WI Milwaukee Whitnall Park Alpha Trail
Whitnall Park Alpha Trail and "The Rock" Bike Park
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
The Alpha Trail in Whitnall Park in Franklin Wisconsin was the first legal mountain bike trail in Milwaukee County. The Alpha Trail connects to additional fee-based mountain bike trails at The Rock Sports Complex to provide a nice mix of flowy singletrack and downhill trails. Approximately 6 to 8 miles of trails in total. Work on the Alpha trail is conducted by the Metro Mountain Bikers.
- Terrain / Scenery: Scenic wooded areas along the Root river combined with open areas on the ski hill (The Rock Bike Park). Easy to moderate singletrack trails with easy to very advanced downhill trails in the ski area.
- Fees / Permits: "The Rock" trails are fee-based, Alpha trails are free.
- Trail Conditions: See Trail Conditions Notes further down on this page for more info on trail conditions.
- Trail Markings: Alpha Trail has directional signs at key intersection. Ski Area trails have color coded signs (this may have changed).
- Official Web Page: http://www.county.milwaukee.gov/display/router.asp?docid=8288
- Getting There: Whitnall Park is located in Franklin Wisconsin, southwest of Milwaukee. Access to the trails is from the Golf Course Parking area on 92nd Street, north of Rawson Ave. Google Maps Link to Whitnall Park After parking, ride across 92nd street at the north end of the parking lot and go through gate into open grassy area. Trailhead is located where the woods start at north end of open area next to toboggan slides (see map below). Fee based trails at The Rock Sports Complex are accessed from The Rock Sports Complex.
Trail Conditions Notes:
The gate across from the Golf Course Parking area that provides access to the Alpha Trail trailhead has a sign on it that basically says if the gate is closed, the mountain bike trails are closed. Because part of the Alpha trail runs in the lowlands along the Root River, this trail tends to get muddy and is therefore frequently closed.
The Metro Mountain Bikers now update trail conditions for Alpha Trail via Twitter at https://twitter.com/Metro_IMBA.
Map of Whitnall Park Alpha Trail and The Rock Bike Park Trails :
I used a topographic map as the background for my map, but be aware that the ski hill has been modified over the years and therefore is not accurately represented on the old USGS topo map. The green areas represent wooded areas. All trails are one-way as depicted on my map. I included some hiking trails on the map (shown in brown). Bikes are not allowed on these trails.
Note that my map only covers the portion of Whitnall park east of 92nd Street (because this is the part with the mountain bike trails). The main portion of Whitnall park (including the golf course) is on the west side of 92nd street. See the main Whitnall Park Page for an overview map.
The Alpha Trail (shown Red on my map) is a set of mostly easy singletrack that starts on the high ground in Whitnall Park, flows along the hillside towards "The Rock" Sports Complex, then goes downhill into the valley and along the Root River. My guess is the total mileage of the main Alpha Trail loop is less than 2.5 miles (not including the trails in the ski area and near Rawson Ave). There are directional signs (no maps) at key intersections that make it relatively easy to navigate these trails, though things can get a little confusing around The Rock. My map has been updated to show changes made in 2013-2015 related to the creation of The Rock trails .
Overall, the return trail along the Root River is pretty flat but the rest of the trail system has evolved over the years into some enjoyable flowy singletrack that runs up, down, and along the hillside. If you haven't ridden here in a while, try it again. They've done a lot of work on the wet spots, and the trail is fast an enjoyable.
Which trails are Free:
Because the free Whitnall Park mountain bike trails connect with the Fee-based trails at The Rock, it's important to know which is which. There has been a bit of conflicting information going around and I'm not absolutely certain but as of August 2013, this is what I believe to be true (I was recently at The Rock, and talked to one of their workers to confirm). UPDATE June 2015:I'm not aware of any changes to the fee-based areas other than now that the lift is no longer running and the wooden features are gone, the fee is a lot less
When the Alpha Trail meets The Rock area, it basically shares the two Green Trails located West of the Ski Hill. My understanding is these trails are part of The Rock, but The Rock is allowing access to these sections of these trails without paying a fee. One trail is uphill, and the other downhill. The Alpha Trail connects to the uphill trail and heads South, then connects to the Downhill trail. At the point where the uphill and Downhill trails meet, you also have the option to take a side trail South across the open field to the small loop near Rawson Ave (I believe they were calling this O'Malley's woods, but only part of it remains). You can see on my map, it loops around and brings you right back to the same point.
