Madison Parks and Paths Connector

The route utilizes most of the city’s bike paths to go through or near all but seven major Madison community parks, along with many smaller neighborhood parks and other natural areas, as it snakes clockwise around the city. Visit one or two parks, a section of the city, or if you’re feeling extremely ambitious (around 8.5 hours of riding at 15mph), try the whole route! The nature of connecting many parks means a few out-and-backs, slower park paths, and slower turns, which may be less fun for riders looking to maintain high speeds. Some parks and trailheads may lack bike racks – in this situation, we recommend locking your bike to anything that cannot be easily broken (avoid small trees). Parks, as well as many places to get food and drinks, or repair your bike, will be marked along the route with POI indicators.

Extended Lake Mendota Loop Ride

Ride Description (28 miles)

Lake Mendota is our largest lake, but looping around it is not as popular. The direct route would have some stretches of busy highway. Here’s an extended loop that mostly avoids the bad parts. Start at the Capitol, ride down State St, and take the Lakeshore Path through the UW Campus. Continue following the shore on Lake Mendota Drive. The University Ave path and Allen Boulevard will get you close to Pheasant Branch Conservancy. You’ll be heading straight north until you reach Woodland Dr, where you’ll turn right, into Waunakee. Woodland Drive has a bike path parallel to it for parts, and then you turn onto Mary Lake Rd. Soon you will reach Highway M. This is a busy highway, but there’s a painted bike lane and you’ll only be on it for a few minutes. Turn right on Westport, and wind your way through the neighborhood toward Warner Park. The route continues to hug the shoreline through Maple Bluff until you get back into Madison on Sherman Ave. Parts of Sherman Ave are still open only to people walking, biking, and local traffic, and the same is true for Mifflin St, which will get you back to the Capitol.

Short Ride (~10 miles)

To shorten the above ride, split into north loop and south loops, each approximately 10 miles.

Baker’s Almost-Dozen Ride

Long Ride (18 miles)

Not quite a baker’s dozen, but this ride packs 12 bake stops into 18 miles. Start at Greenbush Bakery on Regent, just off the SW Path. Continue on the path to the Harrison St off-ramp and bike up to Bloom Bakehouse on Monroe St for gluten free and vegan baked goods. Follow Drake St past the zoo to Drake Street Bakes, where you can get pure sourdough breads. The next two stops are on Park Street (but no worries: you won’t have to ride on Park St itself): Asian Sweet Bakery at the corner of Lakeside and Lane’s Bakery at Villager Mall. Now it’s time to head to east side via the Wingra Creek Path and Cap City Trail. One you get to Lakeview Bakery and Deli on E Wilson, the bakery density increases. Madison Sourdough is just a couple blocks away, as is Origin Breads, and then it’s not far to Batch Bakehouse. Turn onto the Starkweather Creek Path, take the overpass across E Wash, and you’re almost at People’s Bakery. Choose between donuts or baklava or …? Return to the path and turn left after the overpass across Highway 30. Follow Aberg all the way to Sherman, where Yummee Treats and Bakery is located in the Northgate Mall. Head towards downtown again and end your ride with another donut at Greenbush.

Short Ride (~10 miles)

To shorten the above ride, split into north loop and south loops, each approximately 10 miles.

Ice Cream Shop Ride

Long Ride (22 miles)

Do you love the combination of biking and ice cream? Then this ride is for you! Over 22 miles, there are at least 8 options for frozen goodness. Start on State St at the Chocolate Shoppe, then head over to Lake Wingra to the newly reopened Michael’s Frozen Custard. Through the Arboretum and the Wingra Creek Park, you connect with the Lake Loop around Lake Monona. Here you can choose: Stop at the Monona Bait & Tackle Shop or stop a couple hundred feet farther at Paradise Island Ice Cream for paletas. Continue on the Lake Loop to Cottage Grove Road. If you like more custard, make a quick right and stop at Culvers or turn left to the east side Michael’s. Or continue on the Cap City Trail to the Garver Feed Mill, where Calliope will serve you things like “Brandy Old Fashioned Ice Cream.” Farther down the Cap City it’s time to show your allegiance in the east side battle of the ice cream shops: Chocolate Shoppe or Atwood Scoop? Finish the ride at Cold Stone Creamery on State Street.

Short Ride (16 miles)

The shorter version of the above ride.

I’m looking for a bike shop

Check out this map with all bike shops in Dane County, as well as with many of the outdoor self-repair stations.

Does a business have to serve me at their drive-thru when I’m on a bike?

Yes! As long as you’re in the City of Madison, at least. City code states that “[b]icyclist use of sales and service windows shall not be prohibited.” Don’t expect every employee at a drive-thru to be aware of this, though.

Where can I buy a state trail pass?

There are multiple options to buy an annual or daily Wisconsin State trail pass:

  • At a trail kiosk: Most trails have multiple self-registration kiosks at trailheads. Fill out the form, put cash or a check into the envelope, and take the temporary trail pass with you. If you buy an annual pass, the Department of Natural Resources will mail you your permanent pass in a couple of days.
  • At bike and other shops: Several local bike shops, including Budget Bicycle Center, Wheel & Sprocket, Erik’s, and REI sell trail passes. Other businesses near to trailheads also sell them, for example Olde Towne Coffee House at the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Cottage Grove, Miller & Sons in Verona, or the Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb. There will often be signs on the trail mentioning these businesses.
  • Online: If you want to include a donation, you can order a pass from the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks. Without additional cost, you can order a pass on ReserveDane.

Does the city clear the bike paths in the winter?

Madison plows arterial bike paths 7 days a week and holidays.

I’ve noticed those bike counter displays on the Southwest Path near Monroe Street and on the Cap City near Nortshore Drive. Is there a way to see past counts?

Yes, you can see all the numbers from the two counters online.

Southwest Path: http://www.eco-public.com/public2/?id=100117717

Cap City: http://www.eco-public.com/public2/?id=100020865#

What kind of lights do I need on my bicycle?

Wisconsin Statute 347.489(1) states that if you ride your bike in the dark, you must have a white front light (either attached to the bike or to yourself, e.g. as a helmet light) as well as a red reflector or red light in the rear. This is the full text of the statute:

347.489  Lamps and other equipment on bicycles and other vehicles and devices.

(1)  No person may operate a bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device upon a highway, sidewalk, bicycle lane, or bicycle way during hours of darkness unless the bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device is equipped with or, with respect to a bicycle or motor bicycle, the operator is wearing, a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device. A bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device shall also be equipped with a red reflector that has a diameter of at least 2 inches of surface area or, with respect to an electric personal assistive mobility device, that is a strip of reflective tape that has at least 2 square inches of surface area, on the rear so mounted and maintained as to be visible from all distances from 50 to 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a steady or flashing red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in lieu of the red reflector.

Wisconsin Statute 347.489(1)

This is the legal minimum requirement, but it’s probably a good idea to have an actual light and not just a reflector in the rear. Also keep in mind that certain lights can be very irritating to other people on bikes or on foot, especially when they are aimed to high or flashing rapidly.