Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Railroad turned hiking trail skirts Wis. river

View from Chippewa Valley Trail near Durand, Wis.
Topo Map, Chippewa River State Trail, Tarrant Park to
Hurlburt Lane.
Topo Map, Chippewa River State Trail, Red Cedar State
Trail bridge to
Hurlburt Lane.

Long segment
can be divided
into two day hikes

An old railroad bed now provides an excellent opportunity for day hiking in Pepin County.

The Chippewa River State Trail runs 30 miles from Durand to Eau Claire, Wis. It connects to the Red Cedar State Trail, which heads to Menomonie, and plans are underway to link it to the Old Abe State Trail in Chippewa Falls, as part of the Chippewa Valley Trail System.

In Pepin County, 6.75 miles of the trail heads from downtown Durand to across the county line to the Red Cedar State Trail junction. For day hikers, that's a long walk, but it can be split into shorter and more manageable segments.

Durand to Hurlburt Lane Segment
Begin by parking at Durand's Tarrant Park, which is off of Wis. Hwy. 85 north of 14th Avenue East. The trail is directly north of the parking lot.

Starting there makes for easy parking and cuts 0.75 miles off the hike by eliminating the trail section that runs to downtown.

In the park, take the trail northeast. Though trees line the walkway, you'll still catch a number of good views of fields and dairy farms.

In 0.9 miles, you'll reach Bear Creek, a tributary to the Chippewa River. The trail there becomes increasingly wooded as heading toward the Chippewa.

As a former Milwaukee Road railroad line, the grade generally is flat and even, built to ensure trains were as fuel efficient as possible.

About 0.6 miles from the creek, the trail crosses the Bear Lake Bridge over a wetlands that sits at the tip of a branch of the Chippewa River. During spring, the water typically is higher and bluer than in late summer.

The trail remains fairly wooded for the next 1.7 miles until reaching Hurlburt Lane. This marks a good spot to turn around for a 6.4-mile round trip (3.2-miles one-way) hike.

Red Cedar State Trail Junction to Hubbard's Landing segment
Another way to hike the trail in Pepin County is to start across the county line at the nearest parking lot north of Durand.

That segment begins near the trail's junction with the Red Cedar State Trail in Dunn County. Park in a turnaround lot off of 50th Avenue west of Weber Road/630th Street. Cross the road, heading northwest to the Chippewa River State Trail.

The Red Cedar trail junction actually is northeast of the lot, and if you've got some extra energy, the short walk (0.8-miles round trip) to that junction and the Red Cedar trail's bridge over the Chippewa River is worth the effort.

Otherwise, go left/southwest onto the Chippewa River State Trail for a walk through the woods. Maples, oaks and other Northern hardwoods dominate the forest.

In 0.8 miles, the trail reaches Prissel Lane. After that, the terrain turns to fertile farmland.

County Road M marks the county line. Upon reaching where the road swerves east, about 0.7 miles from Prissel Lane, you've entered Pepin County.

After another 0.6 miles, the trail actually crosses County Road M. Rather than continue south, head west down the shoulder of the county road for 0.3 miles to Hubbard's Landing on the Chippewa River's shores. There you'll spot sandbars where the river turns.

Head back the way you came to the parking lot for a 4.8-mile round trip (5.6 miles if adding the Red Cedar State Trail bridge).

Learn more about Chippewa Valley day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of the Chippewa Valley guidebook.