Janesville, Wisconsin is a town I have driven past and through a hundred times. It is conveniently located off the interstate between Rockford and Madison. On my way up to canoe the Wisconsin River, paddle the BWCA, or ski the Birkie, I have driven past it countless times. Last summer, I was given an opportunity to stop and stay awhile. Working with the Midwest Travel Bloggers, an offer to visit was extended by the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I enjoyed several days of Janesville Wisconsin outdoor adventures.
I pulled into the Hampton Inn, and the travel blogger bus was waiting outside ready to explore the town. I skipped the check-in and jumped in the bus to start the adventure. Several other Midwest bloggers were also on board. Sara from Travel with Sara, Veronica the Hip Grandma, Brandy from Gleason Family Adventure, Bisa from Myles to Travel and Michelle from Honest and Truly rounded out the group.
Five Janesville Wisconsin outdoor adventures
Hike the Rotary Botanical Gardens
Our first stop was the lush greenness of the Rotary Botanical Gardens. After a hectic drive up from Chicago, I was running late, the peaceful landscape of the botanical garden was just what I needed. Visiting a city’s botanical gardens is a favorite activity of mine. I have been to botanical gardens in South America, Asia, and last summer just before this trip, I experienced the Kirstenbosch Gardens in South Africa. They are always a welcome respite from the big city. Chicago’s botanical gardens are also a favorite as I have had the good fortune to both bird, canoe, and hike my city’s representative in the genre.
After an afternoon at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, I would say it compares favorably with those of bigger cities like Chicago and Cape Town. I was captivated from the beginning when I saw the beautiful lagoons with weeping willows on the shoreline. My favorite section was the Japanese Gardens. Speaking of Japan, they have cherry blossoms that erupt in May. I will need to return in May.
E-Bike Janesville city and bike trails
On a bike, one can explore 31 miles of paved trails around the city. One of these trails is the famous Ice Age Scenic Trail. I have hiked and camped on this trail in the Kettle Moraine Scenic Forest, in Devil’s Lake, and up north in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. When you see the familiar yellow blaze, you know there is an outdoor adventure on hand. Even better, a section of the paved Ice Age Trail follows the Rock River in between Palmer Park and Riverside Park.
Related: North Kettle Moraine Ice Age hike
We had the pleasure of using e-bikes from Velocity Multi-Sport and Cycling and even got to tool around with the owners, Jayden and Julia Jorgensen. We were equipped with e-bikes, which I had never used before. The nice thing about the e-bikes as they give you a boost, but you can still get a decent workout doing your own pedaling. Jayden and Julia were passionate about what they do and incredibly focused on the customer experience.
Janesville city walk
The more you know about a place, the more interesting it becomes. Taking a city walk with a local expert provided a new connection to this city I only have buzzed past at 75 mph on the interstate. The highlight of walking the streets of Janesville was seeing the beautiful murals painted in various places around the town. The murals featured Janesville’s natural features as well as its Native American history. Our tour was led by Rich from Roam Around Tours.
SUP and Kayak Gibbs Lake
Our last stop for the weekend was a trip to Gibbs Lake in nearby Edgerton, Wisconsin. Gibbs Lake is a small county park perfect for beginning kayakers and SUPs. Half of the lake is a park and the rest is private property. It is quite scenic with lily pads and weeping willows and other trees lining the shoreline. A bald eagle flew off from one of the trees on the shoreline and buzzed over my kayak. There is also a nice picnic spot here and a swimming beach, so it is a perfect place to bring the family.
Kayaking the Yahara River
Thanks to Drift Away Paddle Company, I extended my Janesville trip by another few hours and explored a stretch of the Yahara River. I have paddled many rivers in this area including Badfish Creek, the Sugar River, and the Wisconsin River, but never the Yahara. Most rivers in this area go through a lot of farmland, but the Yahara surprised me in how green the riverbanks were. Read the link below for a more detailed account of this adventure.
Related: Drift Away on the Yahara River
Next time you are driving through Janesville, if you have some time, check out a few of these adventures. You can do several in a day or stay a weekend and do them all. After many years of only seeing road signs to Janesville, I am glad I finally got to experience a few outdoor adventures here.
I was a guest of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the weekend included complimentary stays, meals, and adventures. The thoughts and pictures of this trip are my own.