Outdoor Recreation & Area Attractions

MononaSailsMonona is a waterfront community that wraps around the east side of Lake Monona, one of the five Yahara lakes. Yahara is Ho-Chunk for the shown river. The Yahara River flows through Monona connecting Lake Monona to Lake Waubesa in McFarland. Monona has numerous outdoor recreational opportunities including biking on the Capital City State Trail, paddling the Yahara River or Lake Monona, visiting the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, taking a paddling lesson at Rutabaga Paddlesports, or spending time at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.


The Capital City State Trail enters Monona on both the northern and southern edges of the city. The northern extent travels along the trendy and bustling Atwood Avenue and Williamson Street neighborhoods into downtown Madison. The southern extent travels across Nine Springs Creek and through the Capital Springs State Park & Recreation Area and Lake Farm County ParkClick here for a trail map.

A large portion of the Capital City State Trail, about 9.5 miles, meanders through the heart of the Capital Springs State Recreation Area, providing opportunities for hiking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading and roller skiing on a paved surface.

The Capital City State Trail serves as the hub of the Madison biking system linking Military Ridge State Trail, Badger State Trail, City of Madison and City of Fitchburg trail corriders. Motorized vehicles, horses and hunting are prohibited on the trail.

The Capital City State Trail passes through the Lewis E-way unit of Capital Springs Recreation Area. Visitors enjoy shady woodlands, prairies and wetlands in the diversity of landscapes. These habitats offer excellent wildlife viewing and natural beauty along the way.

Lake Farm Park, anchored on the east end of the trail, provides restrooms, water and camping opportunities. The trail also passes through other units of Capital Springs Recreation Area, including the Jenni and Kyle Preserve and the Nevin Springs Fish Hatchery and Hunting Grounds before entering into urban green way. Order your trail pass here.

The Monona Lake Loop is a very popular route for urban cyclists. The route takes you along the lake edge and through beautiful waterfront neighborhoods in Monona. The route wraps around the lake and connects to the Capital City State Trail along John Nolen Drive in Madison. The ride around Lake Monona takes approximately two hours. Popular stops along the way include Monona Bait & Ice Cream Shop, Schluter Beach, Rosie’s Coffee Bar & Bakery, Rutabaga’s Paddlesports and the Monona Community Pool. This route is on paved trails and public roads. DOWNLOAD THE MONONA LAKE LOOP MAP

The Lower Yahara River Trail

The Lower Yahara River Trail is an approximately 2.5-mile section of pathway along scenic Lake Waubesa. This first segment of the trail connects Lake Farm County Park on the western end of the trail near the Capital City State Trail, with McDaniel Park in McFarland anchoring the eastern end of the trail. Free parking is available at both entry points. The trail runs alongside a railroad trestle with a mile of continuous bridges and boardwalks on the north shore of Lake Waubesa, making it the longest multi-use boardwalk in North America. An accessible fishing pier, reststops and observation areas with scenic views of the lake are available to heighten visitors’ overall experience. Users can access the trail from the east at McDaniel Park in the Village of McFarland or from the west at the Capital City State Trail using the Lewis Nine Springs E-Way parking lot on Moorland Road. The trail does not require a trail pass but the Cap City Trail does require a state trail pass. #lyrt

Glacial Drumlin State Bike Trail  runs between Wisconsin’s two largest urban areas. This trail stretches for 52 miles through farmlands and glacial topography between Cottage Grove and Waukesha, passing through 10 small towns along the way. The trail is on an abandoned rail corridor, except for a 1.5-mile section northeast of Jefferson, between State Highway 26 and County Highway Y, which uses public roads as the trail route. The surface is 13 miles asphalt and 39 miles of crushed stone. The trail passes through Dane, Jefferson and Waukesha counties and the following towns: Cottage Grove, Deerfield, London, Lake Mills, Jefferson, Helenville, Sullivan, Dousman, Wales and Waukesha. State trail pass is required for bicycling and in-line skating for anyone over 16 years of age. Click here for a trail map.

