Weekend Wheeling in Madison

Going Off-Road
By Colby Waller
  |  Gorp.com
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Kettle Moraine State Forest

Just an hour and a half from Madison, the premier set of Wisconsin single-track is tucked away in the scenic rolling hills of Kettle Moraine State Forest. The John Muir and Emma Carlin trail systems serve as training grounds for riders from Milwaukee, Chicago, and Madison.

The pristine single-track found here cuts through terminal moraine, a ribbon of rocky glacial debris. This gnarled and hilly terrain meanders across the midsection of the state, offering a riding experience to challenge even the most technical rider. The rugged trail has steep (but short) climbs, quick descents, and tight switchbacks. The surrounding pine forest contains single-track packed hard for fast riding.

The John Muir cluster is the larger of the two trail systems, composed of five loops totaling approximately 28 miles. The Emma Carlin adds another 10 miles with three more loops. The two areas are joined by a 5.5-mile-long connector path that is one of of the most exciting single-tracks in the state.

Getting There
Leave Madison on Interstate 94 heading east. Take 94 to Interstate 90 south and follow 90 to State Highway 12. Take 12 south to the town of Whitewater. Leave Whitewater on State Highway 59 and drive north to the small town of Palmyra. Continue on 59 through Palmyra. Three miles east of town, turn right on County Highway Z. One mile south on Z, the Emma Carlin trail parking lot is on the right. This is a much less crowded lot than the one found at John Muir, and since a connector links the two sets, both are accessible from this lot.

Cam-Rock County Park Trail

A relatively new arrival to the Madison-area biking scene, and another WORBA trail-building project, is the Cam-Rock County Park trail. Cam-Rock has three loops of single-track interconnected by grass hiking paths. Each loop is tucked away in its own corner of the park on small bluffs surrounding grassy meadows. The trails crisscross the terrain, covering up to five miles of trails in a relatively tight area. Riders should expect moderate climbing, nothing too extended, and a handful of technical sections. Most of the riding takes place on hard pack single-track, with some wider forest floor areas and some crushed cobblestone-type surfaces as well. Runoff from rain has created small gullies on the bluffs, which have been transformed into exhilarating S-curve descents by trail builders.

In comparison to Kettle Moraine and the Quarry, this set of trails is relatively tame, making for a nice afternoon of mellow off-road riding. The scenery found in this area is typical of Wisconsin: The bluffs and valleys are thickly forested, with small outcroppings of rock dotting the landscape. The single-track is protected from the summer sun by the cover of trees, with connector paths spreading out across open meadows.

Getting There
Follow Interstate 94 east out of Madison to Interstate 90. Take I-90 south to State Highway 12/18. Head east on Highway 12/18 for approximately ten miles to the intersection with State Highway 73. Follow 73 south to Koshkonong Road and turn left. Travel east on Koshkonong for two miles to Highland Drive. Turn right (south) on Highland and you'll find the trailhead parking lot within half a mile on the left over the crest of a hill.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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