Wisconsin is the third best state for cycling in the country and it’s easy to see why. With a wealth of paved bike routes connecting communities across the state, it is easy to grab your bike and explore the local flavors of Wisconsin. Here are three cycling adventures to get out of the city and take in the state’s natural attractions.
For the perfect day trip, look no further than Mariners Trail between Manitowoc and Two Rivers. With just six miles of paved bike trail along Lake Michigan, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy all that the area has to offer.
Begin your day at Manitowoc Coffee to fuel up and enjoy the classic cafe experience. Before hitting the trail stop by the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, featuring a mostly restored World War II submarine. Once you arrive in Two Rivers, grab some lunch at Water’s Edge Restaurant for a great meal and panoramic views of Lake Michigan.
A trip to Two Rivers wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Point Beach State Forest. Another six miles of trails takes you along an ocean-like beach right here in Wisconsin. Make sure you stop at Rawley Point Lighthouse, which at 111’ tall makes it the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes. The state forest also features 131 campsites for a memorable night of shoreline camping.
Twenty-four miles and six cities can be found along this crushed limestone bike path that runs parallel to an active rail line. You will find prairie remnants, hardwood forests, and wetlands along the La Crosse River State Trail.
Every good cycling adventure starts at a coffee shop, and The Root Note in La Crosse provides delicious, seasonal crepes and coffee, as well as live music later in the evening. A morning hike up Grandad Bluff will give you a stunning view of the Mississippi River Valley, including looks into Minnesota and Iowa.
Once you’ve headed out on the trail, you will find great places to stop in these communities:
- In West Salem, stop and see the Palmer Gullickson Octagon Home, which was built in 1856 and is now the site of the Historical Society Museum.
- Hickory Wind Farm Alpacas & Fiber in Bangor offers alpaca yarn products for a memorable takeaway.
- Stop by Vault in Rockland for a drink and yard games before continuing your route.
- Sparta is the “Bicycling Capital of America,” and what better way to celebrate than enjoying an authentic 1950’s drive-in, or bike-in, experience at Rudy’s Drive-In.
On your return to La Crosse, extend your stay at the Charmant Hotel, a renovated candy factory turned boutique hotel. If you’re with a group, the Wilson Schoolhouse Inn provides a unique lodging experience on 10 acres of land right on the Mississippi River.
It’s difficult to find a stretch of road as beautiful as the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway. Along this route, you’ll find the towns of Bayfield and Washburn separated by 12.9 miles along the shores of Lake Superior. Both offer charming shops and restaurants perfect for a weekend escape.
Start your journey in Washburn with “really swell French Toast,” from Coco Cafe and Bakery, and take a walk through Chequamegon Books to see their 70,000 book collection. As you head north on HWY 13 towards Bayfield, a quick detour will allow you to hike the Houghton Falls State Natural Area.
When you arrive in Bayfield, you will be greeted by stunning views of the marina. With plenty of shops to peruse and restaurants featuring local food, you simply cannot go wrong. If you want to extend your stay, the Old Rittenhouse Inn is a bed and breakfast featuring two Queen Anne Victorians overlooking the town and marina.
If you want to get more cycling in before returning to Washburn, you can hop on the Madeline Island Ferry and ride through Big Bay State Park. Or for the extra ambitious, the rest of the Around the Horn tour gets you 40 more miles of the scenic byway and a chance to stop in Cornucopia and see Lost Creek Falls. There are some challenging hills, but the views are well worth the effort.
For more communities to cycle to and through, check out Wisconsin’s Top Bike-Friendly Communities.