Wisconsin, Madison, Capital City State Trail
The Capital City State Trail is a 17-mile safe and easy bicycle trail paved with asphalt. The well-maintained trail begins on Madison's East Side, meanders from the suburb of Fitchburg in the southwest, follows alongside a rail corridor to the center and through downtown Madison, finally to the eastern neighborhoods. It is the link around and through Madison between the Military Ridge State Trail and, eventually, the Glacial Drumlin State Trail.
Less than half the trail is on former rail lines: the Chicago, Milwaukee, Street Paul and Pacific Railroad along western Lake Monona, and the Chicago and North-Western Railway in the east. Most of the trail comprises a collection of paths (the Nine Springs E-Way, the John Nolen Lakeshore Path, and the Isthmus and East Side Bike Paths) that were renamed into a single trail.
The Capital City State Trail contributes to the impression that you’re never far from a bike path in the Madison area. It demonstrates why this area always ranks among the top bicycle-friendly communities.
The Capital City State Trail's asphalt surface is good for not only bicycling but also walking, jogging and in-line skating, but be careful as it still has some rough cracks along the way.
Note that a state trail pass is required for anyone 16 and older who bikes on the nine miles of the trail that go through the Capital Springs E-way south of Madison between Verona Road and Nob Hill near Industrial Drive. Passes are available at the trailheads at Verona Road and Nob Hill, the kiosk at the Syene Road parking lot or at the Lussier Family Heritage Center [exit DNR] during normal business hours, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
To access to western endpoint, you can park at Dawley Conservancy in Fitchburg. First, take McKee Road east, then the intersection of US 18 / US 151 / Verona Road and County Road PD / McKee Road, you will approach the Fitchburg trailhead. Go to South Seminole Highway, take a left, then go for a while and turn left again into the parking lot for Dawley Conservancy. There is a short path behind the parking lot north to the Capital City State Trail. Left leads you to the western endpoint in 1 mile, and right will take you to Madison.
Otherwise, reach the parking near the eastern endpoint in Madison from SR 30 / Aberg Avenue, take the Fair Avenue exit, heading south. Go a half mile, turn left at Milwaukee Street, go more 0.3 mile, then turn right onto Walter Street. Keep going 0.6 mile and you will see the parking for Olbrich Playfields on your right. After that, to reach the trail, you may head back to Walter Street, head north (left) about 500 feet to the street, crossing for Capital City State Trail. Right will go 1 mile to the endpoint at Cottage Grove Road, while left will lead you toward downtown Madison.
Food and Drink
There are countless restaurants and eateries to stop for a bite to eat. You can even camp along the trail at the Capital Springs State Recreational Area.
Visitors to this city will find all that they need to enjoy the afternoon along the Capital City State Trail. You may rent bikes along the trail at B-Cycle stations.
Start your trip in Fitchburg, you will ride through a tunnel beneath US 18 / US 151 (Verona Road). Then after several minutes, you will arrive at a “bike trail interchange”, here you may cross some paths: the Southwest Commuter Path which heading north to Madison, the Badger State Trail which heading south to Illinois, and the Cannonball Path which connecting with Military Ridge State Trail). A forest and a prairie planted by Fitchburg’s Dawley Conservancy are offered on your way, where you find restrooms, parking, and a bike-repair station.
For the next 2 miles, you will alternate in and out of wooded park settings to a pedestrian crossing over Fish Hatchery Road and a trail interruption at Glacier Valley Road. The next 6 miles will be fairly rough, but you can pass though the Capital Springs State Park and Recreation Area, where you may spot marshes, creeks, and lakes across a rolling golden terrain sparsely dotted with trees. Next to the campground, the Lussier Family Heritage Center is for you to learn about local American Indian culture and pioneer settlement patterns. Or you can pick up the Lower Yahara River Trail and ride east to pass a floating bridge over Lake Waubesa.
After that, you can catch the breathtaking views of downtown Madison across Lake Monona if you reach Olin Park at mile 12. Keep going north, the Capital City State Trail parallels John Nolen Drive on a causeway that crosses the lake with exceptional views of the State Capitol Dome.
Continuing north, the Capital City State Trail runs alongside John Nolen Drive on a causeway that crosses the lake with exceptional views of the State Capitol dome. The trail hugs the shoreline for a few blocks, then passes the visually striking Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Further on, the trail will run through historical Madison neighborhoods, including Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara at mile 16, where the trail is flanked by community garden plots, bungalow-style homes, and shops. Here you have a bite or a cup of joe. The trail takes a southeasterly tack where you’ll pass Olbrich Botanical Gardens, with 16 acres of plants, paths, and a tropical paradise in the conservatory. You’ll also see a Thai pavilion easily recognizable from the trail.
The trail ends 1.4 miles past the gardens, but there are plans to connect with the 53-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail, which begins about 6 miles away in Cottage Grove.
In short, this exciting trail takes recreational bike riders past many of Madison's famous sites. There are numerous places to stop for ice cream, drinks, and food along the way. Especially, with all of the trails and bikable streets in Madison, there are infinite iterations of loop routes that can be made.
27.367 km / 17.005 mi
153 m / 503 ft
205 m / 672 ft
315 m / 1,035 ft