Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail: Off-Road Guide

Black Jeep SUV on Rock Dirt Road

Wisconsin has lots of trails and adventure parks for any off-roading enthusiast. However, beyond the Wisconsin Jeep trails, there is the appeal of the ultimate adventure route: the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail. Starting at the Wisconsin-Illinois border, it weaves its way to Lake Superior’s shore, avoiding pavement wherever possible. You’ll pass festivals and events and enjoy 600+ miles that can be crossed on bikes, motorbikes, or Jeeps.

Wisconsin’s geography makes it a great destination to explore on the trail. Its culture blends German and Scandinavian heritage with modern American life, while its nature offers lovely vistas and great dirt roads. As far as Wisconsin adventures go, you’ll have the chance to go past its iconic dairy farms, sample local produce, and enjoy riding in gravel and dirt, the best of all adventures!

What is the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail, and how can you make the most of it? The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail takes riders and drivers from south to north, from the border with Illinois to Lake Superior’s shores. Crossing the state, you’ll ride through easy trails and graduate to sandy roads, ATV trails, and more remote trails as you make your way further north.

All along the way, there are many great opportunities to stop and enjoy Wisconsin life and culture. Here is an essential off-road guide to the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail – by Jeep or by motorbike.

Where is the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail?

As the name suggests, the trail crosses the state of Wisconsin. It goes south to north, starting near Galena, IL. Most people choose to start from Galena, a great point of reference, and first base before day 1 of riding. Several Wisconsin adventure companies organize a multi-day ride with a guide on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail, and this is where they’ll start you out for the full experience.

Galena, Illinois

The Driftless Area

So-called because it lacks the material left behind by glaciers (gravel, boulders, and other residue), this first part of the trail is a geologically unique part of the state. As it didn’t have glaciers, it’s quite different from the rest of the state and features rolling hills covered in green forests and clearwater streams. This is what attracted farmers to the area, and farming continues to be prevalent here. You’ll also find the Amish communities in this area.

As far as riding is concerned, this is an easy section to get you warmed up. Scenic cruising on pavement and gravel for the first miles of the trail will eventually give way to more fun trails once you get to the Central Plains.

Central Plains

Once you arrive in the heart of Wisconsin, you’ll be on flat, sandy trails, but with some nice hilly variations. Look out for ATV trails, which can be great fun and a pleasant detour.

Perkinstown ATV Trails

As you carry on north, you have a treat waiting for you at Perkinstown ATV Trails. There are 20 miles of great trails here in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Northern Highlands

The top part of the trail is in the Northern Highlands, where you’ll find remote gravel roads, and ATV trails up to Lake Superior, where you finish off in the sand.

Where Else Can You Enjoy Wisconsin Off Road Trails?

Once you’ve had a taste for Wisconsin, you might be looking for more Wisconsin Jeep trails. There is plenty to choose from, such as these four off-road parks:

Dirt Pathway Between Trees
  • Chippewa County ATV Trails – More than 19 miles of trails are available in this park, on challenging terrain with hills and valleys remaining from the glaciers. It’s free to use from 1st May to 15th November.
  • Cheese Country Trail System – What a name! The 47 miles of this adventure trail is a great way to explore off roading in Wisconsin. It’s situated in the Driftless Area, so you could hop onto it from the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail. You’ll be crossing 57 bridges and overpasses, including a 440-foot bridge at Brownstone. This trail is predominantly for ATVs.
  • Black River Falls ATV Trails – This is an excellent area in the center of Wisconsin, through Black River State Forest and Jackson County. It’s mainly for ATVs and motorbikes are allowed only if you have a Jackson County sticker and are licensed.
  • Florence County ATV Trails – Open almost all year; these trails are available for all off-road vehicles so you can drive straight in your Jeep. There are 150 miles of ATV trails, and they only close in April. In winter, you can cross them in a snowmobile.

FAQs on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail

Where can I find a Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Map?

A simple Google search will come up with quite a few good maps for you to follow the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail. Here is a link to one showing the various sections to give you an idea of what to expect.

How long should it take me to complete the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Overland Route?

It depends on how many stops and detours you take. You can drive it all in 2-3 days, stopping comfortably and enjoying the places you’re crossing.

Is the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail difficult?

This will largely depend on your own experience and comfort levels. However, most of the route is easy by any standards as it goes on pavement and gravel. To make it more exciting, you can come off pavement and ride on ATV trails in a few places, most notably around Black River Falls.

North of Black River Falls and Drummond, you’ll encounter sand trails which can be quite deep, so be prepared!

What are the dangers of the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail?

You’ll definitely find a lot of livestock on this trail! As Wisconsin is the land of dairy farming, expect to cross paths with cattle and to have to dodge horse and cow manure. There’s plenty of other wildlife through the forested parts, such as deer and porcupine. Some have even spotted bears!

Unlike a well-maintained adventure park or trail, the Trans Wisconsin Overland Route is not perfectly manicured. You will need to look out for sharp corners, muddy patches, logging trucks, fallen over tree branches, and other natural hazards that come with riding off-road.

Do I need to have a pass or sticker?

No, there are no requirements to identify yourself in any way or purchase any ticket to drive the route. However, check the trailhead for any ATV trails you plan to ride or look them up online, as some may require you to pay a fee.

Are there any ride or drive reports to get inspired by?

This website has a great overview and a list of motorcycle ride reports if you’re looking for photos and stories from the trail.

Where can I get the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail GPX file?

You’ll find a file here. Alternatively, check out the T.W.A.T. Facebook group for files and information.

Conclusion – Riding the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail

Driving across Wisconsin on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is one of the premier off-roading experiences in the US. Offering the feeling of crossing large amounts of ground while enjoying the beautiful scenery and meeting different people, the trail has varying terrains and opportunities to come off onto ATV trails and adventure parks to round off the off-roading experience for any level and skill set.

One of the highlights of every driver’s experience seems to be the Delta Diner on the trail – a 1940s American diner serving fantastic food. By all accounts, it’s a must-do! Other highlights include Clam Lake, “Wisconsin’s northernmost post office” in Cornucopia, and, of course, the Lake Superior shoreline.

Off-roading in Wisconsin can be a fantastic adventure, combining skills with great views and lots of fun. The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is on many off-roaders’ bucket list, and for good reason!

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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