MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Bicycling in Wisconsin

The state that pioneered rail trails isn't resting on its laurels.

Bicyclists on the Badger State Trail.

© Beth Gauper

Bicyclists emerge from the Stewart Tunnel on the Badger State Trail.

When people think of bicycling in Wisconsin, the famous Elroy-Sparta State Trail often is first to pop into their minds. But the state has added many, many trails since the Elroy-Sparta debuted in 1967, and it's time to try them.

All of the trails listed below use finely crushed limestone, except as noted. They're suitable for touring bikes, though a wider tire is better. Chip-sealed trails are like asphalt but softer, and can be nearly as smooth because they don't become pitted.

State trail passes are $5 daily, $25 annual; passes also are good in winter on ski trails. Rates on county and city trails vary; many are free, including the Interurban and Oak Leaf.

For more information on state trails, check the Wisconsin DNR parks and trails map.

For user reviews of trails, check the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's TrailLink site.

Ahnapee: 46 miles from Kewaunee on Lake Michigan to Algoma and Sturgeon Bay, with a spur to Luxemburg. It's pronounced "ANN-a-pee.''

For more about Sturgeon Bay, see The door to Door County.

Badger: 40 miles from the Capital City State Trail in Madison south to Monticello, where it crosses the Sugar River State Trail, and on to Monroe and the Illinois state line.

There, it connects with the Jane Addams Trail and continues another 13 miles to Freeport, Ill. The trail features a 1,200-foot railroad tunnel south of Belleville (bring a strong flashlight).

For more, see A slice of cheese country.

BATS-Crystal Lake: 11 paved miles from Boulder Junction, near Minocqua, through Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest and along lakes.

For more, see Browsing in Boulder Junction.

Bearskin: 18 miles south from the resort town of Minocqua to County Road K, through forest and past lakes.

For more, see Summer in Minocqua.

Six miles separate the Bearskin from the 6.4-mile Hiawatha trail between Heafford Junction and Tomahawk.

Bicycling along Madison's Lake Monona.

© Beth Gauper

A bicyclist rides along Lake Monona on Madison's Capital City State Trail.

Bugline: 14 paved miles between the village of Merton on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and Menomonee Falls, near Milwaukee.

Capital City: 18 paved miles through Madison and its suburbs, connecting to the Military Ridge in Fitchburg.

For more, see Summer in Madison.

Chippewa River: 30 miles west of Eau Claire along the Chippewa River to Durand; the first 10 miles are paved, the 13 miles to its junction with the Red Cedar are chip-sealed and the 6 miles to Durand are asphalt.

Eisenbahn: 25 miles from the town of West Bend north to Campbellsport and Eden, near Fond du Lac. Five miles through West Bend are paved.

Elroy-Sparta: 32 rolling miles between Elroy and Sparta, through three long, damp tunnels. The middle section, around Wilton, is heavily Amish.

With the Great River, La Crosse River and 400 trails, it's part of a 103-mile trail system.

For more, see Cycling in coulee country.

400: 22 miles between Elroy and Reedsburg along the Baraboo River; a 4-mile spur goes into Hillsboro.

Fox River: 20 miles south from Green Bay past the village of Greenleaf; the first 6 miles, along the Fox River, are paved. In Forest Junction, it connects to the  four-mile Friendship State Trail.

For more, see Packer country.

Gandy Dancer: 48 miles between St. Croix Falls and Danbury and through seven little towns in between.

For more, see Trail mix.

Glacial Drumlin: 52 miles through farmland from Cottage Grove, just east of Madison, to Waukesha, just west of Milwaukee. Aztalan State Park is a very interesting stop. The 12 miles west of Waukesha are paved.

For more, see Riding the Glacial Drumlin.

Covered bridge on the Glacial River Trail.

© Beth Gauper

Near Fort Atkinson, the Glacial River Trail goes through a covered bridge.

Glacial River: 9 miles from Fort Atkinson, in southeast Wisconsin, to the Rock County border, through a covered bridge. The northern 4 miles are paved.

Great River: 24 scenic miles between a wildlife refuge north of Trempealeau to Onalaska through Mississippi wetlands, connecting to the La Crosse State Trail.

For more, see Hitting the trails in Trempealeau.

Green Circle: 31 miles connecting parks around Stevens Point. It connects to the Tomorrow River Trail in Plover.

Hank Aaron: 12 paved miles along the Menomonee River in Milwaukee from the Henry Maier Festival Park on Lake Michigan to Miller Park and State Fair Park, meeting the Oak Leaf Trail at the county line.

From there, the seven-mile New Berlin Trail takes bicyclists to Waukesha, where they can use city streets to connect with the Glacial Drumlin State Trail and ride to the Madison suburbs.

The Friends of Hank Aaron State Trail organize events on the trail.

La Crosse: 21 miles between Onalaska and Sparta, paralleling Interstate 90, connecting to the Great River and Elroy-Sparta trails.

Biking on the Milwaukee lakefront.

© Beth Gauper

Nearly a quarter of Milwaukee's Oak Leaf Trail hugs Lake Michigan.

Interurban: 30 paved miles in Ozaukee County, just north of Milwaukee. It connects to Milwaukee's Oak Leaf Trail at the county line, near Brown Deer Park.

