Experience the wonder of nature

The grounds at Holy Wisdom Monastery are beautiful and always changing throughout the year. Below are some guides you can download to learn about the trails, flowers, conifers, shrubs and trees. Enjoy!

Trail map brochure

Our trails are open during the coronavirus pandemic.

All are welcome to explore the nature trails at Holy Wisdom Monastery and the North Mendota Wildlife Area, which is adjacent to Holy Wisdom and maintained by the monastery.  Restored tall grass native prairie dominates the landscape, and vistas overlooking Lake Mendota and the city of Madison are breathtaking. Please help us sustain quiet and contemplative grounds during your visit by following these rules:


  • No dogs or other pets
  • Stay on designated trails
  • Pick up liter
  • No camping, fishing, biking, driving on trails
  • No fires, unless approved in advance
  • Do not pick or remove any plants

Come and explore the nature trails

You will see, smell, hear and touch the bounty of God’s creation as you walk our nature trails. Breathe in the fragrance of the forest and prairie. Watch for coyotes, fox, deer, great blue heron, pheasant, turkey and other wildlife. Listen to the song of the indigo bunting, yellow-throated warbler, bluebird and cardinal. Touch the delicate textures of the wood fern. The grounds are home to a diverse ecosystem of plants, fish, animals, humans and other creatures living in a harmonious environment. We take special care of the land for the education of today’s guests and to preserve it for future generations.

Caring for the earth

In 1953, the Benedictine sisters set down roots on a hill overlooking Lake Mendota and the skyline of Madison, Wisconsin. The original 40 acres consisted of farmland cleared in the early 1900s. Today, Holy Wisdom Monastery includes 130 acres with a 10,000-year-old glacial lake, one of the ‘greenest’ LEED-certified buildings in the country, wooded nature trails, restored prairie, gardens, orchards and the beginning of an oak savanna. In July 2017 the sisters received the international Assisi Award from the Society for Conservation Biology for the environmental efforts spanning more than 65 years at Holy Wisdom. Caring for the earth is part of the mission, rooted in Benedictine values of stability and respect for all of creation. The sisters, in partnership with coworkers, hundreds of volunteers, agencies and organizations, do their part to protect nearby Lake Mendota and preserve an oasis of quiet beauty where all are welcome.

Support this good work

We hope you are able to come to the monastery and enjoy the peaceful, beautiful, restored grounds. To help us continue this work, please join the Friends of Wisdom Prairie or donate to our mission of Caring for the Earth.