Madison Mountain Biking: Quarry Ridge

Madison Mountain Biking: Quarry Ridge

Madison is a gateway to many amazing bike trails in Central Wisconsin, but if knobby tires are more your style, don’t fear – there’s great single track located in Madison as well! Quarry Ridge Recreation Area is located right next to Verona Rd/151 – but you’d never know it zooming by on 151; it’s tucked back in there. You can get to Quarry Ridge off of McKee or Seminole Highway, just look for Nesbitt Road or Lacy Rd!


Quarry Ridge has a lot going for it: it’s very well maintained by the Capital Off-Road Pathfinders, is free to ride, easy to get to, and has a good variety of difficultly on the climbs and descents.


The newly renovated trailhead at Quarry Ridge – looking Northeast along the Lakeview and Dizzy trails.

At the trailhead your choices begin; these two loops are both beginner; Lakeview and Dizzy, but Dizzy is great for getting warmed up; lots of switchbacks and some good flow making this trail a good way to get your tire pressure dialed in. Proper tire pressure is essential to mountain biking; ensuring good grip, traction and cushioning of your ride. I would not recommend riding your mountain bike tires at street pressure on single track.


All of the trails are clearly marked with the difficulty level and the trail name.




You have several options for getting to the top of Quarry Ridge; Rewind is a slow and easy route; great for beginners with a smooth path that is  almost entirely free of rocks and large roots. Ambulance Climb, a challenging technical climb through a washout and old service road but like the name suggests, is the fastest way to the top. Finally, Sandy Climb is a mix of terrain with a very difficult passage through a rock garden.


The highest elevation.

The view from the top of Quarry Ridge is not exactly awe-inspiring. It’s a barren, gravelly nexus where all the trails come together. Recent work by C.O.R.P. has cleaned the area up and put in some large timbers, to sit and rest on while you work up the nerve to tackle the B Line descent. One of the questions many new mountain bike riders have is, “How do I know what trails are the right difficultly for me?”  It can be scary to find yourself on on a trail that is much to challenging for your skill level. Quarry Ridge has a solution.


“Skill Filters” force a rider to overcome an obstacle before starting the descent.

Skill Filters allow you to gauge your ability. If you can make it past the entrance then  you can ride with confidence! One other nice piece – the trails connect if you change your mind. The Bottoms Up descent has a junction with the more difficult Tunnel Trail, so you can change your mind and try out the big berms and jumps!


The starting descent on Bottoms Up

Bottoms Up is a great trail that is a lot of fun; it has several longer sections that really let you built up speed and take it around corners using the berms.  One note about Bottoms Up, it takes you all the way back to the trailhead, while the other descents all have exits more closely located to each other.


There are a couple of tight squeezes on the trails!

In fact, I generally use Bottoms Up as a final run because it dumps you out at the exit/trailhead. I tend to stick to the descents that keep you in the Northern side. Tunnel Trail and the Drop Zone are both newer; while Three Sisters, B Line and the Sandy Bowl are older and the jumps much more weathered and worn in, but all three of those descents have some very challenging areas.

(Pro tip: the berms look intimidating, but they’re your friends! Ride up on them and use your momentum to whip you around. To do this pull back on your handlebars gently  like you’re trying to pop a wheelie once you’re on the berm and you’ll zip right around them.)

Speaking of challenging; let’s talk about Ambulance Climb. The quickest way to the top is also one of the most challenging. Ambulance Climb a fairly continuous climb with several washouts and rocky patches to keep things interesting. For me it’s my favorite route to the top.


Some of the terrain on Ambulance Climb

The descents at Quarry Ridge fall into two categories; some older, more difficult descents and some newer, faster ones. The older ones include the Sandy Bowl, B Line and Three Sisters. While Tunnel Trail and Drop Zone are both great and have some really nice fast single track, Sandy Bowl, B Line and Three Sisters offer more technical and challenging options and have several open spaces where you can take different routes.


Sandstone Bowl has some of the most challenging terrain you’ll find at Quarry Ridge.

Once you get started down Sandstone Bowl, you’ll find that it’s a large, open expanse of exposed sandstone with multiple options for descents and some fun, challenging sections.  This is definitely not a place to tackle on your first day out, but once you’ve gotten some rides under your belt it’s a fun place to hone your skills.


Looking back up at some of the terrain in the Sandstone Bowl


If you’ve never checked out Quarry Ridge, you should. There are few places in the Midwest where you can find fun and free single track, and if you’re in the Madison area it’s practically in your backyard. And if you’re looking to ride with a group; ERIK’S has a ride at Quarry Ridge every Sunday at 6:00PM! Now, get out there and ride!


Decisions decisions…


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