The downhill trail will take you to the base of the hill by the chairlift. Behind the chairlift there are two trails going into the woods, the 1st is the uphill trail (this may have changed in 2015), and the 2nd is Alpha Trail return trail along the River. These are your only free options at this point. The old singletrack trails East of this point (shown Purple on the Map) are currently part of the Fee-based area. The video above shows navigating the Alpha Trail starting at The Rock. Note the starting point in that video is within the fee-based area.
"The Rock" Bike Park Trails
IMPORTANT UPDATE June 2015: The Rock is changing to more XC and eliminating the lift assisted riding. See the note below from The Rock
ATTENTION BIKE PARK CUSTOMERS Effective immediately our DH bike park will be moving away from a lift accessible and "full suspension" trail design to one that caters to all riders, with an emphasis on "XC" ridership While The Rock takes pride that it has been voted #1 Bike Park in the Midwest for the last two years, the current business model doesn't support itself, nor does it offer the surrounding MTB community an option that best reflects the type of ridership in the Metro Milwaukee area. MTB riders of all abilities are now welcome to come ride the bike park for $5 a day or $50 for a season pass. Riders are asked to ride at their own risk and pay on the honor system. A drop box is located on the bike park building. NOTE: We will be continuing the weekly Wednesday evening XC MTB Race Series.
UPDATE July 2015: Below are some quick notes based on early July 2015
They took out pretty much all the wood features. There is still one big wooden wall ride at the bottom of the Blue (I think) jump line, and that one small wooden drop/jump at the top of the last downhill section on the Black jump line. They also took out most of the trail markers. It cost $5 to ride there now, there's a little self-pay box on the building.
All the dirt jump lines were still there and in pretty good shape. I don't know if they're going to continue maintaining them so you may want to get out there this summer while they're still there.
You get back up via the uphill trail in the woods. It looks like the WORS race is also using the old Blue feature trail as an uphill, so that's another option. The old Green feature trail could also work as an uphill. These uphill options are easier than the original uphill back when it was Crystal Ridge, so don't let fear of a long climb keep you away. There's also the dirt road to get back up, but I would stick to the trails.
Below is the old information I had on The Rock (2013-2014) Since I'm not clear on exactly what is changing at The Rock as far as the trails go, the information below may no longer apply
The lift-assisted riding at The Rock brings a very unique experience to this neck of the woods - A true downhill bike park. Though the elevation can't come close to being comparable with stuff out west, they've made the most of what is there. If you're looking to get your wheels of the ground, this place was built for you. But even for old XC guys like myself, there is fun to be had here. I've ridden all the Green and Blue trails plus one of the Black trails, and the trails seem to fall into two groups. The trails East of the chairlifts are "Features" downhill trails that follow fairly gently grades but have numerous wooden features built on the trails. I'm pretty sure all the wooden features on the Blue and Green trails have bypass trails so you skip anything that makes you nervous. The Black feature trail has some serious features and may not have bypass trails, so make sure you know what you're getting into. The Blue and Black trails I've ridden West of the chairlifts have steeper sections and many many dirtjumps built into the trails (the Green trail on the West side does not have jumps or anything very steep). The jumps and some of the features were clearly designed to put you in the air. You can roll a lot of this stuff, but it actually takes some effort to keep your tires on (or near) the ground.
Below is the official 2013 map from The Rock Sports Complex
This map only covers the trails in the ski area. See the main map further up this page to see where these trails are relative to Alpha Trail.
The 1st 3 videos on the right are from my first time at The Rock and show trails of varying difficulties. Keep in mind I'm an XC guy, so I was keeping the tires pretty close to the dirt. The last video is not mine, but shows the Black "features" trail the way it was meant to be ridden.
