Bike Trails and Nature: 6 Ways to Explore Wisconsin's Wildlife on Wheels

By Amy Bayer
Staff Writer

Wisconsin is one of the top bicycling states in the country with thousands of miles of paved, traffic-free bike trails. In addition to the hassle-free environment for bicyclists, the state also is a popular travel destination for nature enthusiasts. For those who love both biking and nature, here is a list of Wisconsin bike trails that will take you on a wildlife tour.

Albany Wildlife Area & Sugar River Trail

Located just northwest of Albany in Green County, this wildlife area covers more than 1,400 acres of land. Much of the area is wooded and follows the Little Sugar River.

The Sugar River State Trail bisects the property and crosses the river in multiple areas over scenic bridges. You'll be sure to hear and see plenty of wildlife as you bike along this trail, which also happens to be a small segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Commonly seen animals include deer, turkeys, pheasants, songbirds and rabbits.

Pheasant Branch Nature Conservancy

The Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a significant natural area located in Middleton. Home to a marsh with open water, springs, prairies, meadow and forest, the various habitats sustain a wide variety of animals including deer, herons, frogs, cranes, duck, geese, hawks and owls.

Bordered on three sides by residential neighborhoods, this conservancy is a natural oasis with more than three miles of a looped multi-use trail for bicyclists and hikers. There are several hiking paths with places to park your bike if you'd like to delve deeper into the marsh and prairie.

Schmeeckle Reserve & Green Circle State Trail

The Schmeeckle Reserve is a natural area open to the public on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Campus. There are more than five miles of trails and boardwalks, as well as a 24-acre lake and numerous wildlife habitats to explore.

More than 200 species of birds have been witnessed here, as well as deer, fox, otters and muskrats. In addition to the trails within the reserve, the Green Circle State Trail has a 1.5-mile section that traverses through this stunning natural environment on its 26-mile loop around the Stevens Point area.

Horicon National Wildlife Refuge & State Wildlife Area

The Horicon Marsh, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Wisconsin DNR, is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States and provides critical habitats for more than 300 species of birds, as well as muskrats, foxes, turtles, frogs, bats, dragonflies and fish. The marsh offers trails for hiking, biking and auto tours.

A 36-mile loop (with an alternate route to cut the distance in half) takes bicyclists to several wildlife viewing areas and overlooks, and includes a stretch along the Wild Goose State Trail. While you have the opportunity to see more than a hundred geese on any given day, peak migration times are in mid-April through May and mid-September through October.

Dunnville Wildlife Area & Red Cedar Bike Trail

Commonly referred to as the "Dunnville Bottoms," this wildlife area is nestled along the confluence of the Chippewa and Red Cedar Rivers, located between Menomonie and Durand.

The Red Cedar State Trail bisects the Dunnville Wildlife Area and provides a beautiful snapshot of this unique refuge. Adjacent along the north is the Lower Chippewa State Natural Area, which also is a vista for those on the Red Cedar Trail and offers another glimpse of Wisconsin's natural beauty.

These wildlife areas are abundant with sparrows, quails, hawks wrens, turkeys, ducks and herons.

Tara Lila – Lincoln Unit & Three Eagle Trail

Tara Lila is a privately-owned corporation that maintains three properties designed for long-term conservancy in Vilas and Oneida counties. The land is available for public use and has hiking trails, and the Tara Lila Lincoln Unit also contains a section of the Three Eagle Trail, which is available for bicyclists.

Located just south of Eagle River, this park is open from dawn until dusk. A popular spot for numerous small game and birds, Tara Lila also is home to bears, wolves and coyotes, although it is unlikely to encounter any of these larger animals on the trail.

 

Many of Wisconsin's state and county parks also offer excellent opportunities for biking and natural exploration. Check out our full collection of bike trip ideas.