Bike Camping in Wisconsin

Weekend bike camping trip from New Glarus to Madison, Wisconsin

Badger State Trail tunnel.
The end of the tunnel on the Badger State Trail.

It’s been two years since Michon and I visited Madison, Wisconsin for a self-guided bicycling tour. READ: Fell in love with a city – Madison. That was my first time visiting and I left knowing I’d be back.

This time around Brian and I (unfortunately Michon couldn’t make this trip) took a whole weekend to ride the trails in and around Madison. I did some online research using this useful ride planning website: Bike Madison.

The following is our itinerary for the weekend:

  • Drive to New Glarus, WI on Friday after work (2.5 hours), set up camp at New Glarus Woods State Park.
  • Saturday morning, hit the trail towards Madison taking the Sugar River State Trail to Badger State Trail. The trail is flat, packed limestone then paved outside and around Madison. This is about 30 miles.
  • Once in Madison, head to Lake Farm County Park to set up camp and then explore the many bike trails around Madison, find a yummy dinner and enjoy the nightlife.
  • Sunday morning, have breakfast at Bradbury’s Coffee in downtown Madison then head back to New Glarus.
  • Go to New Glarus Brewery for a tasting and tour. Buy Wisconsin beer.

Leaving Friday after work, we got to New Glarus easily taking scenic highways through small towns and dairy land countryside. After setting up camp we unloaded the bikes and took the trail from the park into town for some nightlife. We stopped at an old bar called Puemple’s Olde Tavern for some Wisconsin brews. I had a New Glarus beer called Two Women and Brian tried the Totally Naked. Both were very tasty. We tried another drinking establishment down the street for one more cold beverage (not sure I even saw the name of the bar)  and then decided it was time to get some rest for our ride the next day.

Our campground at New Glarus Woods State Park. You can see the trail at the bottom of the photo that connects to downtown New Glarus and the trail system into Madison.
Badger Trail
The Badger State Trail.

Around 9 a.m. we were packed up and ready to ride the 30 miles to Madison. We hopped on the Sugar River Trail which lead us to the Badger State Trail and into Madison.

The trail is well groomed and the miles added up easily. We rode through a neat old train tunnel that was dark, damp and misty inside. It would have been hard to navigate without our bike lights because you couldn’t see the end from the start. The cool air inside the tunnel was a refreshing break from the warm, muggy air outside.

Before we knew it we were ready for lunch and near the town of Paoli. The town isn’t right off the trail so to get there we ended up having to backtrack a couple of miles. We were both hungry so we decided to try a little cafe called the Bread and Brat Haus that was having its grand opening.

The food was delicious! We both had a brisket sandwich on a homemade bun that came with a mixed green salad for $6. Next stop was to the cheese house for some Wisconsin curds and to a food stand for freshly-picked strawberries.

We hopped back on the trail and soon it turned to pavement taking us into Madison via the South West Commuter Path. The bike trail system in and around Madison is top notch. The paths have their own “road” signs and there are even on and off ramps where other paths intersect. Another noticeable aspect of riding by bike around Madison is that car drivers are very respectful of cyclists. More than once a car slowed down to let bicyclists cross in front of them when there wasn’t a sign telling them to do so by law. Thank you very much Madison drivers.

We continued on our route which took us into downtown near Machinery Row Bicycles. Interesting how a bike path leads directly to a bike shop, just saying. We had to stop of course and take a look at the huge selection of bikes and gear. Then we decided to cross the street and quench our thirst at the Stop Back In bar before heading to our campground.

Old train tunnel on the Badger State Trail in Wisconsin.
New Glarus Depot
New Glarus Depot
Bread and Brat Haus in Paoli, Wisconsin.
The Bread and Brat Haus in Paoli. It was their grand openeing weekend so we stopped here for lunch. The food was delicious, the people were very friendly and the outdoor seating area was beautiful. We ended up eating here again on Sunday, I highly recommend it if you’re in the area.
Paoli
This patio area sits behind the Bread and Brat Haus in Paoli. It used to be a saw mill but made a great place to eat lunch, twice.

The Lake Farm County Park campground is about six miles from downtown Madison and the trail system conveniently connects to the park.

After setting up camp and some relaxation and nourishment by Lake Waubesa, we showered, put on clean clothes and headed back into Madison for food and some nightlife.

We found an Indian restaurant near the capital for dinner. Next, we headed to the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union for some live music on the terrace overlooking the lake. We listened to a band called Sexy Esther, enjoyed some beer, and then it was time to head back to the campground.

Sunday morning brought thunderstorms and rains showers. Fortunately, Mother Nature cooperated with us and by the time we were packed up and ready to ride back to New Glarus the rain stopped. We were left with a hot, muggy day, but still a good day for riding.

Our first stop was at Bradbury’s in downtown Madison for some coffee and crepes. We ordered a strawberry crepe and a smoked trout crepe. They were excellent. Inside Bradbury’s we got asked by another customer if we were riding across the country. Unfortunately, we had to explain we had only come from New Glarus, but it’s kind of cool to know that’s the impression we give people.

I wasn’t ready to leave Madison, but back on the trail heading south it was nice to be riding through the countryside void of path traffic and noisy intersections. Before we knew it, it was lunch time again and we were back near Paoli. We stopped at the Bread and Brat Haus for another delicious lunch and this time we had some ice cream, too.

The rest of the way to New Glarus was enjoyable. We met some other riders on the trail who had overnight gear. They said they had started in Madison the day before, stayed in New Glarus and were now heading back. So we weren’t the only ones with this idea.

The Come Back In bar in Madison. Brian J. photo.

Back in New Glarus we loaded up the car and cleaned up as best we could. Before heading home we had one stop left, to stop by the New Glarus Brewery. We would have ridden our bikes, but as Brian mentioned, it would be a good idea to drive since we’d probably want to make a purchase or two. After a tour and tasting we left with two cases of beer in the car. Those would have been a little difficult to load on our bikes and way too dangerous for that precious Wisconsin beer.

– MICHELLE

Loaded bikes
Our loaded bikes in the tunnel on the Badger State Trail.
Crepes at Bradbury's in Madison.
Sweet and savory crepes at Bradbury’s in Madison. Brian J. photo.
New Glarus Brewery beer
I had to try more than one variety of beer. You can only get this beer in Wisconsin so I had to stock up.
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One thought on “Bike Camping in Wisconsin

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