The Rock Quick Stats
- The Rock has a total vertical drop of around 245 feet (this was from old listings of Crystal Ridge). That's fairly typical of ski hills in SouthEast Wisconsin.
- Looks like they only run one lift at The Rock for the Bike Park, and it runs pretty slow at maybe 2mph. I didn't put a stopwatch to it, but I think it takes 5 or 6 minutes to get to the top, not counting time waiting in line.
- Takes roughly 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to get down most of the runs.
- They list 13 trails, but if you exclude the singletrack trails in the woods, the uphill trail, and the minor trail variations, you really have 8 downhill runs, 6 if you exclude the easy trails.
- The Rock does connect to about 5 miles of singletrack trails.
The Rock Trails by Name
I'll describe the trails using the trail names given to them by The Rock so you'll need to see the official The Rock map.
- Green (Easy) Trails
- Nirvana and Quiet Riot are the Green "Features" trails. They have rather gentle downhill grades but you can pick up some good speed on them. The wooden features are easy as long as you control your speed (don't hit those rollers too fast unless you wan to jump them), there are also bypasses for all the features.
- The Whitesnake trail is the downhill trail through the woods West of the ski hill. It's a nice flowy trail that shouldn't be a problem for riders as long as long as they control their speed.
- The Twisted Sister trail is the uphill sister to the Whitesnake trail. It allows you to skip the lift and ride back up to the parking area / Lodge. It actually flows nicely and is not that tough of a climb.
- Blue (Intermediate) Trails
- ZZ Top is the intermediate "Features" trail. The grade is similar to the Easy trails, but the wooden features are more advanced. There are bypasses for all features on this trail so you can easily skip anything that's beyond your skill level. Most of the features are relatively easy, but some are a bit tricky especially if you hit them too fast (or too slow in some cases).
- Rolling Stones is the intermediate Jump Line trail. It's a fast trail with numerous dirt jumps and berms. You can roll the jumps, but you have to control your speed because these jumps were designed to put you in the air.
- Black (Advanced) Trails
- Skid Row is the 1st advanced Jump Line trail. It's similar to the Blue Rolling Stones Trail.As with the Blue Jump trail, you can roll the jumps, but you have to control your speed because these jumps were designed to put you in the air.
- Rush is another advanced Jump Line trail but with some very steep sections (the steeper sections are short steep bermed sections). You can also roll these jumps.
- Black Keys is the advanced "Features" trail. I haven't ridden this one, but from the chairlift and videos the features look pretty serious and i'm not sure there are bypasses for all of them. See the video on the right to see how this trail was meant to be ridden.
- Nine Inch Nails is the most advanced downhill trail (double black diamond), and I have no idea what's there other than the steep rock "stairs" that start the trail.
Finding your way around The Rock
If you've been skiing at area ski hills, you probably already know it's sometimes a bit tricky initially finding the trails. That's because at ski hills you sometimes "can't get there from here". And while they are pretty good at putting the colored (green, blue, black) markers at the trails, that's about all there is other than a big map at a few choice locations.
Ok, when you first arrive, you have no choice but to take "Nirvana", "Quiet Riot", or "ZZ Top". That's because you're starting from The Lodge, and the Lodge is not at the very top of the ski hill where the other trails start, AND you can't get there from here. So right behind the Lodge, you'll see a trail with Green and Blue markers, take that and follow the colors of your choice to get you to the bottom of the hill where you can then take the lift up to the top of the hill.
From the lift at the top of the hill, there is a trail heading uphill to the West, that will take you up the to Black trails "Rush" and "Nine Inch Nails". Otherwise you head Southeast from the Lift to get to all other trails. The first spur to the right heading uphill just behind the other lift goes to "Skid Row" (Black) trail, you also have a trail to your left heading to "Black Keys" (Black) and a trail just past that to the right going to "Rolling Stones" (Blue) and "Whitesnake" (Green) and another spur to the left going back to the Lodge. At least this is how I remember them.
