Glacial Drumlin State Trail

Thirteen miles of the 52-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail in Waukesha County are paved. Photo By Michael Sears

12 paved bike trails in Wisconsin

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Biking in Wisconsin is great, until you find yourself bumping elbows with cars and trucks instead of pines and wildflowers.

If you’re looking for long stretches of pavement away from traffic, Wisconsin has you covered. Here are 12 trails around the state perfect for families, road bikes and anyone looking for a smooth off-road ride.

B.A.T.S. - Crystal Lake Paved Trail
Location: Vilas County
Distance: 11 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? No
Description: Part of the Boulder Area Trail System (B.A.T.S.), the Crystal Lake trail starts in Boulder Junction and travels south past beautiful Trout Lake, then east to Crystal Lake Campground. At Crystal Lake, the trail meets up with the Plum Lake Trail (five miles), which then connects with the St. Germain Trail (eight miles), creating a 24-mile paved trail.
Diversions: Spend a night or two under the stars at Crystal Lake Campground in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest.

Capital City State Trail
Location: Dane County
Distance: 7.5 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? Yes
Description: There’s a reason Madison is the state’s most bike-friendly city. Hundreds of miles of trails and designated bike lanes wind in, around and through the city, including the 17-mile Capital City State Trail. For an off-road route, start in Fitchburg, just east of Fish Hatchery Road at Glacier Valley Road. Bike east around Madison’s southern edge to Lake Monona. From there, the trail connects to a paved loop around the lake.
Diversions: At Lake Monona, follow the Southwest Commuter Path to Park St., which will lead you to State St., the heart of Madison. Stop for a beer at Memorial Union Terrace or bike up to the Capitol Square for classic Wisconsin fare at the Old Fashioned.

Chippewa River State Trail

Location: Eau Claire, Dunn, Pepin counties
Distance: Nearly 30 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? Yes
Description: This route in northeastern Wisconsin is one of the area’s longest continuous off-road, paved trails. Your ride begins in Eau Claire’s Carson Park and follows the Chippewa River south to Durand. About 18 miles in, the trail joins with the Red Cedar State Trail, which continues north through the Dunnville Wildlife Area.
Diversions: At the beginning of the trail (or on your way back), taste wines and spirits (vodka and watermelon brandy, new this year) at the iB Artisan Winery & Distillery.  

Fox River State Trail
Location: Brown County
Distance: 11 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? Yes
Description: Start in downtown Green Bay at Mason St. and follow the Fox River south through the city to Lasee Road. The pavement ends here, but the trail continues on crushed limestone for another 14 miles to the Brown-Calumet County line. Look for interpretive signs along the trail indicating its history as an American Indian footpath and former railroad route.
Diversions: Discover Wisconsin’s frontier past at Heritage Hill State Historical Park, a 50-acre living history museum on the banks of the Fox River just east of the trail in downtown Green Bay.

Glacial Drumlin State Trail
Location: Waukesha County
Distance: 13 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? Yes
Description: This relatively flat 52-mile trail is one of more than 80 trails in Wisconsin created from former rail lines. Thirteen of the trail’s miles are paved, beginning in Waukesha’s Fox River Sanctuary. Follow the route west to Dousman, where crushed limestone takes over.
Diversions: In Wales, bike the Cushing Park Bike Trail north about a mile to Lapham Peak, a unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit. Climb the observation tower for views from the highest point in Waukesha County.

Hank Aaron State Trail
Location: Milwaukee County
Distance: 6 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? No
Description: Named for Milwaukee Braves and Brewers great Hank Aaron, this state trail connects Milwaukee’s Lakefront with Miller Park and Waukesha County. Start at the Harley-Davidson Museum on Canal St., where the off-road paved trail travels six continuous miles along the Menomonee River past Miller Park and State Fair Park to West Allis. At 94th Place, the asphalt turns to crushed limestone, but two more miles (for eight total) will get you to the Oak Leaf Trail.
Diversions: After crossing the river, follow the new trail spur back east to the Mitchell Park Domes for a tour of three unique environments. At Miller Park, share a brat and beer with tailgaters before a game.

Mariners Trail
Location: Manitowoc County
Distance: 5.5 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? No
Description: This scenic trail follows the Lake Michigan shoreline from Manitowoc to Two Rivers. At just 5.5 miles, it’s easy enough to bike one way and back in a day. Flower beds line the route, and lake breezes keep bikers cool on hot summer days.
Diversions: Visit the Manitowoc Farmers Market at the corner of Eighth and Quay streets (just west of the marina) on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the summer.

Oak Leaf Trail
Location: Milwaukee County
Distance: 7 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? No
Description: Milwaukee’s premier urban trail stretches for 114 miles throughout the county, following paved off-road routes, city streets and park drives. For a longer entirely off-road route, start at Silver Spring Drive and North Milwaukee River Parkway. Head south along the Milwaukee River, then through Milwaukee’s East Side to the Milwaukee Art Museum on Lake Michigan.
Diversions: Along the lake, take the trail ramp up to Brady Street for an eclectic array of shops, restaurants and bars.

Old Abe State Trail
Location: Chippewa County
Distance: 20 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? Yes
Description: Another rail trail, Old Abe follows the Chippewa River from Chippewa Falls to Cornell, connecting Lake Wissota and Brunet Island state parks. A future addition will connect the trail with the Chippewa and Red Cedar state trails, creating a network of more than 70 miles of connected trails in the Chippewa Valley.
Diversions: Leave the trail in Jim Falls at County Road S and head .2 miles west for a glimpse of a statue commemorating the trail’s namesake. Hint: It has a few more feathers than our 16th president.

Old Plank Road Trail
Location: Sheboygan County
Distance: 17 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? No
Description: This route starts on Sheboygan’s western edge near Interstate 43 and follows Highway 23 west to Greenbush. Because the trail is not a former rail route, elevation changes are more common than on many of Wisconsin’s other paved trails.
Diversions: Visit the Old Wade State Historic Site in Greenbush for a look at a historic stage coach inn and the state’s largest collection of horse- and hand-drawn wagons and carriages.
Note: A section of the trail between Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls will be closed in May 2013 for reconstruction.

Osaugie Trail
Location: Douglas County
Distance: 5 continuous off-road paved miles
Description: This paved trail starts at the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 53 and follows Lake Superior north to Moccasin Mike Road. Bikers are treated with views of the city’s towering iron ore docks and oceangoing vessels.
Diversions: Head 13 miles south of Superior to Pattison State Park for a glimpse of Big Manitou Falls, Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall.

Ozaukee Interurban Trail
Location: Ozaukee County
Distance: 9.5 continuous off-road paved miles
State trail pass? No
Description: A former electric railway line, the Ozaukee Interurban Trail today connects communities throughout Ozaukee County. For a completely off-road route, start at West County Line Road in Brown Deer (the trail connects with the Brown Deer Trail here) and bike north through Thiensville, Mequon, Cedarburg, and into Grafton, where the trail follows city streets and then reconnects with an off-road trail to extend for another nearly 30 miles. The mix of towns and rural countryside provides for plenty of visual distractions.   
Diversions: In Cedarburg, get off the trail and follow Washington Ave. two blocks north to the historic Cedar Creek Settlement, home to a diverse array of shops and restaurants, including Cedar Creek Winery.

Note: Many of these trails require trail passes for riders 16 and older. Some routes cross streets; always look both ways and yield to oncoming traffic. Remember these trails are mixed-use, and you’ll still need to watch for runners, rollerbladers and other pedestrians.

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