Bike in a field
Photograph by Jill Wellington

Learning to ride a bike continues to be a milestone for so many. It gives us the ability to get around faster, effectively expanding our four-year-old selves’ stomping grounds. I remember trying to figure it all out in my garage. I just kept falling, picking myself up, getting huffy and puffy, then trying again. When I finally had a good go at it, I opened the garage door, and made it about halfway down the driveway before falling over. But that was it. Sure, I was shaky, but minutes later I was going up and down our cul de sac. This type of freedom was exotic and new to me. Getting my driver’s license didn’t compare to how I felt when I learned how to ride a bike.

And the essence of that high is universal in all bike riders—from the road cyclist training for a competition to the commuter trying to reduce their carbon footprint and work off their spare tire. No matter what you ride, you’ll find the right mix of difficulty and scenery in the Green Lake area.

For endurance riders, there’s the loop around Big Green Lake: 27 miles of easy, picturesque riding. Want to do some birdwatching? You got it. Want a cool breeze off the lake to keep you going? You got it. Want to listen to Roy Orbison for two hours straight while riding on paved paths and county highways? Anything you want, you got it.

If dirt trails through hardwood forests and narrow bridges over prairies are more your thing, Ceresco Prairie Mountain Bike Trails at Ripon College provide a range of climbs and switchbacks for moderate-level riders. Go in the winter months to do some fat-tire cycling and see the Ceresco Prairie Conservancy in a way few people will ever experience.

Perhaps you’re really looking for that right balance of nature and bike riding. Check out the areas between Green Lake and Princeton, where you’ll find bike routes through state natural areas preserving marsh and prairie wildlife. Look into the Huckleberry Loop (15 miles), the Rustic River Loop (22 miles), and the Oxbow Loop (8 miles) to see which combination of distance, scenery, and views of the Fox River is just what you’re looking for.

There are plenty of other trails in the area, but sometimes a ride through the city is all you’re really looking for. Each city and town has its own charm, and the Green Lake area is packed with historic buildings, fun shops, and great food. There’s also an ongoing initiative in Princeton to raise funds for a skatepark.

Here’s the real advice: after you’ve consulted the internet for the right bike route, talk to the locals. Day to day, season to season, things change, and local riders and hikers have the skinny on where you really want to be. So bring your bike, strike up a conversation, and go make the Green Lake area part of your new stomping grounds.

Kyle Jacobson is a writer and senior copy editor for Green Lake Magazine.