Submitted by Randy Winkelman
This past October offered up a sunny, warm October day great for a fall bike ride. I decided to load my bike up and make the short ride to Belleville and ride the Badger 500 trail south from Belleville. This trail travels all the way to the Illinois state line. I have pedaled the Badger state trail many times from Fitchburg to Belleville, but never much further south. More than anything, I wanted to check out the Stewart tunnel which is part of the badger 500 trail.
The trail is approximately 3-3/4 miles from downtown Belleville. The trail is a gradual upwards grade as the trail heads out of Belleville and into the countryside. Much of the trail is shaded by a canopy of trees which is a great advantage on a hot sunny summer day. Make sure to have a flashlight or bike light for your trip tunnel.
The almost 4 mile trek passes quickly and in no time you are upon the entrance to the tunnel. The summit of the hill through which the tunnel passes is 235 feet above the sugar river valley. The tunnel is 21 feet high, 14 feet wide, approximately 1 /4 mile long. The tunnel was constructed in 1887. The tunnel curves inside and therefor becomes pitch black until you can again see the opposite tunnel opening.
The south tunnel opening has some great opportunities for pictures and you can even climb to the top of the outside of the tunnel and get a perspective of just how expansive the tunnel is. The scenery is spectacular from the south side of the tunnel entrance as the hilltop vista provides lookouts for miles of countryside. There is a small picnic area along the trail with an info board with photos and history of the tunnel building.
For those who wish to continue the trail south of the tunnel, the next city is Monticello or you can take the connecting link to the sugar river bike trail which heads over to New Glarus. I have plans already to next time start in New Glarus and head south. I am amazed at how many great, scenic bike trails we have so near to Madison.
If you are not a biker, but think you would enjoy the tunnel, you can park your car along tunnel road and walk the bike trail to the tunnel entrance. The walk from the road to the tunnel is a very short distance and very scenic. You can find lots of info on the internet about the tunnel and there are a number of videos on youtube showing the tunnel, mostly, take the time to experience the tunnel itself and don’t forget your camera and a flashlight!!
Check out these websites. http://badger-trail.com