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Hiking guide for Madison

Check out these hiking trails catering to all skill levels in and around Madison, Wisconsin for outdoor adventures.

View from Gibraltar Rock bluffs

You can’t beat the view from Gibraltar Rock. | Photo by 608today

Table of Contents

From quick and easy loops around town to drives that take you to fantastic lakes and bluffs, our city has so many options to hit the trail. So lace up your hiking boots, because we’ve compiled a hiking guide for the Madison area to help you plan your next adventure and experience breathtaking views.

Note: While parks and trails may be listed as open, we recommend checking park websites before visiting for further info, current trail conditions, and safest practices for the area.

Key: Easy = 🥾 | Moderate = 🥾🥾 | Hard = 🥾🥾🥾

Madison area

A lone tree on an empty wintery prairie during sunrise.jpeg

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park is an oasis for sandhill cranes, bald eagles, osprey and more. | Photo by 608today

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - North, 6098 N. Sherman Ave.

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 4 miles of trails
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: No

A birder’s paradise, there are trails along the upper Yahara River, across marshes, and through meadows and forests. A small pier provides canoe/kayak access (1/4 mile carry-in from the parking lot).
Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park - South, 5002 School Rd.

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 4 miles of trails
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: No

Close to the hubbub of Northport Drive, you can still get lost in restored prairie, oak savannas, and woodland areas with views of marshes and the Yahara River.

 Edna Taylor Sand Hill Cranes

Two Sanhill cranes enjoying an Edna Taylor Conservation Park stroll. | Photo by Friends of ETCP

Edna Taylor Conservation Park Trail, 802 Femrite Dr., Madison

  • Difficulty: 🥾
  • Length: 2.3 miles out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: No

Each month, there’s an opportunity to join a 90-minute Bird and Nature Walking Tour to explore the park with an expert. Since this is a conservation park, no dogs are allowed, but there’s a high chance you’ll see plenty of critters on your hike. It’s also a stone’s throw from the Aldo Leopold Nature Center that offers learning opportunities for all ages and backgrounds.

Governor's Island drone shot

A bird’s eye view over the east-side hidden gem. | Photo by Sekret Empire

Governor’s Island, Governor’s Island Parkway (off of Troy Drive), Madison

  • Difficulty: 🥾
  • Length: 1.2-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

Think: Picnic Point, but not as busy.

608today - Pheasant Branch Conservancy - April 2024.jpg

A popular hiking spot, you can still find yourself alone at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. | Photo by 608today

Pheasant Branch and Fredrick’s Hill Loop, 4864 Pheasant Branch Rd., Middleton

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 4-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

This hike takes about an hour and a half on average but with plenty of side paths to explore, you can easily spend a few hours enjoying nature on this trail.

Sunrise on Lake Mendota with ice blocks in the foreground and the city in the background.jpeg

Picnic Point is one of the most popular hikes in Madison. | Photo by 608today

Picnic Point, 2000 University Bay Dr., Madison

  • Difficulty: 🥾
  • Length: 2 miles out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

A Madison classic, this mile-long peninsula juts out from the south shore of Lake Mendota. Reserve a fire circle for a mid-hike fire, or keep your eyes peeled for one of many benches along the trail to enjoy the views.

608 Starkweather creek bridge hikes

The iconic Starkweather Creek bridge. | Photo by Chris Collins

Starkweather Creek Path, Access from the Goodman Sports Complex, 3201 Anderson St., Madison

  • Difficulty: 🥾
  • Length: 3-mile trail
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

Near the Bridges Golf Course, the path splits into two segments. Go west along Aberg Avenue to reach Oscar Mayer Park, or south to cross Milwaukee Street and converge with the Capital City Trail.

Further afield

A black and white photo of a reconstructed stockade based on an old Native American village that existed from the 11th through 13th centuries.jpeg

Outside of Madison, there is Aztalan, an ancient Middle-Mississippian village that thrived between A.D. 1000 and 1300. | Photo by 608today

Aztalan State Park, N6200 County Rd. Q, Jefferson

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 2-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

Mostly open prairie, with some oak woods along the Crawfish River, the park is the site of an ancient Mississippian culture settlement during the 10th to 13th centuries. There are reconstructed stockades and earthwork mounds to explore.

608 Devil's Doorway hike

Devil’s Doorway is a popular hike at Devil’s Lake. | Photo by Paul Reznikoff

Devil’s Doorway, Devil’s Lake State Park, S5975 Park Rd., Baraboo

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾🥾
  • Length: 2-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

This hike offers a look at some of the impressive natural rock structures that can be found at Devil’s Lake. Try out its neighboring trail, Balanced Rock, for a similar experience with a shorter hike.

608 Ferry Bluff

Check out the Wisconsin Rover from a new perspective at Ferry Bluff. | Photo by 608today

Ferry Bluff, Ferry Bluff Rd. (off of State Road 60), Prairie Du Sac

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 1-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

While it’s only a half-mile walk to the bluff, be prepared for steep walking conditions — but the view is worth it. This trail is closed November-March in an effort to protect roosting Bald Eagles.

Gibraltar Rock, Gibraltar Rock Road, Lodi

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 1.5-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

If you’re afraid of heights, you may want to skip this one. Just south of Lake Wisconsin, this hike is part of the Ice Age Trail and offers stunning views (especially in the fall) atop the 200-ft cliffs.

The ruins of an old stone barn in a snow-covered landscape.jpeg

Indian Lake County Park is across from Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area that includes old farm ruins. | Photo by 608today

Indian Lake County Park, 8183 WI-19, Cross Plains

  • Difficulty: 🥾🥾
  • Length: 4-mile loop
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Pet-friendly: Yes

One of Dane County’s largest parks, there’s the loop around Indian Lake, but also has a plethora of other hiking opportunities (the Ice Age Trail runs through it, as does a hike up a hill to a historic chapel built in 1857).

Get the right gear

Get the most out of your trip with comfortable, handy, and helpful hiking gear:

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