Outdoor Summer Recreation in the Madison Area

The Madison area is well known for its many opportunities to get active outdoors. From parks, to boating, biking, or hiking – there’s something for everyone! The City of Madison as even been recognized as the second best city for parks (2016) by Livability.com, and awarded “Platinum Level” as a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. There is no shortage of outdoor activities in the Madison area, but check out some of our favorites below. 

University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

With 1,200 acres of prairies, savannas, wetlands, and Lake Wingra shoreline, the Arboretum is a wonderful place to hike, bike, and explore. There are 20 miles of walking trails and 4 miles of paved biking roads throughout the grounds. An active site of teaching, ecological restoration, and research, there are numerous volunteer and learning opportunities too. Learn more about the Arboretum HERE.

Paddle Board, Canoe, and Kayak

Madison is home to five lakes, so water sports are popular here. If you’re looking for some time on the water without the obligation of owning a boat or equipment, check out Brittingham Boats, Marshall Boats, and Wingra Boats. All three can be accessed online HERE. A number of rental options are available from these locations, from stand up paddle boards to pontoon boats. Reservation and rental information can be found online.

Head to the Beach

With so many lakes, it’s obvious that Madison would also be home to several beaches. Madison beaches are maintained by the Parks Division and regular water quality testing is performed by the Madison/Dane County Public Health Department. For a list of Madison area beaches, their water quality status, and detailed offerings, check out the City of Madison’s Website HERE.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

This 1,200 mile National trail runs through parts of West Madison and surrounding areas, as it winds its way through much of the state. It traces the edge of a glacier that existed 15,000 years ago, when the area looked much different. Hiking and biking are prominent along the trail, and on some parts of the trail, horseback riding is allowed. There are also many opportunities for camping and bird/wildlife viewing. To learn more about the trail and its many recreation/outdoor activities, visit the National Parks Service site HERE.

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

This 160 acre conservancy is maintained by a volunteer group and offers numerous natural landscapes with hiking and biking/mixed use trails. At its heart, Pheasant Branch is focused on conservation and preservation of native plants and animals. There are many volunteer and learning opportunities in addition to recreation that are available. To learn more, and for maps of the trails, visit The Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy’s site HERE.

Explore on Two Wheels

Madison is an extremely bike friendly community. With 125 miles of on-street bikeways and almost 75 miles of off-street bike paths, there’s plenty to enjoy. Whether you are looking for a bike-friendly commute to work, or you want to take your mountain bike off the beaten path, you will find an option in the Madison area. For area bicycle maps, ride planners, and cycling resources in the Madison area, check out the City’s “Bike Madison” page HERE.

With warmer weather upon us, now is the time to get out and enjoy our beautiful city. It’s also a safe way to get out and stay active, since COVID remains a concern in our communities. If you’re looking for even more outdoor activities in our area, check out Destination Madison’s comprehensive list HERE