Exploring Madison's fall colors can take on any form you choose. Want to take a relaxing stroll? There's a park for that. Ready to hop on two wheels and bike your way through autumn? That's an option. Looking for a moderately- or extremely-challenging fall hike? Of course you'll find that too.
Find your new favorite spot for fall adventure in the capital city.
Pro Tip: Peep Travel Wisconsin's Fall Color Report for down-to-the-minute updates on the status of Madison's fall color.
Jump to your fall color vibe:
|Olbrich Botanical Gardens||UW Arboretum||Picnic Point|
|Yahara River Area||Pheasant Branch Conservancy||Devil's Lake State Park|
|San Damiano Park||Governor Nelson State Park||Blue Mound State Park|
|Indian Lake County Park|
The free botanical gardens on Madison's east side are a year-round favorite (and totally free to visit). Take in the changing colors through 16 acres of outdoor gardens including specialty gardens like the perennial, sunken and herb gardens.
Pro tip: Don't miss Olbrich's annual GLEAM event running August through November, featuring large-scale outdoor light installations created by local, regional and international designers.
Along 1,500 feet of Lake Monona shoreline is a newly-public land rich with history and natural resources. San Damiano Park in Monona was home to encampments of Indigenous people thousands of years ago, including ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Throughout history, the land has been home to farmland and a friary until it was purchased by the City of Monona in 2021 with plans to nurture the area as a public park.
The parks offerings of cedars, sycamores, oaks, pines and apple trees make it a beautiful oasis year-round, but especially in fall.
Pro tip: Grab a seasonal coffee or little treat for your stroll at Crema Cafe right next door.
This one is actually a two-for (score!). There are two spots in the Yahara River area known for stunning landscapes. Tenney Park looks like a scene from a storybook, right where the Yahara River and Lake Mendota meet on Madison's near east side.
If you follow the Yahara River across the isthmus to Lake Monona you'll find Yahara Park Place, a neighborhood park with more lovely hues and lakeside views.
Pro tip: The pedestrian bridge at Tenney Park is a known favorite among local photographers.
One of the world’s oldest arboretums with the most varied collection of ecological communities is right in the heart of Madison. Its 1,200 acres feature hiking trails, gardens, woodlands, wetlands, savannas and prairies — including several “remnant” areas which have been left undisturbed since the glaciers left Wisconsin 15,000 years ago.
These 1,200 acres come alive with rich warm tones each fall. While you can hike or walk the arboretum, its paved biking trails make it an excellent option to soak in fall color on bike.
Pro tip: Earn rewards for visiting the Arb by signing up for Madison By Bike before you go!
Pheasant Branch Conservancy's mix of open-water marsh, springs, prairies, meadows, forests and wooded hills make it an excellent option for seeing fall color from several perspectives.
Cyclists looking for a rustic, gravel cycling experience will enjoy taking in the fall color through the conservancy's trail segments and loops.
Pro tip: Pheasant Branch is home to a group of Native American effigy mounds, including a bird-shaped mound with a wingspan that is larger than 140 feet. Please exercise caution and respect while observing native effigy mounds.
On the northern shores of Lake Mendota, sits Governor Nelson State Park, where nature and recreation meet. Aside from hiking trails, a sand beach and prairie restorations, you'll find 0.75 miles of the North Mendota Trail connecting the park to the village of Waunakee.
Pro tip: Governor Nelson offers a pet swimming area for dogs who love to get in the water.
Picnic Point is a beloved Madison hotspot on the UW-Madison campus. Part of the 300 acres of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Picnic Point is a one-mile peninsula that juts into Lake Mendota. This is the perfect spot to enjoy fall color and lakeshore views all in one.
Pro tip: Bikes are not allowed on the peninsula, but you can bike and see even more fall color along the connecting Lakeshore Path.
One of the oldest and most popular state parks in Wisconsin, Devil's Lake is known for having some of the most breathtaking views, especially as leaves change colors. The 500-foot bluffs overlooking the lake give you a birds-eye view of the surrounding wooded areas and hue-changing tree tops.
The 29 miles of hiking trails include a range of difficulty levels and 1.5 miles of trails that are accessible for people with disabilities.
Pro tip: The views from the top of Balanced Rock Trail are some of locals' and visitors' favorite in the park.
Take in the stunning hues of fall from the highest point in southern Wisconsin at Blue Mound State Park. The East Observation Tower in the park's picnic area makes for incredible photos and unbeatable vantage points of the park.
If you're looking for accessible camping options, Blue Mound features an accessible cabin that can accommodate four people.
Pro tip: Pair your trip with a visit to Cave of the Mounds, just a 5-minute drive away!
Take one of the park's winding trails to an historic 1857-built chapel on a hilltop with gorgeous views of Indian Lake and the surrounding valley.
Pro tip: Foraging for edible fruits, nuts, and mushrooms is allowed inside the park. Foraging is only permitted for personal use, not for resale.