Path to and from Paoli is popular, pleasurable

A trek through this southwest village is a...
Path to and from Paoli is popular, pleasurable
Kay and Harry Lum pedal on a trail in Paoli. 

The 30-mile round trip down to this little crossroads town southwest of Madison might qualify as the most popular bike route in the state of Wisconsin.

On warm summer evenings or cool weekend mornings, you can count hundreds of cyclists of all levels heading down Seminole Highway or the Badger State Trail. Riding to Paoli offers a little bit of everything, including some hills on the Range Trail and views of the placid Sugar River.

The opening of the Badger State Trail in 2006 only made things better for getting to Paoli, now providing a traffic-free route on pavement all the way to Purcell Road, where the trail turns to crushed limestone. From there, continue onto Sayles Trail and Sun Valley Parkway into the artsy little hamlet that features Cluck: The Chicken Store, a retailer that caters to backyard-chicken enthusiasts.

If you want more miles, continue southwest in search of bigger climbs on Observatory Hill or Schaller roads. Make sure to pause at the top of the hills. Some call it “catching your breath,” but I prefer to call it “taking in the view.”

Back in the wool jersey days, we would fill our water bottles at the hand pump in the Paoli Town Park. But these days, many riders favor the Paoli Grocery & Cafe, which features local foods and outdoor seating. Order a panini, sit under an umbrella and pretend you’re in Italy.