City Trails Offer Smooth Rides, Unexpected Scenery

Few states can rival Wisconsin as a paradise for cyclists. We’re the acknowledged leader of the pack in rail-to-trail conversions; the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association trail network in Bayfield and Sawyer counties has become one of the nation’s meccas for fat tire enthusiasts; the lightly trafficked back roads of Door County, Coulee Country and the Portage-Waupaca-Waushara county “triangle” are among the Midwest’s classic touring destinations.

What tends to get lost in the glare is that Wisconsin offers terrific urban bicycling opportunities as well. From Kenosha to Superior, Green Bay to La Crosse, it’s the rare city that doesn’t have at least one dedicated bike trail where you can pedal to your heart’s content without worrying about inattentive drivers.

These trails boast a long list of selling points. Most are hard-surfaced, meaning that they’re suitable for road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, even the old Schwinn three-speed that you got for your 12th birthday and have lovingly cared for ever since. They’re conveniently accessible; without crunching the numbers, I think it’s safe to say that most state residents live as close to a bike trail as they do to their favorite movie theater.

Urban bike trails generally traverse a given city’s most scenic areas—lakeshores, riverfronts, parks, green spaces—and they often include sites of historical, cultural and commercial interest. They’re also extremely family-friendly.

Most Wisconsin municipalities have some kind of bike trail or multi-use recreational trail, and more are being dedicated all the time. Here are a few urban trails to try.

The Osaugie Trail in Superior follows the Lake Superior shore, taking in such historic sites along the way as Fairlawn Mansion and the world's sole remaining whaleback freighter, the S.S. Meteor.

The 10.2-mile Pike Bike Trail takes in the best of Kenosha: numerous city parks, beaches and nature areas, two Lake Michigan lighthouses, and numerous historic sites, including the birthplace of Orson Welles.

Madison, which was rated the number one city for biking, population 200,00-500,000, in the March 2006 issue of Bicycling magazine, boasts more bikes than it does cars. Two of its more scenic trails circumnavigate lakes Monona and Wingra, with the latter trail winding through the UW-Arboretum.

The Milwaukee County Oak Leaf Trail is a vast network, more than 100 miles in all, of on- and off-road bikeways. The Lake Park to Kletzsch Park portion is lovely, but sources say the stretch along South Lake Drive is even better, with high bluffs and spectacular Lake Michigan vistas. 

Access Green Bay’s East River Trail at Green Isle Park in the suburb of Allouez.

Numerous trails and bikeways pass through La Crosse and its scenic river valley surroundings.

Portions of this article originally appeared in Wisconsin Trails magazine.