Six Running (and Walking) Trails to Try in Madison

The Lake Monona Loop goes past Monona Terrace. Image courtesy

It’s officially summer! If you like to pound the pavement, here are some lovely options around the city to hit the ground running on. Sure, you’ve probably heard of all of them — but that’s why they’re iconic, because they’re just that good.

Lovely Lake Views: The Lake Monona Loop

This legendary stretch neatly circling Lake Monona makes it easy to keep going for another mile because of the gorgeous lake views. The stretch from Olin Park to Monona Terrace is particularly striking — but follow the entirety of the roughly 11- to 13-mile loop (depending on where you check) and you’ll catch views of the Capitol, downtown Madison, near east-side neighborhoods, Olbrich Park and charming Monona.

Cityscapes Abound: Southwest Commuter Path

Beginning near Verona and hooking up with the Badger State Trail, the Capital City State Trail and Cannonball Path, this 5.6-mile paved trail takes you through a variety of pleasant views. You’ll run through residential neighborhoods, over the Beltline, past Odana Hills and Glenway Golf Courses, and into downtown where you’ll see pieces of Madison’s history as it snakes its way through downtown’s warehouses, homes and businesses. The trail ends downtown at Brittingham Park (also with lovely vistas) — and you can easily catch the Capital City State Trail again downtown, too. 

Nature-Lovers Spot: Pheasant Branch Conservancy

If you love the outdoors, then this Middleton path is for you. With a total of six miles of trails and 550 acres, this carefully maintained preserve is gorgeous and green. Trails are a combination of crushed gravel, boardwalk and bridges, and the idyllic views (such as a gurgling stream throughout many of the trail portions) make the time — and your run — race by. 

Peaceful Paradise: Tiedeman Pond Conservancy Area

Another Middleton favorite, this one-mile trail is a combination of crushed gravel and a boardwalk that circles a peaceful kettle pond that’s abundant with wildlife. View a variety of birds (ducks, geese, herons). When it’s sunny out, revel in spotting the many turtles that sun themselves on rocks and logs in the pond.

Choose Your Own Adventure: University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

The city’s premier educational and recreational natural area features more than 17 miles of trails “through restored prairies, savannas, woodlands and wetlands.” The Arboretum is a choose-your-own-adventure type of place, where you can select from a variety of paths and view Lake Wingra, forests, native plant areas, prairies and marshes — depending on which you select.

Tranquility Abounds: Ice Age Trail Junction Area

The legendary Ice Age Trail is 1,000 miles long (all entirely within Wisconsin) and is one of 11 National Scenic Trails. But a segment of it is in Dane County in Verona and Fitchburg, and on it you’ll see an idyllic prairie landscape, peaceful suburban views and majestic, tree-covered paths. The path is relatively flat, which makes for a nice run. It also connects to the Military Ridge State Trail, a 40-mile trail located in Dane and Iowa counties.

This article was originally published in June 2020.

Image courtesy

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