Local Bike Trails to Explore this Spring and Summer in the Milwaukee Area

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Milwaukee Living

Spring is in the air; the crocuses are croaking, spring peepers are peeping, and bicyclists throughout Milwaukee are checking to make sure their spandex shorts still fit (mine don’t!). Biking can get frustrating when you find yourself competing with traffic. If you are looking for nice long stretches of paved paths through the forests and countryside in our area, Milwaukee and it outlying areas abound in smooth off-road trails. Did you know that in addition to the many community “bike paths,” Wisconsin has over 1,700 miles of state designated trails? Most of the bike trails are former railroad tracks and right of ways which were converted beginning back in 1965 when the Elroy-Sparta State Trail became the first of its kind in the nation. Two of the major bike trails in the state are also part of the network of long-distance bicycle routes which link communities state-to-state across the country and provide a direct path from Milwaukee to Minnesota.

Here are some of the Milwaukee area trails worth checking out:

1. Beerline Trail

Location: Milwaukee County
State trail pass? No

Parking for the Beerline Trail is available at Gordon Park on Humboldt Boulevard and along city streets in the Riverwest neighborhood. The trail starts on the northern edge of the downtown area at Pleasant Street and follows the old railways north along the Milwaukee River. The name “Beerline” can be misleading. The trail follows a course along the path of historic, and long gone, brewers which were part of Milwaukee’s claim to fame as the Beer Capital of the World.

2. Brown Deer Recreational Trail

Location: Milwaukee County
State trail pass? No

The Brown Deer Recreational Trail runs through the Village of Brown Deer on the northern outskirts of Milwaukee. Although only a mile long, this tree-lined trail is the artery that provides connections between the 30-mile Ozaukee Interurban Trail at its northern end (W. County Line Road), and the Oak Leaf Trail at its southern end (W. Brown Deer Road). There is parking and trail access mid-way in Village Park on West Green Brook Drive.

3. Bugline Trail

Location: Waukesha County
State trail pass? No

Clear spring skies with high-flying mare’s tails cloud wisps arch over a trail transiting quaint neighborhoods, ancient construction sites and rolling prairies. It's all part of the ride on the Bugline Recreation Trail between Menomonee Falls and Merton. A quick jaunt 20 miles northwest of Milwaukee, you will find residents in Menominee Falls have fashioned trail-access points from their backyards all along the Bugline. You'll be sharing the trail with local walkers, hikers, bikers and runners who flock to this recreation corridor. The trail is fully paved end-to-end. Access to the trail can also be found in Merton, right off Main Street. Merton is renown for two things: Lannon stone architecture (the trail skirts one of the local Lannon stone quarries) and frozen custard. Enjoy your frozen treat at Fireman's Park or Pollworth Park, where you’ll find picnic tables, a playground for the little ones, and restrooms. Parking is also available in Pollworth Park.

4. Glacial Drumlin State Trail

Location: Waukesha County
State trail pass? Yes

The 52-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail between Cottage Grove and Waukesha provides a glimpse into the past when glaciers bore down on southeastern Wisconsin in the last Ice Age. Those gigantic sheets of ice created wetlands, ponds, and rivers, as well as hundreds of low, cigar-shaped hills called drumlins. This big old trail gives you the west of Milwaukee experience with scenic bridges, forested areas, and beautiful views. Climb the observation tower for views from the highest point in Waukesha County. Thirteen of the trail’s miles are paved between Waukesha and Dousman. The rest is packed limestone.
At Lake Mills you will find a restored 1895 train depot which provides exhibits on local nature and railroad history, as well as other visitor services. Camping is available at Sandhill Station State Campground, 1.3 miles south of the depot on Mud Lake Road.

5. Hank Aaron State Trail

15 MILES (6 continuous off-road paved miles)
Location: Milwaukee County
State trail pass? No

Named for one of our greatest Milwaukee Braves, baseball legend Hank “The Hammer” Aaron led the Braves to the first of two consecutive World Series appearances and a championship over the usually dominant New York Yankees. In 2004, the State of Wisconsin opened the first segment of the Hank Aaron State Trail, commemorating his many accomplishments as a ballplayer. Aaron’s baseball successors, the Milwaukee Brewers, now play at Miller Park (or “American Family Insurance Field,”), within sight of the trail. A favorite for commuters during the week, everyone from families to serious cyclists uses this 14-mile trail on weekends. Along the way there are many potential pit stops like the Twisted Fisherman, the Soldiers Home Historic, and throughout the Milwaukee metro area.

