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A Guide to Bicycling the Southwest Commuter Path/Capital City State Trail Loop

  • August 01, 2020
  • March 20, 2021
  • Madison


This guide for bicycling the Southwest Commuter Path/Capital City State Trail Loop is  meant for your enjoyment during our time of dealing with the COVID-19 virus.  Please adhere to all municipal and state requirements for social distancing and healthy behavior on public paths and streets. 

The route (18.1 miles) outlined below is almost entirely on dedicated bicycle paths.   It takes a little less than two hours for the average cyclist.   Enjoy

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Camp Randall to Velo UnderRound - 4.5 miles


The ride starts across from Camp Randall Stadium at the intersection of Regent, Monroe and Breese streets.  There is a BCycle station, 92 S. Breese Terrace,  where you can rent an electric bike.  You will begin traveling west on the  Southwest Commuter Path,  a paved path that follows the route of the Illinois Central Railroad branch built in 1887 between Freeport, Illinois, and Madison.  For the first three miles there is a slight incline until you reach the bicycle/pedestrian overpass at the beltline.  Continue until you reach the Velo UnderRound.

The Velo UnderRound marks the junction of five trails: the Capital City State Trail, the Southwest Commuter Path, the Military Ridge State Trail, the Badger State Trail, and the Cannonball Path.  There is also access to the Seminole Mountain Bike Trails.

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Velo UnderRound to Lake Farm Campground - 7.8 miles


To continue on the Capital City State Trail, you will need a State Trail Pass.

Continuing on the Capital City State Trail, just before reaching Seminole Highway, you will see the Dawley Bike Hub on your right.   It has a bike repair station, parking, restrooms, and water (might be closed during the Covid-19 pandemic).   After crossing Seminole Highway the trail is uphill for a short distance.  On the portion of the trail between Seminole Highway and Fish Hatchery Road, you will see Ashbourne Pond where there is a spur to the Cannonball Trail.

At Fish Hatchery Road there is a bicycle/pedestrian overpass.  After the overpass you will turn right on Glacier Valley Road for a mile (the only portion of the loop that is not on a bicycle path).  At the junction of Glacier Valley Road/Gunflint Trail, turn left to continue on the Capital City Trail. 

This portion of the trail parallels the Capital Springs State Recreation Area  for nine miles.  Points of interest along the Capital Springs State Recreation Area include:  Lake Farm County Park and Campground,  Lussier Family Heritage Center,  Lewis Nine Springs E-Way,  Capital Springs Disc Golf & Dog Park,  Jenni and Kyle Preserve,  Nevin Springs Fish & Wildlife Area,  Monona Wetland Conservancy,  Upper Mud Lake,  Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District Wildlife Observation Unit,  Capital Springs Centennial State Park, and the Gilman Native American Mounds.

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Lake Farm Campground to Waunona Way - 2 miles


At Lake Farm Campground there is a kiosk marking the junction of the Capital City Trail and the Lower Yahara River Trail.   At this intersection you can also see  the Lussier Family Heritage Center which connects the community to natural resources through education, recreation, and experiences. 

Turn left at the junction to continue on the Capital City State Trail.  On the right is a boardwalk providing access to the Nine Springs E-way Observation Deck.  Further on you  will be biking by the Madison Metropolitan Area Sewerage District wildlife observation area with good birding opportunities.  Madison's sewer plant will be on your left.   Where the trail meets Waunona Way, if you turn right you will be doing the Lake Monona Bike Loop.  However turn left on the Capital City Trail.

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Waunona Way to John Nolen Drive/North Shore Drive - 2.1 miles


This stretch of the Capital City Trail goes past the Coliseum and the Alliant Center.  At Olin Park, there is a  junction to the Wingra Creek Bike Path.  Continuing on the Capital City Trail the path parallels the John Nolen Drive Causeway.  At the intersection of John Nolen Drive and North Shore Drive, there is a left  junction to the Brittingham Park Bike Path which you will take.

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John Nolen Drive/North Shore Drive to Camp Randall - 1.8 miles


After 500 yards on the Brittingham Park Bike Path  turn right on the Southwest Path/Greenbush Link which will take you back to your starting point, Camp Randall.

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BCycle Station along the Route

Madison BCycle has a number of stations along the route where you can rent an electric bicycle. The following map lists some stations within a block of the route.



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Other Resources

Dane County Bicycle Map

Madison BCycle

Madison Bikes Community (Facebook)

Madison Bikes

Bicycle Benefits

Top 10 Trails to Try in Madison

Madison Road Bike Routes

Biking in Fitchburg

Riding in Sun Prairie

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Compiled by Bob Shaw - robert.e.shaw@gmail.com

July 2020

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