Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail | Favorite Ride

The Long Way Through the Badger State

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Honda Africa Twin
Parts of the TWAT wind through farmland.

As I reached for the pump handle to fill up at the start of this trip, I suddenly realized my hydration pack wasn’t on my back. Doubt flooded in, and I wondered if this trip on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail was a bad idea. After returning home to retrieve my pack, I scolded myself for failing right out of the gate.

The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is also known as the TWAT, a term I use for “one who tweets” and the British use for an obnoxious person. Though not a term one hears in polite company, this TWAT is a 635-mile dual-sport and adventure motorcycle route that runs from the Illinois/Wisconsin border in the south to the shore of Lake Superior in the north. There are no maps of the route, but you can download a free GPX track at the Trans Wisconsin Trail website.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

The TWAT was to be my first time riding off-road. What was I thinking?

To prepare myself, I binged hours of off-road riding instruction on YouTube by Bret Tkacs, Dusty Wessels, and Eric Lange. Their tips and techniques came back to me when I needed them most. YouTube was also my tutor for what to pack. I’d watch a video, hit pause, and click over to Amazon to load up my cart. I felt like a kid on Christmas opening boxes and setting up fake camp in my backyard to try out everything.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Honda Africa Twin
My Honda Africa Twin was the perfect bike for the 635-mile trek across Wisconsin.

The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail starts just south of Hazel Green, Wisconsin. I rode past the gravel road near “The Point of Beginning” historical marker on State Route 80 twice before realizing it was my starting point. There was no sign for the TWAT, but the route I had uploaded to the REVER app indicated I was in the right place. My adventure had begun!

See all of Rider‘s Wisconsin touring stories here.

Day 1: Dirt Legs

The standard advice is to run knobbies on an adventure route, but after all the money I’d spent on gear, I figured replacing the perfectly good 90/10 tires on my Honda Africa Twin would tip Mrs. Trimble over the edge. Rather than make camping a permanent situation, I opted to use my existing rubber.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Honda Africa Twin
The trail is lush in spring and summer.

The first day had the most pavement of the three. Intermittent road stretches were a welcome break for a novice like me. The limited traction off-road was unnerving, so the grippy bits helped relieve the tension. Hour by hour, my confidence and skills improved.

The Midwest is renowned for its flat landscape and laser-straight roads, which results from most of the region being scraped clean by glaciers during the last ice age. But there’s a small territory where Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois meet that was not covered by ice and thus lacks glacial deposits known as drift. Known as the Driftless Area, this playground of hills, ridges, valleys, and rock formations was a highlight of Day 1.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Honda Africa Twin
Arriving at a campground like this makes a long day on the trail worthwhile.

The first day also took me over the Mississippi River for some riding in Iowa, which is a little odd for a route across Wisconsin, but the ride through the Yellow River State Forest made it worthwhile. After crossing back into Wisconsin, I rode through the Rush Creek State Natural Area.

I spent my first night camping in Soldiers Grove, right in town at Beauford T. Anderson Park. Stomach issues had me in and out of my tent all night, and dew made everything inside unpleasantly damp. As the sun rose, I hung my things up to dry. Drinking instant coffee from my Jet-Boil, I questioned my decision to camp, which led to more second-guessing about the entire adventure. I rolled out of town disgusted by how soft I had become.

See all of Rider‘s Northeast U.S. touring stories here.

Day 2: Attitude of Gratitude

The next day, I felt more comfortable riding off-road, and gratitude soon replaced despair. The trail meandered through hills covered in baby-head-sized rocks and water-filled bottoms that hid all sorts of bar-yanking surprises. Wrestling my Africa Twin along trails in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest left me drenched with sweat.

When I poked out onto a paved road, the sun was getting low, and I worried about finding a hotel. A half-mile down the road, I passed a sign for Chippewa Campground, which was on my must-visit list. Rather than suffer self-flagellation in a hotel room, I opted to camp. Two days of riding had me so beat that I dropped my bike while trying to lower the kickstand.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Honda Africa Twin Chippewa Campground
Late afternoon sunlight shines on the lake and filters through the trees at Chippewa Campground.

