Central Wisconsin Trails
Looking for a new trail to try this year? Maybe you’re interested in exploring bikepacking or eager to stick with your fitness goal of bicycling more. With the nicer weather and longer daylight hours, now is a perfect time to check out one of the numerous trails throughout Wisconsin. This post will be an overview of some of the existing trail systems; look for more in-depth write ups on specific trails throughout the riding season.
Before we talk about the trails through, we need to talk about trail passes. Many of the trails throughout the state of Wisconsin require the purchasing of a trail pass to use them. Trail passes can be purchased annually for $25.00 from any Erik’s location and they are good for the calendar year, so buy yours now and get your money’s worth. You can also purchase daily trail passes at the trail heads for $5.00. Lest you grumble too much about the government sticking its hands in your wallet consider this: all of the money from trail passes goes into a segregated account specifically for maintaining the trails and parks themselves. And, despite collecting almost 1.3 million dollars in 2014 from trail passes, that only covers about 42% of the state’s trails and parks annual maintenance costs. So do your part and buy a trail pass.
Wisconsin is crisscrossed with over 1,000 miles of bike trails and the area around Milwaukee, Madison and Eau Claire presents some great opportunities whether you’re looking for an afternoon ride, a weekend getaway or anything in-between.
First up – Milwaukee.
The Oak Leaf Trail is a massive, 108 mile trail that encircles all of Milwaukee county. From south of the airport to past Whitefish Bay with several east/west cut throughs including the new Hank Aaron Trail which runs past the zoo and Miller Park. For those of you interested; it is possible to bike from Milwaukee to Chicago although no single unified trail exists…yet. But, using the Pike Bike Trail in Kenosha and then the Robert McClory Bike Path will get you all the way to Highland Park, which is really only “Chicago” and not Chicago but it’s a start.
If the Windy City isn’t your jam, you can also get (most of the way) from Milwaukee to Madison using the Glacial Drumlin Trail which takes you from Waukesha all the way to Cottage Grove. Bonus! This is a rail bed trail so the entire trail is essentially flat and there are coffee shops and stops right along the trail.
Madison and greater Dane County is home to a staggering number of trails. Serving both as bike commuter routes as well as weekend excursions, the trails that run through Madison also stretch west towards Mt. Horeb and south towards New Glarus. Additionally, work is being completed on a trail linking McFarland and Lake Kegonsa State Park with the Madison trail network as well. The Military Ridge Trail, a 40 mile link between Dodgeville and Madison is another rail bed conversion so again you never have an incline steeper than 5°. Equally impressive is the Badger State Trail, another 40 miles trail that just goes to Illinois, so take it for what it’s worth (just kidding, Illinois is great.)
Finally, Eau Claire
Not wanting to forget our outpost between the Twin Cities and Madison, Eau Claire is also home to a couple of great trails. The Chippewa River Trail is part of the larger Chippewa Valley Trail network that goes from Cornell through Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls to Menomonie. A little outside the city is the beautiful Old Abe State Trail which follows the shore of the Chippewa River as it winds through the countryside. Within the Eau Claire city limits there is also a 29 mile network of fully paved trails that connect up with the Chippewa River Trail.