Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail

Dec 8, 2021 | 1 comment

By Theresa “Resa” Leppert

Over Labor Day Weekend, my husband and I went on an overlanding adventure on the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail….  1100 miles in 4 days on back roads across Wisconsin.  IKR?  Crazy.  Most people don’t think of “overlanding” and “Wisconsin” in the same sentence.

Have you heard the term “overlanding?” 

First, what is overlanding?  Hmmmm.  The term “overlanding” has an infinite number of definitions.  I could write an entire blog post on “what is overlanding” – and I probably will do that in the near future, as it’s a type of camping that is currently near and dear to my heart.  In short, for the purposes of this travelogue, overlanding is vehicle-supported adventure travel where the journey is just as important as the destination.

It’s not just about the destination.

You read that right – the JOURNEY is just as important as the destination…. Maybe more so in some cases!  The Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail was definitely about the journey. There are a lot of overlanding rigs out there – some home built (like ours), some manufactured, some simple set ups with just a mattress in the back of a 4×4 SUV, or a ground tent in the trunk.  Again, all the different types of setups will be discussed in another blog down the road.

Pack mule, tent folded up for traveling.
Pack Mule, tent deployed for camping.

The Pack Mule

For now, let me show you OUR current setup.  I talked about our home built overlanding trailer “The Pack Mule” in a recent blog post “What’s YOUR camping vehicle?” – you can read that post here. The pic on the left shows the roof top tent deployed for camping. The inside of it is a queen-size bed and we access it using the folding aluminum ladder. The pic on the right shows the tent folded down and secured for travel.

The Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail

We took the Pack Mule on our little adventure in Wisconsin over the holiday weekend along the adventure trail.  We traveled all 662 miles of the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail.  The Trail isn’t widely publicized, but there is a website that has information about the different routes as recommended depending on your vehicle.  (See below for a link to that website.) It originally was documented for use by duo-sport adventure bikes; however there is a high-clearance version that is recommended for SUVs. 

We took the high-clearance route! The Trail starts near Hazel Green, WI, just north of Galena, IL.  It meanders its way north across backroads, gravel roads, dirt roads, even ATV trails – all the way up to the shore of Lake Superior in Bayfield, WI.

You can find out more information, including downloadable GPX files to load into your navigation system HERE. By the way, you’re gonna need GPS.  The trail is complicated, tricky, and obscure in places.  There are no signs.  We used both the GPX file from the Trail website above loaded into Gaia GPS, and hubby also highlighted trail as best he could in our Wisconsin Gazeteer.  We had Gaia running and I was navigator in the passenger seat with the paper maps.  And we needed BOTH to stay on course.

Labor Day Weekend Adventure

So for Labor Day weekend, we took Friday off.  It was rainy, so we decided to haul buggy up to the terminus of the trail at Bayfield and run the trail in reverse. We figured we’d run into less people that way and have a better chance of getting a campsite each night – because we did this without ANY reservations.  On a Holiday weekend.  Labor Day weekend.  <cringe>  That was definitely outside my comfort zone.  I kinda really like to know where I’m going to be setting up camp.  But, in Overlanding…..  you never really know where you’re going to end up.  The journey, remember?

So back to our trip – we hauled buggy about 450 miles from Maquoketa up to Point Detour Campground outside Bayfield, WI.  Interestingly enough, while we were at the casino paying for our site, another Jeep rolled in and set up in the campsite next to us. 

Another way to deploy your tent – on top of your vehicle!

Our campsite neighbor was camping with his dog, Willow. He comes over and says “You’re from Iowa?  Where in Iowa?”  We replied that we’re from a small town between Davenport and Dubuque.  He kind of smiles and said “Maquoketa?”  Turns out he’s from a town in Iowa only an hour from where we live.  He had the same idea we had – run the trail in reverse, hopefully encounter less people.  Small world!  (Steve, it was nice meeting you and Willow – and thanks for the Jeep kitchen schematic!  I’m adding that to our project list!)

We saw a ton of wildlife.

The next few days were a lot of fun.  We saw a lot of wildlife:  a bear, geese, ducks, eagles, heron, turkey (lordy, LOTS of turkeys), a fox, deer, sandhill cranes, an owl.  There was also proof of why Wisconsin is called the Land O’ Lakes. There were lakes and ponds and rivers everywhere.  In one section, it seemed like the west side of the road was endless marsh.  On the Gazeteer, it was named “Million Acre Swamp.”  It went on for miles! 

Camping and amazing food.

We camped in a not-so-nice site one night, and the next night found a stellar city campground.  We ate out only once – at the Delta Diner, outside Delta, WI.  Check it out here.  I would drive back up there JUST to go eat there again.  Incredible food! 

YouTube Video

I created a travelogue video for our trip over the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail and uploaded it to the Girl Camper YouTube Channel.  Check it out here. This trip was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  Have you ever gone on any sort of epic journey?  Please share with us in the comments!

Connect with me!

Theresa “Resa” Leppert

Guide Manager

Guide, Iowa & Wisconsin


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1 Comment

  1. Georgie Libbie

    Wow…. looks fun! Need to do this before gas goes back up.

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