“All the playgrounds are closed, where can we go to play?” One of the (few) silver linings to the past couple years was that it forced us to look around to discover new places and appreciate natural opportunities for excitement. Despite its small size, Governor’s Island offers that variety in an accessible and beautiful spot.
Governor’s Island is sort of hiding in plain sight. On the Northside, it’s close to Warner Park and not far off of Highway M/113/Northport Drive making it accessible from any part of Madison. It’s also close to Cherokee Marsh and Governor Nelson State Park if you want to keep exploring.
The cinder trail is a 1.2 mile loop that starts at the end of a gravel road. It’s totally flat and easy to navigate – no part is too far from the water. My kids love playing hide and seek, and it’s impossible to get lost when they’d duck behind a tree or bush nearby. Despite the short path it offers a range of great views as you complete the circle across Lake Mendota from little inlets to Maple Bluff mansions to the UW campus across the lake. It’s also very friendly to dogs and you’ll likely see a few along the way.
Get off the beaten path
The great part for us was that the cinder loop was just a starting point. Several smaller trails run parallel to the main loop and go through the woods and along the shore. This meant no two visits were the same. Each time we took a slightly different route, and saw something new especially depending on the time of day and temperature. On warmer days you can build in the sand, watch boats hanging out on the water, and splash in the shallow beach area about halfway around the path. On other days there’s space to build forts out of sticks, climb on the rocks along the water, and enjoy all the lookout spots.