With cooler temps in the air and the leaves changing to an array of beautiful colors, fall is the perfect time to explore Madison with your running shoes on. Read on for three suggested routes—each with varying distances but all with beautiful surroundings, guaranteed.
Load up your phone with a new playlist for your run, full of tunes that have a connection to Madison — artists from Madison, Badger fan favorites and other random links.
5k: Lakeshore Path
What to Expect:
The dirt-based Lakeshore Path, located on the edge of the UW-Madison campus, is a flat course with scenic views of Lake Mendota. In this shorter distance route, you will have the lake in your peripheral vision at all times and canopies of colored leaves overhead.
As if running lakeside isn’t enough, this route also takes you past a few of the idyllic buildings on campus. The out and back route begins and finishes at the UW-Madison Memorial Union, where you can grab a bite from the iconic Brat Stand or a scoop of Babcock Hall ice cream to replace the calories you burned on your run.
*Memorial Union is currently open to UW-Madison students, faculty and staff with valid Wiscard. One non-campus guest now allowed per Wiscard holder.
Can’t get enough of the beautiful views? Add a little distance to your run and take the Lakeshore Path all the way to “Picnic Point.” This nearly one-mile-long peninsula extends well out into Lake Mendota.
10k: The Arboretum
What to Expect:
If you ask a local for the best place to run in Madison, you will often hear them respond simply with “The Arb,” short for the UW-Madison Arboretum. This 6.2-mile loop course will keep your heart rate up with several rolling hills, and beautiful natural views along the way. The route follows paved roads, but you will often see more runners than cars, as the path is popular with athletes who are either training for runs or just out for a casual jog.
Running through “The Arb” in fall is like running through a sea of orange and red confetti with the multitude of changing leaves and vibrant colors. You’ll love the serene setting and nature sounds. Once you are out of the arboretum, you will run through some of Madison’s historic neighborhoods, and right by the Henry Vilas Zoo — it’s not uncommon to hear the lions roaring as you pass by! The zoo is free, so to make a pit stop to check out some of the fun exhibits and attractions.
If you want to add a little burn to your workout, take a detour off of Vilas Park Drive, and run up the Edgewood Avenue hill, just on the edge of Edgewood College. This hill has been featured on the Madison Marathon course, and it’s bound to get your legs burning and your heart pumping.
20k: Lake Monona
What to Expect:
One of the favorite races for many local runners is the Lake Monona 20K. This race takes place every spring in Madison, but the running route is used all year long. It features a beautiful, yet challenging, run all the way around Lake Monona. The paved surface course will take you through neighborhoods and parks, and right through downtown Madison.
Running this route means you can say you ran around a lake — and not a small lake! Lake Monona is more than 3,000 acres and one of the two lakes that creates Madison’s famous isthmus. For much of the course, you will see the lake to your side, but the highlight is running along John Nolen Drive and seeing the iconic Madison skyline up ahead. Make sure you run the route clockwise to get the best views.
After running around a lake, why not end your run with a workout IN the lake?! Stop at Brittingham Boats, which is on Monona Bay, just off of Lake Monona. There, you can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to take out for a ride and really appreciate the fall colors surrounding Lake Monona.
*Brittingham Boats is closed for the season beginning Sunday, September 27