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Milwaukee mountain bikers are delighted to have high-quality single-track riding right in the metro area. The trails here are the result of the tenacity and energy of the Metro Mountain Bikers and the local WORBA (Wisconsin Off-Road Bicycling Association) chapter. For the past ten years, they've worked to make legal, compatible and sustainable mountain bike riding a reality in the Milwaukee County Parks system. The Alpha Trail may be the first fruit of their labor, but it's certainly not the last. You'll find two distinct terrain characteristics here. Flat riding in the bottomland of the Root River offers narrow passages, tight turns and occasional rocks and roots. There are some nice views of the river if you can take your eyes off the trail long enough to look. The wild critters love this isolated spot too. In contrast, the Crystal Ridge ski slope makes you climb up a 200-foot, steep, double-track road to the top where a variety of tricky trails await. As the highest spot in the county, the ski hill is worth the climb just for the views. Tucked in the southwest corner amid the tight loops in O'Malley's Woods, you might catch a glimpse of wildlife framed by the golden arches of a nearby McDonalds. From May to mid-September, the Metro Mountain Bikers host a Wednesday evening race series at Crystal Ridge that also uses the river bottom trails. In mid-July one of the most popular races of the WORS series is held on the trail system.When you ride the Alpha Trail you're right next to two of Milwaukee County's showpiece attractions. The Boerner Botanical Gardens has delighted visitors for more than a half-century (open May-Oct 8 am-sunset; 414/525-5600, www.boernerbotanicalgardens.org). This 50-acre formal garden offers eleven varying garden walks. On Thursday evenings in July and August, free concerts are held in this delightful setting. The Wehr Nature Center is also located in Whitnall Park (open daily 8am-4:30pm; 414/425-8500, www.countyparks.com). Seven trails loop through woodlands, prairie, oak savanna, lake and marsh environments with habitat for a diversity of wildlife. How can all this fun fit into one county park? Whitnall Park is an urban wonder. The park and adjacent Root River Parkway offer more than six square miles of public land. The late Charles Whitnall was instrumental in the planning of the park system nearly 100 years ago. His goal was to make the serenity and beauty of nature accessible to city dwellers. The Alpha Trail does just that offering one more piece of adventure to the city's recreational mosaic. It's a perfect fit with the mission of the Milwaukee County Parks.
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