We had the opportunity to ride the Glacial River Trail as a family - started in Fort Atkinson and rode to the red covered bridge.
8.6-mile former railbed bike trail running south from downtown Fort Atkinson to the Jefferson/Rock County line. The northernmost 4.5 miles are asphalt paved, the balance is crushed limestone. This spectacular recreational attraction features an archway, bronze sculptures, rest areas and fountains, making it a relaxing and scenic walk or ride through Fort Atkinson.
The Glacial River Trail provides bikers, pedestrians, and in-line skaters with a 55.8-mile off-road/on-road rural route winding through farmland, prairie, wetlands, and woodlands as it passes through three counties in southeastern Wisconsin.
Technically, the southern endpoint begins in Janesville at Milton Avenue, where you can also pick up a segment of the 1,200-mile, hiking-centric Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Note that the closest dedicated trail parking is about 10 miles farther down the trail in Koshkonong. Heading north from Janesville on the Glacial River Trail, you’ll travel through Milton and rural countryside to Kosh-konong, where you’ll leave Rock County and head into Jefferson County. A quaint covered bridge greets you just after this crossing.
Open areas and woods serve as pleasant companions as you travel north along SR 26. Take a worthy side trip by heading west (left) at Koshkonong Mounds Road to Indian Mounds Park, which features 11 Native American effigy mounds and an ancient Indian trail. The mounds, large earthworks with religious or ceremonial origins, can be seen from the trail. Look closely to see the turtle and bird shapes identified by experts. The mounds are thought to have survived about 1,500 years.
About 16 miles into your journey you’ll reach Fort Atkinson. Note that just before reaching Fort Atkinson, the trail detours from the railroad corridor for about 1.5 miles, heading northwest and then east on Schwemmer Lane (under SR 26), and then right on Groeler Road, which meets up with the off-road trail again on the northern side of where SR 26 and SR 26 Trunk meet. Nearing busy Janesville Avenue, a low stone wall next to the path marks the Glacial River Rotary Depot, which offers a drinking fountain and covered picnic area.
You might detour three blocks east onto South Third Street West (where the trail crosses Janesville Avenue), turn right (south) onto South Main Street, and then head a block and a half (veering left) onto Whitewater Avenue to the Hoard Historical Museum. The museum is named after the Hoard family, who are behind the nationally distributed dairy farm magazine Hoard’s Dairyman. Exhibits of tools, textiles, and American Indian artifacts will get you up to speed on the area’s early fort history, European settlers, and American Indian culture.
At Lorman Bicentennial Park, you can access the Riverwalk, which takes you through the park and underneath the bridge across the Rock River. Head right along the Riverwalk to find quaint shops and restaurants.
Back on Glacial River Trail, continue north over the Rock River and through a beautiful metal archway. The paved pathway unwinds along the east side of SR 26 through Wisconsin countryside and over the Crawfish and Rock Rivers in Jefferson. After you go under the Jefferson bypass, look for a connection to the 53.4-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail which heads west to Cottage Grove and east to Waukesha.
The trail then continues to Watertown and into Dodge County, using on-street and off-street sections, and ends at the southern terminus of the Wild Goose State Trail at SR 60 in Juneau.
Parking and Trail Access
The closest parking to the southern endpoint is in Koshkonong, about 10 miles north. From I-90, take Exit 163 toward WI 59 E., and head south, then east on WI 59, crossing the Rock River. After 2.8 miles, bear left at the Y onto County Hwy. N; go 3 miles, and then turn left to merge onto northbound WI 26/WI 26 Trunk. Go 1.7 miles, and then turn left onto County Line Road. Turn left onto Old Hwy. 26, and then make the first left into the parking lot.
To reach the northern endpoint from I-94, take Exit 267 to SR 26 toward Watertown, heading north. Go 18.9 miles, and take Exit 52 to SR 60, heading east. Go 1.7 miles, and turn left into the parking lot just past where the trail begins, with Junction Road on your right.