Head west to climb big hills in Rockdale

Forty-five mile roundtrip ride from Madison to...
Head west to climb big hills in Rockdale
The ride to Rockdale has several scenic route options

Since the biggest hills are west of Madison, a lot of organized group rides start on that side of town. But the roads east of the city are too often overlooked both in terms of scenery and the number of riding options.

In fact, some of the roads around McFarland, Stoughton and Cottage Grove are surprisingly rolling and can be largely free of traffic, especially if you avoid that “rural rush hour” when commuting drivers are racing home from work.

Good routes to explore include Nora Road, a state-designated Rustic Road; Vilas Road, which climbs past the Door Creek Orchard; and Rinden Road, which rolls up and down over glacial terrain.

One of my favorite destinations for a 45-mile round trip east from Madison is the village of Rockdale. There are numerous route choices, but try historic Koshkonong Road, which runs all the way from Lake Kegonsa to Cambridge. Take a quick right turn onto Highland for a fast downhill into Rockdale.

County B will take you back toward Madison, but it’s a little traffic heavy for my taste, so check out Church, Schadel or Drotning roads. In fact, Dane County offers so many well-paved town roads, there’s almost no need to ever take a road with a letter or a number.

Trip Tip
On the return ride to town, search out the little pocket park–on Fitchburg Road just north of Whalen Road–dedicated to Larry and Esther Monthey. The two were lifelong naturalists and instrumental in development of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the first “rails to trails” conversion in the nation. A park bench and small bike rack invite you to take a break and enjoy the peace and quiet. Or sneak a kiss if you’re on a date ride.

If you’re just looking for a water stop, CamRock County Park is a great choice. This underappreciated park also features some challenging mountain bike trails. For eats or brews, the Rockdale Bar & Grill is the place. The bartenders have seen Lycra before and will serve you even if you’re wearing tight shorts and shoes that click on the floor.