A quick trip on Madison's 5.6-mile Southwest Commuter Path conceals the full scale of this path. It's also the northern segment of the Badger State Trail, which travels 40 miles to the state line and continues for another 32 miles into Illinois. Despite its potential for remote reaches, the Southwest Commuter Path is rich in urban terrain and history. The trail takes you over and under major roads and sometimes finds the shortest route across them.
Pick up the trail just south of the intersection of South Bedford Street and North Shore Drive, where it branches off from the Brittingham Trail. The trail makes a northwest arch and parallels an active rail line until it reaches the old Milwaukee Road railroad depot. Designed by noted Chicago architect Charles Sumner Frost, the imposing 1903 structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Railroad cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad line flank the depot.
From here the trail heads southwest, bordered by vegetation and old homes. Impressive ramping and stairwells connect the trail to the neighboring streets, and you are sure to see neighbors grabbing a quick run or taking the kids for a ride. On the last 2 miles of the trail you sail under simple span bridges that artistically display street names and help you stay oriented. Be sure to take a look back toward downtown Madison to see the bridges and greenery frame a perfect view of the capitol dome.
Parking and Trail Access
From the south, take State Route151 to Madison, turn right on Red Arrow Trail Road and go 2 blocks to Jenewein Road. Street parking is available.
From the north, take SR 151, which becomes East Washington Avenue in Madison. Turn left on South Blair Street then right on John Nolen Drive. Follow the water and turn right on Lake Shore Drive. Street parking is available.