The campground’s coin-operated shower revived me. For $2 in change, the sweat and dirt disappeared down the drain while the satisfaction of completing two days of off-road exploration lingered. I strolled to a gas station for a six-pack and a cup of ice that I filled with Jameson. That night by the campfire, I felt like a new man. A sense of accomplishment and a nice Irish whiskey buzz made for a more enjoyable night in the woods.

Day 3: Enter Sandman

The third day on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail called for sand, which had seemed treacherous on the YouTube training videos. So far, I’d only taken a few dabs and no falls, so I expected this to be my day to eat humble pie. Not far in, I experienced my first tank slapper after putting too much weight on the front wheel. Rather than panic, I drew upon the wisdom of my YouTube tutors – Don’t cut the power abruptly; Lean back and give it gas; Ride it out until the bike stabilizes – and I recovered. Soon I was sitting back against my dry bag and flying through the sugary stuff without a care in the world. 

At a stop for gas, I asked the attendant how far it was to the Delta Diner. He said it was about an hour away, so I bought some beef jerky to hold me over. Because I was on the TWAT and not driving by car, it took three hours before I finlly pulled off the trail at the diner, a chrome-and-neon oasis in the middle of nowhere.

The parking lot was empty except for an older couple gearing up to climb back on their BMWs. After removing my sweaty gear and helmet, I nodded to them as I headed for the door. As I reached the top step, the lady said, “They’re closed.” What a gut punch. I was tired and hungry, and for hours I had been fantasizing about a juicy burger with a side of fries and an ice-cold Coke. Dry jerky and warm, plastic-tasting water from my hydration pack was a poor substitute.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Honda Africa Twin Delta Diner
As a big fan of classic diners, it broke my heart (and pained my stomach) to find the Delta Diner closed. I’ll be back.

North of Delta, I crossed U.S. Route 2 and entered the final stretch. After riding through the Moquah Barrens State Natural Area, I rolled through the town of Cornucopia. A few more county roads later, I arrived at a dirt cul-de-sac by the Point Detour Campground near Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. A faint trail led into the woods and came out at a dilapidated set of stairs down to Lake Superior, and I worked my way to the rocky shore.

As I sat smoking the cigar I saved for the occasion, I felt humbled by the setting and the moment. I had overcome self-doubt, completed my journey, and even learned to love sand.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail
At the end of the trail on Lake Superior, with views of the Apostle Islands.

Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Resources:

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.


  1. Uncertain if this is monitored or not, but I’ll take a stab. Most of the TWAT info seems dated, yours is the most current experience I have found. Can you tell me if this can be completed with a 4×4? I understand that there is likely a trail portion here or there that is rec vehicles only and I will have to detour, I am more wondering about the majority of the off road portions of the trail? If I followed the route with my ’04 Grand Cherokee, would I be disappointed with constant re-routes due to trails be rec vehicles only? Note my Heep is a pure beater – a narrow trail with branches pin-striping my clear coat is not a concern at all – I know some trails will be overgrown and tight.

    Thanks in advance for your time and reply – I appreciate ya!

  2. Sorry for the late Reply. I hadn’t checked comments. I would recommend your Cherokee for the trip without concern. You will have to rout around the single track around Black River falls and the section before the Chequamegon national park, but otherwise you will be well suited in that truck. There is some fairly deep sand in the logging section watch for as well.

    Happy Trails’


  3. Great read, thank you!

    Just bought my first adventure bike, a brand new 2023 klr650. Chicago suburbs is my home, and I’m really looking forward to running this trail.

    Been riding street bikes and touring bikes for 30 years, but don’t have off road experience, so your article here really struck a chord with me. As did the six pack and Jameson, lol.

    Thanks man!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here