Lazing on the Lakeshore Path

The four-mile trail is a heavenly getaway in the heart of the city.

Bicyclists ride down an autumnal tree-lined Lakeshore path in the late afternoon sunlight

The Lakeshore Path beckons marathon runners, nature-loving hikers, and contemplative strollers. Bryce Richter

Just steps from a bustling urban campus lies a tranquil, tree-lined trail, where birds sing in a chorus above and waves gently roll into the shore below. Such is the magic of UW–Madison’s Lakeshore Path.

The path traces the shoreline of Lake Mendota for nearly four and a half miles. Officially, it’s composed of two trail segments: the Howard Temin Path and the Lake Mendota Path. The former extends from North Park Street near the Memorial Union westward to Oxford Road. It intersects with the Lake Mendota Path at the main entrance of the ever-popular Picnic Point. This next segment guides travelers to the tip of the panoramic peninsula and then along the lakeshore to Wally Bauman Woods near the Eagle Heights community. These paths tie together the several distinct areas of the 300-acre Lakeshore Nature Preserve, including the less-traveled Frautschi Point at the northernmost coordinate of campus. (Those with a keen eye may even find evidence of old cottages in this portion of the Lakeshore Path.)

Completing the nearly milelong jaunt from the entrance of Picnic Point to the tip provides a unique perspective on campus, the capitol building, and much of Madison. Such views are so seductive that the San Francisco Examiner branded Picnic Point the “kissing-est spot in North America” in 1992. Visitors can also reserve one of the six fire circles scattered throughout this trail. And signs of the area’s earliest inhabitants remain, with several Native American burial mounds near the path. (Staying on the marked trails pays respect to these sacred sites.)

It’s no wonder that thousands flock to the Lakeshore Path each year. It remains one of the few natural areas in Madison that welcome dogs (on leash). Bicyclists are permitted on the Howard Temin Path segment as a shortcut to campus, and customizable routes fulfill the desires of marathon runners, nature-loving hikers, and contemplative strollers alike.

“I’ve walked this path periodically over 40 years and still appreciate the multitude of views it presents of Lake Mendota,” writes a reviewer on the Tripadvisor website. “Whether engaging in conversation with friends or seeking inner solitude, the Lakeshore Path soothes, nourishes, and consistently delivers.”

Published in the Fall 2022 issue


  • Dave October 3, 2022

    From the moment I first ran this trail 25 years ago while my wife was meeting with a graduate school admissions officer, to now having lived in Madison and run/biked all of the city for decades, this is still my favorite place to go.

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