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Wisconsin Bicycle Routes

Maps and Books

For a listing of maps and guides that are no longer in print, click here.

State Bicycle Maps

Presently, only one set of maps attempts to cover all Wisconsin for bicycling. While these maps have serious limitations, particularly if used for route planning, they are still worth carrying along on most trips, particularly if outside urban areas.

Wisconsin State Bike Map. Madison: Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin in cooperation with Wisconsin Department of Transportation, revised late 2005. Four two-sided full color maps are sold separately or as a set. Cost $5 per map. Members of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin receive a discount. Go to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin to purchase the set or an individual map.

State and county roads are rated on suitability for bicycling based on Department of Transportation traffic data. Local roads--often the most suitable for bicycling--are generally not rated. Far more physically attractive than previous Wisconsin bicycle maps, this map makes little attempt to suggest continuous routes, other than a few “bicycle escape routes.” The Milwaukee Oak Leaf Trail marked as an escape route, as is the lake route north to Port Washington.

This map is probably most useful in rural areas of the state, where it manages to show most through state, county and local roads. In those areas, a possible strategy for route finding is to combine local roads (except those shown as unpaved or marked as having heavier traffic) with the state and county highways marked in green (most suitable) or blue.

In urban and suburban areas, including most of southeastern Wisconsin, too little detail is shown for the map to be useful for bicycling. In these areas, the map shows only major highways--ironically those least desirable to the bicyclist. For example, it shows the bike trails in Racine and Kenosha counties but does not suggest how to get from one section to the next.

Southeastern Wisconsin Maps

The best map for bicycling in southeastern Wisconsin was first published in early 2006 by bikeverywhere. It covers an area running from Port Washington on the north to the state line on the south, and from Lake Michigan to the western Waukesha county line. It shows a network of suggested routes, both on roads and on separate bike trails. The map is aimed at both bike commuters and recreationists.

The latest edition of the map is available from the publisher or from area bike shops. (Full disclosure: I was the researcher for this map.) Those wishing to learn more about specific routes may view the field notes.

A map of Milwaukee county is available for free from most area bike shops. It does an excellent job of covering both the Milwaukee county Oak Leaf Trail and the city's marked bike routes and bike lanes. One limitation is that proposed trails are sometimes shown as completed years before they are actually built. Also some suggested routes outside the official ones have heavy traffic.

Madison and Dane County Maps

Bikeverywhere publishes a map of Madison and Dane County, showing suggested routes as well as bike trails. It is available from the publisher and area bike shops.

Bike shops often carry a free map of Madison bike trails and routes. Its coverage is generally limited to the city of Madison. As with other free maps, I find its availability is unpredictable since there is no financial incentive to keep it in stock.

Bicycle Guides

Round Lake Michigan: A Bicyclists Tour Guide, 2nd edition, by Harvey Botzman, Rochester NY: Cyclotour Guide, 2008.

Suggests a route encircling the lake. A good basic source for route information. In the section between Chicago and Door county, it tends to favor (sometimes) busy roads over trails. It is unclear whether the author favors roads to trails or whether the research was done before the trail was opened.

Ridge and Valley Rides: Madison, by Francis Stantion. Stanton Studio

A bicycling guide to Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin. It includes 44 bicycle loops, plus state trails and escape routes.

A source for many bike guides is American Bike Trails, including the second book shown above. Again these books and maps emphasize trails much more than routes connecting them.

Several guides to bicycling in Wisconsin are now out of print but may be available at libraries. I list them on the Old Maps page.

Bicycle Route Maps

Adventure Cycling publishes a very good set of detailed maps of various long-distance bicycle routes across the United States. There is only one route in Wisconsin, however. It crosses the northern part of the state from Minneapolis to northern Michigan, with a branch leading southwest to Manitowoc to connect with the ferry to Michigan. Another route follows the Mississippi River south from Minneapolis, on the Minnesota and Iowa side.