6. Lake Country Recreation Trail

Location: Waukesha County
State trail pass? No

The Lake Country Recreation Trail runs from the western edge of Waukesha to Oconomowoc in Wisconsin’s Lake Country area. Most of the trail was built on a former Milwaukee-Watertown Interurban Railway right-of-way, now shared with Wisconsin Electric Power Company overhead electric lines. This bike trial gives you a solid view of Pewaukee Lake and glimpses of Upper Nemahbin Lake from the tops of some of the taller hills. The paved trail stretches through farmland and rolling hills, although adjacent roadways are rarely out of sight. Parking for the Lake Country Recreation Trail is available at many stops along the trail. Restrooms can be found on Delafield Road at the western edge of Upper Nemahbin Lake, at the Fish Hatchery Sports Complex on Main Street and are also available at the Naga-Waukee Park.

7. Lake Michigan Pathway

Location: Racine County
State trail pass? No

The 13.5-mile Lake Michigan Pathway keeps you in close touch with the sixth-largest freshwater lake in the world as it links rail-trails north and south of the port city of Racine. This paved trail makes for a scenic summer ride along the water and beachfront and is worth heading down to Racine. The Lake Michigan Pathway extends approximately 9.8 miles along the lake shore. Users have access to many Racine attractions, by bike or on foot including the DeKoven Center, beaches, Pershing Park, the revitalized downtown Racine, North Beach and the Racine Zoo.

8. Oak Leaf Trail

Distance: MORE THAN 100 MILES (7 continuous off-road paved miles)
Location: Milwaukee County
State trail pass? No

The longest local trail in the area in terms of mileage, Milwaukee's Oak Leaf Trail follows a paved, mostly off-street loop of 117 to 125 miles (depending on who you ask). It was a massive undertaking with hundreds of interconnecting trails encircling the county and passing through urban and rural Milwaukee settings following paved off-road routes, city streets and park drives. One of the longest stretches begins near the Milwaukee Art Museum downtown and travels north along the lake before cutting inland and tracing the wooded Milwaukee River corridor to the county line. Nearly a quarter of the trail hugs the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. Along the lake, take the trail ramp up to Brady Street for an eclectic array of shops, restaurants and bars. The Oak Leaf Trail has access points in and around the Milwaukee metro area.

9. Ozaukee Interurban Trail

30 MILES (9.5 continuous off-road paved miles)
Location: Ozaukee County
State trail pass? No

A continuation from the Oak Leaf that follows an old railroad line from Milwaukee to Sheboygan through Ozaukee County. At the end, if the 30 miles aren’t enough, you can carry on to the Sheboygan Interurban Trail. A former electric railway line, the Ozaukee Interurban Trail today connects historical communities that lie just west of Lake Michigan. The mix of towns and rural countryside provides for plenty of visual distractions, and links communities known for a lighthouse, Civil War–era downtowns, surviving railroad depots and gristmills, as well as a popular 1920s recording studio for Mississippi Delta blues singers. Public parking is available in Belgium, near the northern endpoint in Cedar Grove. And at near Thiensville.

10. New Berlin Recreation Trail

Location: Milwaukee County

The trail passes rural countryside, parks and neighborhoods. While there are some tree-lined sections, it's mostly open to the sun (it follows a power company right of way), which can make for a hot ride in the summer. While it is void of trestles, tunnels, and trees as it passes beneath the power lines of We Energies, many residents find it a fast and convenient commuter route, with a few distractions along the way. The trail's biggest asset is that it links the 52-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail to the west with the Hank Aaron trail to the east. The three trails make for a major west-to-east trail corridor linking communities from Cottage Grove to downtown Milwaukee. Parking for the eastern trailhead can be found at the Greenfield Park on Park Dr. For those approaching from the west, you will find parking in Waukesha on Springdale Road.

11. Seven Waters Trail

Location: Racine County

The Seven Waters Bike Trail is a scenic corridor stretching more than 17 miles north–south between Burlington and Muskego Lake into Waukesha County. The trail was originally three trails, locally called Burlington, Waterford–Wind Lake and Norway, all stitched together as part of Racine County's system of bike paths. The highway is a constant until just outside of Waterford, where the trail veers into residential and remote sections of this community. Enjoy remote wetland scenery along the way. Parking is available at Bushnell, St Mary's and Riverside parks in Burlington; Trailside School in Waterford; and Meyer Park in Wind Lake. You'll find a parking lot and boat access for Muskego Canal on the east side of Highway 36. You can also access the trail in downtown Burlington, Waterford, Rochester and Wind Lake.

More free things to do this spring and summer in Milwaukee.

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