Top Places to Run in Milwaukee Wisconsin
Have you ever visited a city and wondered where the best places to run are? Or have you gotten bored with your usual routes and want to try something new?
Well look no further!
Featured are some, but not all, of our favorite places to run in and around Milwaukee. If you're local many of these you may have heard of, but not run on yet. Or maybe you’ve even run portions of these routes and not realized where else they can take you.
The Gold Standards of Milwaukee Running
The Oak Leaf Trail
The Oak Leaf Trail is a tried and true favorite of hundreds of runners in and around Milwaukee. The path is flat, scenic, and has no traffic crossings between Hampton Ave and where the path ends downtown by the Art Museum and the War Memorial. That’s nearly 5 miles one way with no car traffic!
Of course, you can keep taking the Oak Leaf Trail north, as it goes all the way to Brown Deer. You can also peel off at Riverside Park, Lincoln Park, or Estabrook Park
Speaking of Estabrook, this park is a go-to of mine for daily training. Estabrook is located in Shorewood, just north of Milwaukee. If you combine the Estabrook paths with the Oak Leaf, you can run an almost exactly 5k loop in the park. This loop takes you through some wooded areas, a dog park, and along the Milwaukee River. In the summer, you could even stop in at the Beer Garden!
Veteran’s Park and Lakeshore State Park
These two easily get lumped together due to their proximity, and could easily be done as one bigger run, or two separate smaller ones.
Lakeshore State Park is a fantastic loop to run that takes you in back of the Summerfest grounds; making it even better during the music festival. You’ll also get great views of the harbor and boats on Lake Michigan. Connecting the park on the south side, you can run under the iconic Hoan Bridge; and the north will take you past the Discovery Museum and pier.
Going north from Lakeshore State Park also connects you with Veteran’s Park. Over here, you have an opportunity to run around the Lagoon and out to the point stretching out into Lake Michigan. You’ll also run along the south side of McKinley Marina, one of the most active marinas in the city!
Hank Aaron Trail
Don’t want to run North/South in Milwaukee? Well the Hank Aaron Trail (affectionately known as The Hank) takes you East/West. The easiest place to pick up the trail downtown is by the Harley Davidson Museum. From there, you can take the trail West through the Menomonee River Valley. On the way you’ll pass the Mitchell Park Domes, American Family Field, and you could even make a stop at Potawatomi Casino if that’s your speed.
Off the Beaten Path & Local Hidden Gems
The Beerline might not be the most hidden of hidden gems, but it does take some pre-knowledge to navigate it. Why? There’s a Beerline City and a Beerline County path. Let’s explain.
Starting in the south, you can formally pick up the Beerline at the intersection of Pleasant and Commerce. But the more fun place to pick it up is at Lakefront Brewery. You can follow either the sidewalk or riverwalk (your choice) north until you hit a paved bike path. For what it’s worth, you’ve now transitioned from Beerline City to Beerline County. If you take the Beerline up to Gordon Park and come back to Lakefront Brewery (a favorite route of the PRO Run Club) you’ll tally three miles.
Or, you could keep going north. The formal trail disappears at Locust St, but it will reappear at Burleigh a couple blocks later. You can take it all the way up to Capital Drive from here. In total, the Beerline tallies 3.7 miles one way; although you might get a little more once you connect to the different portions.
Looking for some dirt? We’ve got you covered. This is one of my favorite routes, and a go to for me on a nearly weekly basis. The Milwaukee River Trail is a dirt, mostly single track, loop that runs along both the east and west sides of the Milwaukee River.
The full loop is about 8.75 miles, stretching from Hampton Ave on the north side, down to North Ave on the south side. But if you want to do a shorter loop, you can exit the trail by Capitol Dr, Locust St, and a couple other off shoots near the Urban Ecology Center.
Hear me out. Yes, I know Grant Park is a well known park in Milwaukee. Yes, I know that the Oak Leaf Trail runs through it. But did you know that there are multiple single track dirt trails that run along the bluff?
Amongst other trails, you’ll find Seven Bridges Park; consisting of lots of trails, dirt, and stairs. It certainly makes for a very scenic, but challenging run. How many miles of trails are here (including the Oak Leaf)? Lots. Through 2017, the Lake Michigan Trail Races were hosted in the park, with distances from 5k up through 50k.
Out to the 'burbs we go!
Fox River Trail (Brookfield and Waukesha)
The newest paved bike path to grace the Milwaukee suburbs. The Fox River Trail picks up in downtown Brookfield (there will be a Fiddleheads Coffee at the trailhead soon) and runs Southeast all the way into downtown Waukesha where it eventually connects with the Glacial Drumlin State Trail. It also drops you off at Target if you make a different turn.
Another paved bike path. This one running from Menomonee Falls, through Sussex, and into the town of Merton. The formal start in Menomonee Falls can be a little tricky to find, but there are ample trailheads along the way.
The Bugline weaves you through forests, fields, next to a quarry, and eventually connects with the iconic Ice Age Trail on its western end past Merton. If you’re tired of the bike path, you can bail out into Menomonee Park, home of a small lake, a nearly 3 mile road loop, and some dirt trails as well.
Waukesha County and State Parks
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the bevvy of state and county parks located in Waukesha County. If you’re looking for some Milwaukee Area trail running or off-road hiking, these are the places for you.
Nashotah Park features wide open mulched trails that wind you through pines, fields, and by a lake. The largest singular loop here is five miles, but there are plenty of other smaller loops you can run instead, or in addition to the big one.
Lapham Peak State Park is the crown jewel for trail runners (and skiers in the winter) in the area due to its wide and hilly trails. Lapham features loops as long as 6.5 miles and as short as 1.5. If you want an additional challenge, follow the Ice Age Trail from the parking lot up to the look-out tower. Or…you could just park at the tower.
Minooka Park is another of the Waukesha County Parks known for its shaded trails, and also for its hills. You know when there’s a hill with the moniker of “Killer Hill” it’s a tough place to go run. Minooka, like all of the Waukesha County Parks, also has a dog park!
Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you decide where you want to run in your time in Milwaukee. There are so many more places to go run in and around the city; we couldn’t tackle them all in a blog post.
Let us know your favorite places to run in Milwaukee or tag us on Strava (@performancerunning) with your latest route through the Brew City!
Written by Ben Lamers