608today City Guide Play

Head outside with a guide to Madison’s parks

We’re highlighting the top parks that Madison has to offer — complete with nature hikes, historical spots, and dog-friendly areas.


A sunset photo with a sailboat on a lake.

There are a multitude of lakefront parks in Madison to soak in beauty. | Photo by 608today

Table of Contents

Whether you’re looking for a place to play with your kiddos or to decompress with off-screen time, the 608 features over 270 parks and recreation spots for you to enjoy.

Ready to plan your trip to the park? Grab your shades and trusty water bottle — here are some of Madison’s best:

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

Conservation Parks

Cherokee Marsh, 6098 N. Sherman Ave. (North); 5002 School Rd. (South)
Offering a plethora of winding trails through woodland and marsh, the parks are a bird lover’s paradise.

Edna Taylor Conservation Park, 802 Femrite Dr.
With oak savanna and wetlands, the park offers trails to the nearby Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

Elvehjem Sanctuary, 1314 Painted Post Dr.
Traverse short, steep trails amid the lush woods, skirting the Starkweather Creek watershed.

Kettle Pond, 5805 Old Middleton Rd.
This park bears evidence of the a glacier’s withdrawal around 10,000 years ago, marked by the formation of several kettle holes.

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Pheasant Branch Conservancy has a wide array of hiking and biking trails. | Photo by 608today

Pheasant Branch Conservancy, 4864 Pheasant Branch Rd., Middleton
Visitors have plenty of opportunities to commune with nature, have a picnic, or bike its many trails.

Prairie Ridge, 2406 Berkley Dr.
This 48-acre park is home to steep prairies that are infamously difficult to navigate. It is referred to as a “goat prairie” due to the challenging terrain that only goats can easily traverse.

Sandburg Woods, 2902 Independence Ln.
Step into a little sanctuary of oak and hickory trees near Sandburg Elementary School.

Turville Point, 1202 Olin-Turville Ct.
Located along the west shore of Lake Monona, the park’s landscape is dominated by large red, bur, and white oak trees. The trees provide a lush canopy under which spring wildflowers bloom.

Sports parks

Demetral, 601 N. Sixth St.
Situated near East High School, Demetral Park boasts a reservable shelter, a playground, and a fenced-off dog exercise zone — in addition to an Ultimate Frisbee field.

608 Garner Park

The award-winning Garner Park shelter is a coveted event space. | Photo by Guillaume Ratel

Garner, 333 S. Rosa Rd.
In 2016, Garner Park became home to Madison’s inaugural exclusive pickleball courts. The 42-acre park features a scenic viewpoint and an award-winning shelter.

Hiestand, 4302 Milwaukee St.
Parkgoers can partake in disc golf during the spring through fall seasons. You can also reserve an athletic field or a picnic shelter, which is equipped with solar lights.

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The pump track at Aldo Leopold is great for thrill-seekers. | Photo via Madison Parks

Pump Track (Aldo Leopold Park), 2906 Traceway Dr.
Let your momentum carry you as you traverse the curved asphalt at the Leopold Pump Track.

Organized groups may reserve play fields for their league play using the online reservation system.

A little white dog sits on a picnic table during sunset at an off-leash dog park.jpeg

Sycamore Dog Park has some of the best sunset views in the city. | Photo by 608today

Off-leash dog parks

Brittingham, 326 S. Broom St.
Nestled with a basketball and tennis court at the John Nolen entry to the isthmus, this small park offers synthetic turf and a doggy drinking fountain.

McCormick, 702 N. McCormick Ave.
This mini dog park is the perfect place to give your city-slicker pup a spot to get the zoomies out during your daily walks.

North Star, 439 Milky Wy.
Adjacent to the two-acre dog park is a 23-acre community park equipped with a basketball court and a playground.

Sycamore, 4517 Sycamore Ave.
This 20-acre dog park is kitty-corner (no pun intended) to an adventure biking course for dog owners with a taste for adrenaline.

Warner, 2301 Sheridan Dr.
This park is home to a beautiful lagoon, but make sure to check water conditions before letting your pup take a dip.

608 Warner Park

While you’re there, check out the colorful Warner Park Rec. Center. | Photo by Tom Sparrow

A dog permit is required to enter any dog-specific or dogs-allowed Madison parks.

Historical parks

Bernard-Hoover Boathouse (James Madison Park), 622-1/2 E. Gorham St.
This boathouse is a relic of Charles Bernard’s boat rental business. Charles eventually expanded his business to include fishing gear rentals and steam-powered excursion boats. Built in 1915, it’s now one of the only physical reminders of the early days of pleasure boating in Madison.

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Gates of Heaven is one of the oldest synagogue buildings in the country. | Photo by 608today

Gates of Heaven (James Madison Park), 300 E. Gorham St.
Designed by August Kutzbock, Gates of Heaven is a Germanic-style building built in 1863 for Madison’s first Jewish congregation. It later served various congregations before being moved to James Madison to be saved from demolition in 1971.

Native American mounds, various locations
Madisonians have the privilege to experience some of Wisconsin’s rich Native American history right here in town. Bear Mound, Burrows, and Hudson are a few local parks that feature preserved Native American mounds. These historic landmarks date back to roughly 700-1200 AD.

Olin, 1156 Olin-Turville Ct.
In 1884, this pavilion was built as an educational meeting place for Sunday school teachers and quickly became a hot spot for summer camps, live entertainment, and lectures given by the likes of 608 big names like “Fighting Bob” La Follette.

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James Madison is a hot spot for sunset lovers. | Photo by wildrway

Yahara River Parkway, 501 S. Thornton Ave.
Built in 1903 by the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association, this was the first park in Madison to be funded by donations from its citizens, instead of a few large donations.

Your park grab bag

Picked your perfect park? Make the most out of your experience with our favorite items for a relaxing day outside:

  • Is there anything quite like sitting in the shade and enjoying a good book? Check out our guide to books by local authors to help choose your next great read.
  • The Kindle Paperwhite is a lightweight e-reader option that stands up to bright sunlight.
  • A good water bottle keeps you hydrated — we’re big fans of the best-selling Owala FreeSip + this insulated stackable tumbler from Asheville NC-based retailer Pirani.
  • Heading to the park with kids? Check out the Owala FreeSip for kids.
  • Don’t forget the travel-size bug spray and sunscreen.
  • These sunglasses from Nordstrom Rack are available at discount prices + have a style for everyone.

Keep it all together in a handy tote bag — these adorable tote bags are all crafted by small businesses and local makers.

Ready to visit these local parks but don’t know where to start? We’ve created this handy map so you can find all of these featured parks.

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