United States

Madison, WI

A comprehensive guide to the best places to run in Madison

Richard Hurd

Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is an eclectic college town seated on the isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona in the south of the state. It’s cultural feel is largely influenced by the University of Wisconsin and the surrounding beauty of the Wisconsin woods, lakes, and prairies. It’s a city that takes its outdoors seriously. With bustling central streets, gorgeous waterfront neighborhoods, extensive bike paths, and nearby natural spaces, there are plenty of options that make running in Madison a particular treat.

Some of the best places to run in Madison include the loop around the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, the loop around Lake Monona, and the beautiful Mendota Lakeshore Path to Picnic Point. Runners can also explore downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods with the State Street, Yahara Parkway, Capital City Trail, and Maple Bluff routes. Or, get outside the city and find fresh air at Pheasant Branch, the Military Ridge Trail, the Glacial Drumlin Trail, or Devil’s Lake.

Madison is not a large city, so getting around is fairly simple. The only form of public transport is the bus, which runs pretty extensively throughout the city center and will deliver you to most of our central routes. Running routes outside the immediate city may require renting a car. Better yet, bring a bike and use some of our rail trail routes to expand your route options!

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State Street

Madison, WI

For a great tour of downtown Madison, runners flock to this busting 1.9 mile route down State Street, the University of Wisconsin’s main drag for arts, eats, and entertainment. Part of the run is through campus. Can be combined with other nearby routes.

The weather in Madison is that of extremes. Summers are warm to hot, with temperatures well into the 80s (28C) in July and August. Autumn is gorgeous but short. Winters are cold to frigid, with average high temperatures in the 20s (-4C) and nights that tip into the teens and single digits. Runners should plan for cold, and snowy/icy conditions in winter.

There’s a good cluster of hotels in the downtown area, near the University and in proximity to the best lakefront and other paths in Madison. Especially if you don’t have a car, try to stay in this area.

There’s another cluster of hotels off of I-90 near the airport, but the running options aren’t as good there.

Check out VisitMadison.com for accommodations.

Madison’s local running stores are exceptionally helpful and knowledgeable. Some also hold group runs! Check out:

Berkeley Running Company.  Group Runs

Endurance Sports House. Great location on State St. Gear for running, triathlons, other sports. Group runs Thursdays 6pm. Additional running group information.

Movin’ Shoes Madison.

Fleet Feet Sports Sun Prairie. Active group running and training calendar. Sun Prairie Group runs: Wednesdays at 6pm meet at Fleet Feet Sports Sun Prairie for 2-5 miles run/walk. Thursdays at 6pm meet at various pubs in the Sun Prairie area for up to 5 miles and social hour that follows! Locations Information

Fleet Feet Sports Middleton. Group running information.


Looking for road or trail races in this area? Find them on RaceRaves, the best online race calendar and reviews community for runners!

Find races in Madison, WI

Check out Fleet Feet’s list of upcoming races here.