Arboretum Visitor Guide

Some guests to the Arboretum receive help from a volunteer receptionist

Stopping by the Visitor Center is a good way to start your visit. You can get the latest news about the Arboretum from the receptionist, pick up maps and other materials, look at the exhibits and reference materials, visit the bookstore and view the current exhibit in our art gallery.

For your convenience, restrooms are available year-round in the Visitor Center. From May to October, restrooms are also available in a small building a short distance northeast of the Visitor Center.

Maps and brochures may also be picked up outside near the entry to the Visitor Center and at various pedestrian accesses to the Arboretum.

You are welcome to explore the Arboretum on your own, or you may schedule a private guided tour.

Free walks take place each Sunday. We also hold an evening walk each month. Public walks offer a basic introduction to the Arboretum, and you can expect some identification of plants and animals as well as brief scientific explanations for various ecological concepts.

The Arboretum features many distinct ecological communities, several horticultural collections, effigy mounds, historic artifacts, a Visitor Center and more than 20 miles of a trail system composed of footpaths, boardwalks and fire lanes.

Our trails are available for use throughout the year, although we ask you to be careful when they are icy. Please note that it is essential to stay on the trails even when they are icy or muddy. Walking outside of the edges of the trails can be very damaging to wildflowers. Walking completely off trail might interfere with research and ecological restoration efforts. For your convenience, there are identifying markers at trail intersections. Please note that on some trails, skiing is not permitted.

There are several parking lots and bike racks within the Arboretum. Around the perimeter of the Arboretum, there are multiple pedestrian accesses, some of them near Madison Metro bus stops. A gate near the Visitor Center prohibits motorized vehicles from using McCaffery Drive as a thoroughfare, except on Sundays from noon until 6 p.m.

Recreation Opportunities

Here are a few ideas for enjoying and experiencing the Arboretum:

  • Observing Nature: Be it bird-watching, looking at spring wildflowers, or gazing at the fall colors, there is always something to marvel about within the Arboretum's many ecological niches. For recent field observations of interest, peruse the Naturalists' Notes.
  • Hiking and Walking: When using our paved roads, travel in single file, facing traffic, and along the edge of the road.
  • Biking and Jogging: Bikers and joggers can travel over 4 miles of paved road through woodlands, wetlands and next to Curtis prairie by following McCaffrey Drive. Although you can run on the unpaved fire lanes and foot paths within the Arboretum, biking on unpaved areas is not permitted.
  • Skiing and Snowshoeing: Skis and snowshoes are allowed only on designated trails. Check the ski map for 10+ miles of multi-use trails. Off-trail skiing, snowshowing, or hiking is not permitted.
  • Art and Photography: Plants and animals throughout the Arboretum make excellent subjects for drawing or photographing. Our Naturalists’ Notes may help you in finding a unique subject.


We hope you enjoy the Arboretum’s many attractions. While you are here, please obey the following regulations. Your cooperation will help protect the Arboretum’s plants and wildlife as well as ongoing research projects.

  • For your safety, remain on trails, firelanes, lawn areas or the paved road at all times.
  • Use bicycles and cars on the paved drives only.
  • Run and ski only on designated routes.
  • Leave pets at home — they are prohibited on Arboretum grounds and the road through it.
  • In-line skates, roller skates and roller skis are prohibited throughout the Arboretum.
  • Do not picnic, build fires, or hunt, trap, or disturb animals.
  • Recreational games, radios, and portable stereos are not permitted.
  • Unauthorized removal of natural materials or Arboretum equipment is strictly prohibited.
  • Contact the Visitor Center at 608.263.7888 for more information about the Arboretum’s activities or to participate in restoration efforts.