The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: A Taste of Adventure Touring in the Midwest

There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to living just about anywhere. Some places have beaches, and other mountains. Climates can go from hot to cold and, in the case of Chicago, it can happen in the span of a few minutes. Some areas have great schools or tremendous health care. But we here at Emmaus are about Adventure Motorcycle Riding. So it is opportunities to ride that dominate our considerations. There are the mountains of Colorado, the forest trails of the Northeast and the varied terrain that California has to offer. In fact people travel from all over the world for the chance to experience these adventures.

But what about the Midwest part of the United States? We are not known as an ADV rider’s paradise.

True, there are awesome opportunities for dual sport riding in Michigan and parts of Wisconsin where the focus is on ORV type loops and trails. But long distance, multi-day adventures? In the Midwest?!   Well…YES, THERE ARE!!

Excellent long distance routes have been mapped across Michigan and Wisconsin’s Upper Peninsula. Riders such Bryan Much ( and Jeramey Valley ( have been mapping out the area for many years giving us the chance to explore the Upper Midwest in ways that can only be enjoyed on the back of a m

otorcycle. But as a Chicagoan, these areas come at a price. 6 hours of riding the dreaded slab to reach the trails. That is a lot of blacktop that has to be spanned before getting your wheels dirty.

Enter Chad Berger and the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail. Chad has lived in Western Wisconsin for many years and has explored every inch of what is called the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. This area of the state was untouched by glacier activity leaving a network of hills, hallows and cold water streams. An ADV rider’s paradise. And the biggest advantage? It is only about 2-3 hours from the Chicago area.

The Trans Wisconsin Trail starts in northwestern Illinois near the quaint town of Galena and quickly crosses the border into Wisconsin. From there until you reach the shores of Lake Superior, the route is a mixture of paved roads through small communities, tree covered forest roads, water crossings and sand (hey, this IS Wisconsin. What do you expect…no sand?). The route is often done in 3 days to accommodate weekend riders (though some take a more leisurely approach and add a few days to the itinerary). In order to accomplish this, the days are long. The route is 630 miles overall and to make it in that three day period requires two days of around 250 miles each and a short day of 130 miles as you reach the lake. This gives you some time to play in the cold Superior waters and also maybe get a head start on the trip back south. Some riders retrace the Trail back south, some run the slab back home while others will spend another day or two taking the ferry over to Madeline Island, one of Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands.

The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is perfect for newer Adventure riders. The southern part of the route has a greater percentage of pavement but builds in off road sections as you get further north giving new riders a chance to get comfortable on their bike before hitting slightly more challenging terrain. Depending on the weather conditions, the difficulty can range from beginner to intermediate in nature. In addition to the riding, the Trans Wisconsin Trail takes riders to places like the shores of the Mississippi River.

Unique eating establishments such as Pete’s Hamburger Stand in Prairie du Chien. Or the Delta Diner, hidden away in the back woods of Northern Wisconsin. Expect to see your share of deer, turkey and maybe black bear particularly as you reach the area around the town of Clam Lake.

If you are in the mood for a longer adventure, you can connect up with east-west routes through Boulder Junction and Eagle River, WI. You can then make your way over to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you are up for it, you can ride adventure routes across the UP and take the ferry over to Mackinac Island, where motorcycles and cars are not allowed. But horse carriage rides, amazing fudge and friendly Yoopers (the name given to residents of the UP) abound.

Emmaus MotoTours is planning to ride the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail at the end of June of 2020. We will meet up in Galena on June 25th and leave on the ride the next day, Friday the 26th. Catch the details on our tour page for the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail.

Hope to see you there.

2 Responses
    1. I agree. No better way to get out into nature and what the world has to offer than yo close and personal on two wheels. Let me know if you have clients wanting to explore the back country of the U.S. I would love to help out in any way I can.

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