearney Road, forming a loop off of County DD. The route runs adjacent to winding Sugar Creek while on Potter Road, as both pass through Nature Conservancy forests and wetlands. The steeply glaciated uplands of Kearney Road includes a mix of farmlands and pine woodlots.

 

 

 

The newest addition to the Rustic Road family in Walworth County is Rustic Road 120 (R 120). Locals know it as Peck Station Road, with this 2 mile stretch being between County Highways A and ES, just west of Alpine Valley Music Theatre, and east of WI Highway 12. Peck Station Road, named after a Western Union Railroad stop, is agricultural in character and quite colorful in the fall. The former inn still exists as a private home. At the east side of its intersection with County A is the Troy Wildlife Area,  offering many recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, cross country skiing and hiking.Map of Rustic Road 120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Should you need to rent a bike, there a couple of options in the area.

  • Backyard Bikes & Ski Shop, LaGrange – Bicycle make / model varies based on preference, with rental rates ranging from $25/day to $65/day, and reduced rates are offered if reserve online. Don’t forget to ask about the various road routes available to bike in the area, ranging from 12 miles to 60 miles.
  • Pedal & Cup, Springfield

    Adult Bike           Hourly $7 | ½ day (4 hours) $21 | Full day (7 hours) $35
    Child Bike            Hourly $5 | ½ day (4 hours) $15 | Full day (7 hours) $25
    Tandem Bike      Hourly $10 | ½ day (4 hours) $30 | Full day (7 hours) $50

 

National-Bike-Month
However and wherever you choose to get on two wheels
in Walworth County, you’re sure to find an adventure!
For other fun things to do, go to VisitWalworthCounty.com

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