Sunrise over Lake Mendota

Active & Outdoors

The UW–Madison campus hugs more than two miles of shoreline along Lake Mendota. It’s the view you notice first, and the view you’ll never forget.

paddle board yoga person on a calm lake

Lake Mendota

The UW’s proximity to the lake provides restorative powers. Dangle your feet in the cool waters, jog along the shoreline, or take in the sunset at the Memorial Union Terrace. For the more adventurous, Outdoor UW offers numerous ways to take to the waters, from kayaking and sailing to paddle board yoga.

Outdoor UW

Lady Liberty on frozen Lake Mendota

Lady Liberty on Ice

Lake Mendota serves as an expanded playground during winter, complete with the occasional pop-up replica of the Statue of Liberty emerging from the frozen landscape. She first appeared in 1979, a prank by the Pail and Shovel student party.

History of Lake Mendota

Allen Centennial Gardens and pond

Allen Centennial Garden

This public botanical garden is an artful living laboratory, a flowering respite, and the best way to enjoy nature’s offerings. Best of all, it’s located in the center of campus.

Allen Centennial Garden

The Garden is more than a collection of plants. Creative programming ranges from dog therapy and live music to plant-adoption day, advancing the Garden’s goal of growing a connected community on campus.

Allen Centennial Garden

Capital CIty Bikepath at dusk

Bike Paths

Day-tripping on a bicycle in a city overflowing with paths is the perfect pastime. Hop on any one of them to explore Madison’s numerous neighborhoods and parks, or take an escape route out of town to enjoy some rural scenery.

Bike Madison

Aerial arboretum showing evergreens


The University’s 1,200 acres of prairies, forests, and wetlands is not only a renowned example of ecological restoration, it is also a boon to outdoor enthusiasts. The Arboretum maintains more than 17 miles of trails through restored prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands.

sunlight streams through trees in the UW Arboretum

The Arboretum’s trail system offers visitors recreational, inspirational, and educational opportunities. It is also designed to facilitate the protection of landscapes, wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and ecosystem integrity.

Visit the UW Arboretum

Picnic Point and Lake Mendota are pictured in an aerial view of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus during an autumn sunset

Picnic Point

Possibly the most iconic and popular destination on campus is the nearly mile-long peninsula that extends into Lake Mendota. Surrounded by sweeping views of sky and water, thousands make the trek annually to enjoy nature’s surroundings.

Fire circle at Picnic Point at dawn

As you make your way to the water’s edge you’ll pass by effigy burial mounds and farmhouse remnants, hints of earlier inhabitants. Picnic Point features a stone fire circle, making this the perfect place to rest, birdwatch, or stargaze.

Lakeshore Nature Preserve

Picnic Point and Lake Mendota are pictured in an aerial view of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus during an autumn sunset

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Sunrise over Lake Mendota

Photo Credits

Lake Mendota sunrise (video) : Sam Li

Paddle board yoga : Andy Manis

Lady Liberty : Brian Huynh

Allen Centennial Garden (2) : Kolin Goldschmidt

Bike path : Tor-Erik Bakke

UW Arboretum (2) : Jeff Miller

Picnic Point (2) : Jeff Miller