The Green Lake area is known for its abundant beauty, history, and culture. With miles of quiet country roads, it can best be explored by bicycle. Green Lake has 18 miles of paved and compacted-gravel bicycle paths and endless miles of rolling, low-volume scenic roads. Maps are available from the Green Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Enjoy Green Lake by bike with a weekend getaway. Many of the bed and breakfasts are near the bike trail, and the trail connects the downtowns of our communities, making many family-owned restaurants and quaint shops accessible by bike.
You can begin when you arrive on Friday by unwinding with a ride to lunch and dinner. Saturday morning, bike Green Lake County public nature preserves trails. In the afternoon, try one of the routes starting in Princeton or Markesan, or explore John Muir’s boyhood home in neighboring Marquette County. Sunday morning, ride around the state’s deepest and fifth- largest natural lake and get back in time for brunch and fun on the lake.
Loop the Lake, the most popular route, is 23 miles long and generally follows the lakeshore on town or county roads. There are beautiful views of the lake through landscaped and wooded lots. You can get to the shoreline at the many public landings, parks, and Green Lake Conservancy properties. If it’s warm, you can get off your bike to dabble your toes in refreshingly cool waters. At Tichora natural area, you can walk the trails to sandstone cliffs sliding into Green Lake and then visit a small spring-fed lake a few hundred yards away. In the fall, the maple trees arching over Sandstone Avenue create a tunnel of gold, red, and orange, becoming the most photographed and painted stretch of Loop the Lake.
To sample the best of the nature preserves, get out on Lauree’s Trail. Part of the longest and most beautiful nonmotorized recreation trail in the region, the trail is an 18-mile-long system of interconnected paved bike trails and compacted-gravel trails connecting Green Lake, Ripon, Rush Lake, and Berlin. The trail is paved and extends from the Green Lake Conference Center through Green Lake to the Green Lake County line, and the middle third will be completed in July 2022. You can park at Town Square in downtown Green Lake or Fortify Bank on the northeast corner of Highway 23/49 and County Road A. There’s a delightful 2.5-mile detour north on Forest Ridge Road and east on Brooklyn J Road. With the middle section completed, you’ll be able to ride straight through to the Northwestern Trail and Ripon.
The Northwestern Trail is accessed 300 yards north of the eastern terminus of Lauree’s Trail on County Road PP. It’s a shaded compacted-gravel trail that invites riders and walkers alike. It ends at the Ripon Public Library, a couple of blocks north of Ripon’s downtown.
The City of Ripon is connecting the Northwestern Trail directly to the Mascoutin Valley State Trail through Murray Park. A park shelter and restrooms will service bikers. Both the Lauree’s Trail and the Murray Park connection will keep riders off roads and highways for the entire 15 miles from Green Lake to Berlin.
The Mascoutin Valley State Trail is an 11-mile compacted-gravel trail that’s truly a multiuse trail. Bikers, joggers, horseback riders, and dog walkers have used the trail for years. In winter, it’s a vital part of a three-county snowmobile system. It passes along and through several state-protected wildlife areas and wetlands. Rush Lake is the largest prairie pothole east of the Mississippi and a vital waterfowl habitat that also crosses Koro Prairie and the Berlin Fen State Natural Area. Benches are conveniently placed for viewing nesting sandhill cranes and territorial geese patrolling their part of the wetlands.
The trail terminates on the south side of Berlin. Follow city streets along the banks of the Fox River to get to the old Berlin Lock and Dam, or visit downtown and then head north on River Street to beautiful Riverside Park.
Berlin and the Fox River were historically important to the Ho-Chunk and other Indigenous nations as they travelled their territory between Green Bay and Portage. Father Marquette described a large village of several thousand Mascouten somewhere just west of the terminus of the trail and what is now Strong’s Landing; however, no artifacts have ever been found to confirm the location.
The Green Lake Conservancy has preserved many lands around Green Lake, some important to the Ho-Chunk Nation. Most of these places are along the Loop the Lake route. The Winnebago Trail and Assembly Springs (Hammer’s Trail) on Norwegian Bay in the Green Lake Conference Center were used by the Ho-Chunk. Tichora, across the lake, was a gathering place for them as well. Burial and effigy mounds are found around the lake, some next to or covered over by older homes.
John Muir grew up in this part of Wisconsin, arriving in Kingston at age 11. Most of the notable places mentioned in The Story of My Boyhood and Youth can be seen by bike. Visit the John Muir Nature and History Route online or go to muirboyhoodhome.oncell.com/en/map-78321.html .
Barry and Ann Rogers are avid hikers and bikers and have been exploring east central Wisconsin with their family for years. They are currently walking sections of the Ice Age Trail, hoping to add that to their list of completed hikes.