From behind the lift at the bottom of the hill (North of the lift), you'll see two trails going into the woods. The one on the left is the uphill "Twisted Sister", and the one to the right of that is the Alpha Trail heading back to the Alpha Trail trailhead in Whitnall Park.
XC at The Rock. aka "Rolling the Rock"
While I like trails to be a bit technical, I'm really an old school XC rider. So for others like me that enjoy challenging trails but don't particularly feel comfortable when the tires get more than a couple of feet from the ground, and also prefer to ride uphill occasionally, this is how you XC the rock.
First off, the Green (easy) trails are no more challenging than what you find on XC trails. The Grade on the Blue "feature" trail (ZZ Top) is also nothing you can't handle. And since the features on this trail all have bypasses, you can skip anything you don't particularly like. I've only been skipping one feature, a small wooden kicker jump that looks a bit steep when approaching at speed (I probably need to slow down to check it out next time I get out there). There is also a large feature that is roughly equivalent to a wooden version of a tabletop jump that can get a bit sketchy (I've been riding it, but it has a rather steep face). Other than that, the other features are easy as long as you control your speed, and they are fun. I haven't tried the Black "features" trail (Black Keys) and that may be one better left to the DH/FR crowd. As Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations".
The Blue and Black jump line trails on the West side of the hill (Rolling Stones, Skid Row, and Rush) can be rolled, but it does take some work to keep the tires close to the ground. It doesn't show that well in the videos, but these are steep faced dirt jumps that were designed to send you up in the air. These aren't the little bumps you find on trails where you need to boost off of them to get air, these will put you in the air unless you do something to stop them . They are essentially tabletops, but the tops vary and they keep coming one right after another. There are also some rather steep bermed sections (particularly on "Rush") that are fine if you like steep stuff (as I do) but may not be every XC rider's cup of tea. I have no idea what is on the double black diamond run (Nine Inch Nails) but am doubting that's going to be part of an XC loop. That said, I had fun on these trails on my XC bike my first time at The Rock, and expect to keep riding them.
And what really helps XC riders is the fact that these trails connect to nice XC singletrack (Alpha Trail),and that there is an uphill run that while it doesn't take you all the way to the top, it takes you most of the way so you can sometimes skip the lift and ride up. You can actually work out some nice loops that get you combinations of downhill, singletrack, uphill, and some rides in the lift.
My first time out there I rode all of Alpha plus the singletrack near The Rock and did 13 downhill runs riding back up 6 times and using the lift 7 times. That worked nicely for me and is about where I will likely be on future trips there. What would really be nice is if they let you ride all the way back to the top (I don't believe this is currently allowed since you would be going against downhill traffic) because those 7 times on the lift were grueling for me. That's exactly why I XC ski rather than downhill ski around here. I'm not saying I'm going to ride up 13 times, but I would prefer to ride up more.
Anyway, there's plenty of fun to be had at The Rock for XC riders and I think they could use our business right now as they've invested a fair amount of coin into those trails.
Check The Rock Bike Pages
Hiking: Though the Alpha Trail system is a dedicated mountain bike trail system, I didn't see anything saying that you can't hike these trails. However, there are some really nice hiking trails available in Whitnall Park that don't allow bikes, and I would personally prefer to spend my hiking time on them. I show some of these trails in Brown my map. These trails are not marked and are a little confusing but not too bad. There is basically one big loop that runs towards the ski hill and numerous little connector trails. I mapped the main trails but may be additional smaller trails not shown on my map. The trails right next to the Ski Hill may have some recent changes that are not reflected on my map. I estimate about 2 to 3 miles of hiking trails in this area.
See the main Whitnall Park Page for information on additional hiking trails in the park.
I've moved the cross-country skiing information to the main Whitnall Park Page.
- Whitnall Park Main Page Information on hiking and cross-country skiing in Whitnall Park.
- More Kettle Moraine State Forest Trails More mountain biking trails in nearby Kettle Moraine State Forest.
- More Milwaukee Area Trails
- Wisconsin Trails
- Metro Mountain Bikers.
- Milwaukee County Mountain Bike Trail Page
- Milwaukee County Parks Map Page
- The Rock Bike Pages
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki