Biking and Hiking
- Where to Go
- The Best of Milwaukee and Madison
- The Best Wisconsin Weekends
- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
- Rustic Road Tripping
- Made in Milwaukee
- Madison Weekend
- Sports: The Packers and Beyond
- Out on the Town in Milwaukee
- Say Cheese!
- Four Days in the Mad City
- A Wisconsin Family Road Trip
- Wisconsin’s Best Brews
No doubt about it, cycling is king in Madison. Bicycling magazine called Madison the fourth-best biking city in North America. Second only to Seattle in number of bikes per capita, Madison pedals virtually everywhere it goes. There are—quite seriously—bike traffic jams on certain routes in peak hours since 10 percent of the citizenry commute by bicycle. Mad pedalers will happily discover 25 miles of established pathway on trails and more than 110 miles of interconnected routes along city streets, bike paths, and parkways.
The most popular path is the Lake Monona loop, easily accessible along John Nolen Drive, which passes the Monona Terrace Convention Center along the lake; it’s about 12 miles long and cruises through residential neighborhoods. A caveat: The route is marked much better if you go clockwise from the Monona Terrace, though the best lake views come if you start counterclockwise.
Many head over to the UW Arboretum for a lovely ride (note that the arboretum’s unpaved trails are for feet only).
Here’s an outstanding way to combine the two: the Capital City State Trail (trail pass required). You can reach it from the Lake Monona loop where the lakeshore path bisects the Beltline Highway at Waunona Way; signs point you along a spur underneath the overpass, 300 yards to the official trailhead. Follow this through Fitchburg and then turn right on Seminole Highway (bike-friendly) and continue to the entrance of the arboretum.
Should you wish to keep on the Capital City State Trail, it stretches west from Lake Monona all the way to Verona, where it links with the existing Military Ridge State Trail, a grand journey. (Better, it will in the future lead all the way to Illinois and down along Madison’s isthmus before heading east to Cottage Grove to link with the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, allowing one to bicycle all the way to Milwaukee.)
The Madison segment is part of a visionary project dubbed E-Way, a corridor encompassing more than 3,200 acres for ecological, educational, and recreational use. It isn’t just a trail—it’s an established “necklace” of linked islands of educational or environmental importance. Madison environmentalists lobbied and fought hard for 25 years to see it established.
All that would be a full day’s work. A much easier ride is to start at the UW’s Memorial Union, from where a path leads along Lake Mendota to Picnic Point. Gorgeous sunrises.
Budget Bicycle Center (1230 Regent St., 608/251-8413) and Yellow Jersey (419 State St., 608/257-7733) both rent bikes. They also stock maps of city bicycle routes.
Any cycling trail in the city is also open to hikers. The UW Arboretum has the most bucolic trails, some of them quite superb for an urban area.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition