Fall on a Bicycle in Door County: Routes, Trails, and Rides

Fall in Door County can be characterized by sunny days, cool evenings, bountiful apple orchards, fun festivals, incredible leaf colors and a general feeling of relaxation in the air. The best way to experience this change of season is on a bicycle. Whether you are an avid bike rider, a weekend warrior, or you haven’t been on your bike since grade school, Door County has a bike route you will love. The fall in Door County is by far the best way to either get in those last miles before winter or to rekindle that sense of freedom and adventure you had on your bicycle as a child. There are miles of bike routes that can be selected by mood or desired distance.

For the leisurely riders who hope to take in some wildlife viewing, contemplate mystical geologic structures, or enjoy some family time, one of the best routes is Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park. It is the most popular trail in the county– and probably the state, since Peninsula State Park is the most visited park in Wisconsin. For a slightly more challenging ride stick to the back roads of Peninsula State Park, especially Skyline Road to Sven Bluff. Newport State Park also offers about 12 miles of similar trails that includes stretches of beautiful sand beaches.

Riders looking for good workout routes with excellent hill climbs and descents should head for the back roads of the county. The Chamber of Commerce offers a Back Road Bicycle Route map that illustrates the best roads traversing Door County towns and villages. One of the best longer distance routes follows Highway Q from Ephraim to Baileys Harbor. This 10.6-mile highway is part of the Wisconsin Rustic Road System. It travels through boreal forests and extensive wetlands dotted with Tamarack trees. The Tamarack is a coniferous tree that turns a beautiful golden color in autumn before the needles fall. This route is not a loop, so plan on a pick up or a longer ride by returning on Highway Q.

A bicyclist enjoys Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park. Photo by Dan Eggert.

Mountain bikers are sure to find some challenging miles on Peninsula State Park Mountain Bike Trails. In the spring of 2003 the park created another 4 miles of single track that adds up to a total of about 18 miles meandering through root and rock riddled forests, rolling meadows, and rock escarpments. A permit is required to ride on these trails. The permit can be purchased in the park office for $3/daily or $10/year.

Riders who are interested in the arts can make a day out of traveling to various art galleries by bike. Door County has over one hundred galleries and many of them are located on beautiful back roads. Gallery maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce or at any town or village information center. Compare the gallery map with the Back Road Bicycle Route map and plan your day.

Those who are interested in the trail-less-traveled should visit the Ahnapee State Trail. This trail, part of the Wisconsin Rails to Trails program, is an 8-foot wide and 18.4-mile long former railroad trail. The unpaved trail stretches from Algoma to just south of Sturgeon Bay, following the Ahnapee River for several miles. This is an excellent distance route for hybrid or mountain bikes. Contact the Door County Parks Department for maps and information at (920)743-3636.

For bikers who prefers an adventurous destination, Washington Island is the place. This is by far the best bike ride if you have all day and you want to experience a lot of different activities along the way. The island has some excellent attractions that are fairly spread out, including an ostrich farm, an art and nature center, a farm museum, beautiful pebble and sand dune beaches, a forest tower vista, a maritime museum, and a Bitters Pub, to mention a few. The minimum biking distance to most of these attractions is from 2 to 5 miles from the ferry dock. It is about a 12- mile peddle around the island, mostly on County W. A publication titled, “A Cyclist’s Guide to Washington Island” Jackson Harbor Press), gives the most thorough descriptions of routes and attractions. It is available at most Door County bookstores.

Cyclists come up the hill and out of Murphy Park in Egg Harbor during the Door County Century Ride on September 7th, 2003. The ride is held annually. Photo by Dan Eggert.

Door County is also an excellent area for organized rides. The Ride for Nature, for example, takes place in June. Proceeds from the ride go to the Ridges Sanctuary, which protects over 1,200 acres along the eastern edge of the peninsula. This year 360 riders helped sustain the Ridges’ vision –” to preserve and protect ecologically significant natural areas, and to provide environmental education and research opportunities” — by participating in the 25, 50, or 100 km rides. Cyclists also enjoy the Door County Century Ride, the largest and most popular ride in Wisconsin. It takes place the first weekend in September and about 2,000 riders participate each year by completing the 30, 64, 75, or 100-mile routes. This social, noncompetitive ride includes an entire weekend of scheduled events. Both of these rides traverse beautiful landscape and offer the opportunity to meet bike riders from across the country.

Regardless of your biking level, these Door County routes promise spectacular scenery that you’ll want to share with others.

List of Bike Rentals and Retail

  • Bayshore Outdoor Store, 655 S. Bay Shore Rd., Sister Bay, 920.854.7598
  • Boat House, Maple St., Fish Creek, 920.868.3745
  • DC Bikes, 20 N. 3rd Ave., Sturgeon Bay, 920.743.4434
  • DC Bikes Campstore, Potawatomi State Park, 3750Park Dr., Sturgeon Bay, 920.746.8663
  • Edge of Park Inc., Bike & Moped, Rental PO Box 188, Fish Creek at the Park entrance road, 920.868.3344
  • Island Clipper Bike Rentals, 12731 Hwy 42, Gills Rock, 920.854.2972
  • Nicolet Beach Rentals, Peninsula State Park, 920.854.9220
  • Nor-Door Sports & Cyclery, 4007 Hwy 42, Fish Creek, 920.868.2275

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