Greater Madison is known for its many miles of biking and hiking trails — all 200 miles of them. But we’re also renowned because we’re one of just five Platinum-Level Bike Friendly Communities in the country! Being on an isthmus and surrounded with scenery sculpted by glaciers makes ours a don’t-miss destination for outdoor adventure. Here are a few considerations as you pick your path:
© Dave Barger
TONS OF TERRAIN
If you’re looking for a spot where the terrain can change by the mile, you’ll want to check out Devil’s Lake State Park. From climbing rock formations and bluffs to hiking its wooded paths and winding, grassy trails, there are more than 29 miles of paths in this park alone.
Worth walking for: the waterfall at the end of Parfrey’s Glen Trail.
© Wisconsin DNR
If you’re looking for sweeping views as far as the eagle-eye can see, don’t miss the observation towers located at each end of Blue Mound State Park. The towers reach 40 feet high and afford panoramic views of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and Baraboo Bluffs, which are particularly phenomenal in fall when the leaves are changing.
Topography tip: Blue Mound is located atop the largest hill in the southern half of Wisconsin. West Blue Mound reaches an elevation of 1,716 feet, so these towers are tops.
© Brian Adams
DON’T MISS THE ISTHMUS
When you’re one of two U.S. cities on an isthmus, built-in lake views are part of the package. So it’s a must to check out the routes that abound in our downtown. For stunning views of the skyline as you round the bend on John Nolen Drive, pick the Lake Monona Loop. If you’re on campus, you’ll love Lakeshore Path, which follows Lake Mendota from the Memorial Union Terrace to Picnic Point, a nearly mile-long peninsula on the south shore.
Best for: birders — check out the Bird Checklist that highlights more than 255 species that have been spotted in the preserve.
For a complete look at the array of activities associated with Greater Madison’s trails, check out our biking and hiking page. No bike? No problem! Plan ahead and rent one from Budget Bicycle Center, Machinery Row Bicycles or Madison BCycle, our urban bike-sharing program.
NOTE: A portion of the Capital City Trail goes through Madison and requires a state trail pass for all cyclists 16 and older. You can purchase a pass online from the Wisconsin State Park System site.