It's populated but pretty from Mequon through the popular tourist towns of Cedarburg and Port Washington and quiet but a little dull to Belgium. From the county line, paved trails continue to Oostburg, just 13 miles short of Sheboygan.

For more, see Bicycling along Lake Michigan.

Mariners/Rawley Point: The Mariners Trail is 5 paved miles from Manitowoc along Lake Michigan to Two Rivers.

In Two Rivers, city streets (Washington Street across the west branch of the Twin River, 17th Street across the east branch) connect the Mariners Trail to the crushed-limestone Rawley Point trail, 6 miles to Point Beach State Forest and Rawley Point Lighthouse.

For more, see Two trails from Two Rivers.

Military Ridge: 41 miles between Fitchburg, west of Madison, and Dodgeville in southwest Wisconsin, passing Little Norway and Cave of the Mounds near Mount Horeb.

In Dodgeville, the six-mile Shake Rag Trail along Wisconsin 23 connects the trail to Mineral Point.

Mountain-Bay: 83 miles between Schofield, near Wausau, and Green Bay, through three counties. 

Oak Leaf: These Milwaukee loops include 54 miles of paved off-road paths, 31 miles of parkway drives and 27 miles of connecting streets. 

The longest sections go north from downtown along the lake and the Milwaukee River and south along the lake from South Shore Park.

North of town, it connects to the 30-mile Ozaukee Interurban Trail in Brown Deer.

For more, see Bicycling along Lake Michigan.

A bicyclist pedals on the Old Abe State Trail.

© Beth Gauper

The Old Abe State Trail between Chippewa Falls and Cornell is named for a bald eagle that served as mascot during the Civil War.

Oconto River: 8 miles north of Green Bay. It follows the Oconto River between Stiles and Oconto on Lake Michigan, passing Copper Culture State Park.

Old Abe: 19.5 paved miles along the Chippewa River between Chippewa Falls and Cornell, with a one-mile city trail leading into Brunet Island State Park.

The southern trailhead is north of Chippewa Falls at the junction of county roads O and S, 2 miles west of Lake Wissota State Park.

For more, see A trail for Old Abe.

Old Plank Road: 17 paved miles from Sheboygan to Greenbush, paralleling Wisconsin 23. Mopeds also are allowed. The four-mile Urban Rec Trail in Sheboygan connects the Old Plank Road to the city's lakefront.

For more about the area, see Sights of Sheboygan.

Omaha: 13 chip-sealed miles from Camp Douglas, just off Interstate 94, to Elroy, through a short tunnel. It's maintained by Juneau County. Elroy Commons is the trail hub.

Osaugie: 5 paved miles along the harbor in Superior. At the edge of town, bicyclists can continue 4 miles along Moccasin Mike Road to the lighthouse at the end of Wisconsin Point, lined with beaches.

For more, see Duluth's twin in Wisconsin.

Bicyclists pass the S.S. Meteor on Superior's Osaugie Trail.

© Beth Gauper

In Superior, bicyclists pass the S.S. Meteor on the Osaugie Trail.

Pine River: 15 miles along the Pine River in scenic coulee country, between Richland Center and Lone Rock.

Lone Rock is 8 miles west of Spring Green, home of House on the Rock and Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. 

For more, see Drawn to Spring Green.

Red Cedar: 14 miles between Menomonie and the Chippewa River, along the Red Cedar River, linking with the Chippewa River Trail.

For more, see Red Cedar ride 'n' glide.

Stower Seven Lakes: 14 miles between Dresser and Amery in northwest Wisconsin, passing seven lakes, one with a sand swimming beach.

For more, see Savoring the Seven Lakes.

Sugar River: 23 miles along the Sugar River between picturesque New Glarus and Brodhead, linking with the Badger State Trail in Monticello. There's bike rental at the trail center in New Glarus, 608-527-2334.

For more, see Swiss at heart.

Bicycling by South Twin Lake.

© Beth Gauper

The Stower Seven Lakes Trail passes a lake in Amery.

Three Eagle Trail: 8 miles from Three Lakes to Sundstein Road, four miles south of Eagle River; bicyclists can continue north on the lightly traveled, paved road to Eagle River

Terrain is wooded, and the trail passes lakes and bogs on two boardwalks and a steel bridge.

Tomorrow River: 18 miles from the east end of Plover to Scandinavia, with a one-mile break in Amherst.

In Stevens Point, the 31-mile Green Circle Trail, much of it along the Wisconsin and Plover rivers, comes within two blocks of the Tomorrow River State Trail.

Trestle-Friendship: 9.3 miles west from Menasha to the Wiouwash State Trail, including the popular -mile Trestle Trail across Little Lake Butte des Morts.

White River: 12 miles between Elkhorn and the western edge of Burlington, near Lake Geneva in southeast Wisconsin.

For more about the area, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.

Wild Goose: 34 miles south of Fond du Lac, skirting the western edge of Horicon Marsh, nearly to the city of Juneau.

For more, see Life on Horicon Marsh.

Wiouwash: 22 miles from downtown Oshkosh to Hortonville and 19 miles from Tigerton to Birnamwood-Split Rock, connecting to the Mountain-Bay State Trail in Eland.

It's named for the four counties through which it runs: WInnebago, OUtagamie, WAupaca and SHawano.


Many of the trails host annual bike rides. For more, see Tours on two wheels.

Last updated on September 29, 2016