Paddling – Monona provides so many paddling opportunities that other communities can’t even shake a paddle at us! The Yahara River flows through Lake Monona then connects us to Upper Mud Lake and Lake Waubesa. Canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddling are a favorite past-time of many. Locally-owned Rutabaga Paddlesports is the place to begin—classes, rentals, and knowledgable staff will help get you started. Class information can be found here.

Area Attractions

ALNC-prairieforegroundAldo Leopold Nature Center – The Aldo Leopold Nature Center offers many opportunities for you and your family to connect with nature both indoors and out. In addition to our special events and education programs, our new indoor children’s exhibits provide a special place for your child to learn about Monarch Butterflies and Prairies, Native Fish and Wetlands and Woodlands. Visit our Climate Science Education Center and learn about climate, weather and earth science using high-tech, interactive features found nowhere else in the region. Head outside and explore our wetland, woodland and prairie trails, open sun-up to sun-down, 7 days a week!  Sign your child up for our Wonder Bugs preschool programs or school vacation day nature programs for ages 5-12. Visit our Children’s Pioneer Garden, and much, much more!

Our interactive exhibits and building is open Monday – Friday from 10 am – 4 pm and Saturday – Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm! Be sure to come back often–each month we feature a new theme and special seasonal activities in the exhibits!

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) was established in 1994 as an independent, non-profit organization with the mission to provide hands-on programs which “…teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands” in the spirit of Aldo Leopold. Through hands-on interactive programs and special exhibits at campuses in Monona and Black Earth, ALNC is leading the way to engage, educate and empower the next generation of stewards of the land for a healthy, happy and sustainable future.

Capital Springs Disc Golf Course (18-hole) – Capital Springs Disc Golf Course is located at 3398 Lake Farm Road, Madison, WI 53711. Click here for a course map.

Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison – Located at 4002 Evan Acres, this gaming facility offers 60,000 sq. ft. of smoke free gaming, 1,200 slot machines, video poker, keno, onsite dining and bar, free valet parking and numerous bus tour options available. Highest average payout in the region with a 95% slot payout!

Lake Farm County Park – The Park is a unit of the Capital Springs State Recreation Area, which also includes the Lewis Nine Springs E-Way and Capital City State Bike Trail. This 328-acre park has three shelter facilities, play equipment, a barrier-free boat launch with a fish cleaning facility, group camping area, wildlife pond, over-look tower, hiking and cross-country ski trails, and the Native American Archaeological Trail. The Lake Farm Park campground is fully accessible with 54 reservable sites including 39 electrical hook ups for RVs (50 amp), bathroom and shower facilities, and a sanitary dump station.

Lussier Family Heritage Center – The Lussier Family Heritage Center is a public facility in Dane County, Wisconsin. It offers the community a flexible facility in a unique natural setting ideal for meetings, conferences, weddings, private parties and other events.

The center is the home of the Dane County Historical Society and Dane County Park’s volunteer program. Lake Farm Park borders the Heritage Center and offers numerous recreational opportunities including boat launch, picnic facilities, campgrounds, hiking and cross-country ski trails, and playground equipment.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens – Stroll through 16 acres of outdoor display gardens and an indoor, tropical conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. In the outdoor gardens, visit the Thai Pavilion and Garden. Olbrich’s Thai Pavilion is the only one in the continental United States and the only one outside of Thailand surrounded by a garden. Stop and smell the roses in the Rose Garden, opened to the public in 2005. Olbrich’s rose garden features innovative mixed borders of Midwest hardy shrub roses and perennials. Also stroll through other specialty gardens such as the Perennial Garden, Sunken Garden, and Herb Garden. Olbrich’s outdoor gardens are open daily, year-round. Visit the Hours, Admissions, & Directions page for more information.

Then, visit the tropics without leaving Madison! The Bolz Conservatory, a sunny 50-foot-high glass pyramid, houses a diverse collection of tropical plants, a rushing waterfall, free-flying birds, and blooming orchids. See the plants on which some very common foods grow, such as banana, coffee, and vanilla. Get an up close and personal look at carnivorous plants as well! Temperatures in the Conservatory range from 65 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making this a truly tropical escape. The Bolz Conservatory is also home to Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies – an annual event from mid-July through mid-August. Free-flying butterflies emerge from chrysalises daily and fly around the Conservatory.