Two Polk County Rail Trails Perfect for Spring Hiking and Biking
Whether you call Northwest Wisconsin home or you are looking for activities to add to your itinerary for when you’re next able to travel there, two rail trails in Polk County offer so many marvelous miles of hiking, biking, or running. Suitable for cyclists and hikers of many ability levels, the Gandy Dancer State Trail and Stower Seven Lakes State Trail are perfect outings to add to your Polk County must-do list.
Gandy Dancer State Trail
The Gandy Dancer State Trail is a 98-mile recreational trail that follows railroad grade from St. Croix Falls north to Superior. This path was used for commercial rail lines for approximately 100 years, starting in the late 1880s, but today it is used by hikers and bikers, in pursuit of fresh air and the beauty of Northwest Wisconsin.
The Gandy Dancer State Trail is composed of two sections. The southern half of the trail is 47 miles long—beginning in St. Croix Falls and passing through Centuria, Milltown, Luck, Frederick, and Lewis. With so many towns within easy reach, you’ll find convenient access to food, lodging, and other places to explore. The crushed limestone surface of this segment offers a smooth path for bicyclists and hikers from April to November. (The southern segment of the trail is open for snowmobiling and frozen-ground ATV/UTV use in the winter.) A state trail pass is needed for cyclists ages 16 and older when riding the Gandy Dancer State Trail between St. Croix Falls and Danbury. A Wisconsin DNR Conservation Patron license will be honored as a bike pass.
The northern section, from Superior to Danbury, is a gravel trail that is open year-round to both motorized and nonmotorized use.
Are you curious about the name Gandy Dancer? Gandy memorializes the crews who maintained the tracks. They used railroad tools manufactured by the Gandy Tool Company of Chicago. Dancer comes the crews’ synchronized movements—swinging their tools and moving along the line—as they worked on the railroad.
Stower Seven Lakes State Trail
The Stower Seven Lakes State Trail, a 14-mile trail—named after long-time Wisconsin legislator and Amery mayor, Harvey Stower, and his wife, Marilyn (née Nielsen)—runs from Amery nearly all the way to Dresser. It begins at Soo Line Park (off Harriman Avenue in Amery); cuts through Deronda, Wanderoos, and Nye; and ends at East Lake County Park, about a mile from Dresser, on 90th Avenue.
You’ll pass at least seven lakes on your journey: Lotus, Horse, Dwight, Bear Trap, Kinny, and North and South Twin Lakes. You’ll ride, walk, or run by maple and oak forests, wetlands, prairies, and farmlands. With such idyllic scenery, a well-compacted crushed limestone surface, and a lack of hills, a journey along this trail makes for an easy, enjoyable outing.
No pass is necessary to walk on the trail (or to cross-country ski or snowshoe on it during the winter months). However, a Wisconsin State Trail Pass is required to bike on the trail.
Please note that COVID-19 and related restrictions may impact the activities allowed on these trails. For more information, call the Polk County Information Center at (715) 483-1410 or (800) 222-7655.
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