Capital City Trail/Nine Springs E-Way

Madison has a reputation as a bicycle-friendly place, and rightly so. Along its wide asphalt bike paths you can explore some of the city's top attractions. Not only that, you'll ride through woods and fields of wildflowers you never imagined you'd find in the metro area. The Capital City Trail was a long time in the works. Some sections were completed as early as the mid-70s. In the 90s they were connected to the Nine Springs E-Way, the John Nolen and the Isthmus to form the Capital City Trail. A short section crossing Hwy. 12/18 is still under development. But when it's completed, the trail will offer nearly 18 miles of seamless bicycling from the city's east side to the west. From there, it's a short hop to Verona and the Military Ridge State Trail running another 40 miles west to Dodgeville. On the Capital City Trail, spur trails lead to the University of Wisconsin Campus, the UW-Arboretum and the Henry Vilas Zoo. Riding east from the Dawley Conservancy Park trailhead in Fitchburg, the trail overlooks Dunn's Marsh where a small lake is often dotted with ducks and geese. After crossing Seminole Highway, you'll pass through stretches of beautiful oak and hickory woods. The steepest grades are on this section. The trail descends to a mile-long run through a scenic, twisting creek bottom with three bridge crossings. Climbing back up to the open suburban landscape, you'll cross Fish Hatchery Road, one of the few on-trail spots where services are available. After a short stretch on quiet Glacial Valley Road, the trail follows a long and winding path through prairies and fens interspersed with oak and pine forest. In places you can spot the Capitol dome rising above the city skyline. At Lake Farm Road, you'll come to the Lussier Family Heritage Center, a new facility that will highlight the pioneer history of the area. The surrounding land and marsh are slated to become part of the new Centennial State Park. Riding northwest, the trail crosses into the city of Madison and runs parallel to John Nolen Drive. At Olin-Turville Park, an underpass connects with the Wingra Creek Trail for a two-mile side trip to the UW-Arboretum, the Henry Vilas Zoo, and the swimming beach at Vilas Park. From there it's possible to follow city streets north, junction with the four-mile Southwest Bike Path, and complete a loop back to the trailhead at Dahle Park. If you continue riding the Capital City Trail along John Nolen Drive, you'll cross Monona Bay on a causeway. Beautiful views of the State Capitol, the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, and the city skyline unfold before you. The trail passes right in front of Monona Terrace, a unique Frank Lloyd Wright design envisioned more than fifty years ago. Bicycle racks are provided at trail level. Inside you can visit the Grand View Cafe for good coffee and a light lunch. On top is the William T. Evjue Rooftop Garden, a great rest stop with a terrific view. A short distance from Monona Terrace, the trail crosses a major intersection at Blair Street. Cross into the parking lot of a small shopping center to pick up the rail bed portion of the trail. Now you'll cruise past the industrial parts of the city; past neighborhood back yards and community gardens to Madison's east side. There you'll find one of the city's most popular attractions, beautiful Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Fourteen acres of gardens surround a glass pyramid conservatory filled with lush tropical plants and flowers. From Olbrich, the east-end trailhead is less than a mile away. It's been a great ride on the Capital City Trail.