Milwaukee's Home Run of Trails:
Wisconsin's Hank Aaron State Trail
By Jay Walljasper
few hours on the Hank Aaron State Trail will expand many people's idea of what a rail-trail can be.
For one thing, the Milwaukee trail is not named for a railroad or a river, but for a baseball hero who hit many of his 755 home runs while playing for the Milwaukee Braves just a line drive away.
For another, the 12-mile trail doesn't meander through bucolic countryside, but runs smack through the middle of what once was the industrial heart of the city, the Menomonee Valley. More than 400,000 people live within a 15-minute bike ride of the trail, which borders the state's most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, says Trail Manager Melissa Cook of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources...
Read the rest of Jay Walljasper's feature from the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Rails to Trails magazine, and check out the Travel Facts below to help guide you through Milwaukee's trails and attractions.
To learn more about the trail (and download a map that covers two new sections completed in 2011), visit the Friends of Hank Aaron State Trail. You'll also find a listing of special events.
Also, for an interactive GIS map of the trail, as well as photos, user reviews and loads of other info, visit RTC's online trail-finder website, TrailLink.com.
To the east, the Hank Aaron trail starts at Discovery World science center on Lake Michigan (adjacent to downtown Milwaukee on Michigan Street). It connects here to the Oak Leaf Trail, which runs parallel to the lake for many miles through Milwaukee and its northern suburbs.
To the west, the trail begins at West Underwood Parkway, just off Bluemound Road near Interstate 94 in the suburb of Wauwatosa. It also connects to the Oak Leaf, a trail that winds 100 miles through Milwaukee and surrounding communities. This trailhead can be reached by bus (Milwaukee County Transit System Route 10). All buses have bike racks.
Seven trains a day run from Chicago to Milwaukee (and one from Minneapolis-St. Paul and the West Coast). Amtrak and most bus companies will carry your bike for a small additional cost. The downtown Milwaukee Amtrak Station (which also is served by Greyhound and other bus companies) is convenient to the Hank Aaron State Trail. Just a few blocks west of the station is the Sixth Street North Bridge. Turn left, take the bridge across the river, and you'll find the trail one block away, running adjacent to Canal Street.
For flights, General Mitchell International Airport is less than 10 miles from downtown Milwaukee. The airport services a number of major carriers.
North of Discovery World, where the Hank Aaron State Trail begins, you'll find a stretch of waterfront parks stitched together by bike trails offering great views of Lake Michigan. Lake Park, on the northern edge of the city, is a bucolic urban gem created by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park. Take the Brady Street pedestrian bridge, about a mile north of Discovery World, to experience one of Milwaukee's liveliest urban enclaves, filled with bustling street life and jammed with restaurants, taverns and boutiques.
For unique accommodations or a distinctive setting for a meal or a drink, venture into the Iron Horse, a boutique biker hotel (as in motorcycles) on the trail a block north of the Harley-Davidson Museum. A beautifully refurbished loft building, the Iron Horse wows with a leather/chrome/exposed-brick aesthetic that looks both upscale and rebel (500 W. Florida St.; 888.543.4766).
Milwaukee is exploring a bike-sharing system, and plans are under way to open a bike shop near the trail. For now the best bet for bike rentals is Ben's Cycles, which has been operating two miles south of the trail at 1018 W. Lincoln since 1928 (888.275.5111). Ben's rents a wide selection of bikes by the day or week.