By Jeniece Smith
We’ve shared Wisconsin’s top spots for waterfalls, but here are some hidden gems you’ve probably never heard of. Each of these seven local-favorite falls, located in or near small Wisconsin towns, is easy to get to and doesn’t require a long hike or weekend commitment – just drive up, spread your picnic blanket and snap some pictures!
A statue of Seminole Chief Osceola stands like a silent sentry above the staircase to Cascade Falls, right along the main drag in this scenic village across the border from Minnesota. Descend 135 steps into Wilkie Glen, where you’ll see the biggest drop in the Osceola Creek’s descent to the St. Croix River.
These 25-foot falls were integral to Osceola’s founding in 1886, once supporting a mill and a brewery. If you visit at dusk, you’ll see LED lights setting the water ablaze with different colors.
Continue your adventure with a hike downstream to where the creek empties into the St. Croix River, or to bird’s-eye bluff-top views high above the water. Don’t miss the smaller Geiger Falls, named for the city’s brewing history, above the main falls.
Marinette County bills itself as the waterfall capital of Wisconsin, and you can tour about a dozen of these roaring wonders along the Pike, Thunder, Peshtigo and Menominee rivers. A county park just a mile south of town offers an easy stop at Dave’s Falls, a classic Northwoods waterfall.
The park has a picnic area, restrooms and a playground, though you can create some fun of your own by wading right into the Pike River. An easy walk from the parking lot, the Upper Falls tumble six feet into a calm, open pool perfect for a dip, while the Lower Falls thunder 10 feet through a slender chute.
You’ll find more waterfall country in Iron County, which boasts more falls than any other county in the state – including five of the state’s 10 tallest. The area is perhaps best known for the 90-foot Potato River Falls just outside the town of Gurney.
Meander further south along the Potato River to see these fast-flowing, 50-foot-wide cascades, located in Upson Town Park. The first-come, first-served campgrounds here may be less busy than those of its larger neighbor a few miles north.
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When you think of the Bayfield Peninsula, islands, sea caves and the world’s largest freshwater lake probably come to mind. Bet you didn’t know there are some wild waterfalls hiding here, too!
Start directly east of the village of Cornucopia, where a series of gradual slides on the Siskiwit River drop 20 feet before flowing into Lake Superior, less than a mile downstream.
If you’re up for more of an excursion, head to the more dramatic Lost Creek Falls, which plunges 15 feet into a woodland pool a couple miles south of Cornucopia. You have to hike two miles through the trees, but the trek will be worth it when you refresh yourself with a walk behind the waterfall, a rarity for this area.
Montello’s granite quarry is famously known for producing the materials of Grant’s Tomb in New York City, but today it’s the much more serene site of a park. Four waterfalls, once rapids of the Montello River that were harnessed to power machinery, spill over granite outcroppings into the now-flooded quarry, which is fenced for safety reasons.
Though these central Wisconsin waterfalls are man-made and you can’t venture directly up to them as you can with the others on this list, they’re still well worth a stop. Park in the adjoining lot and rest awhile against this scenic backdrop, smack dab in the middle of town!
Waterfalls are a rarity in the south central part of the state, with the most popular being a miniature fall at Parfrey’s Glen in Sauk County, near largest and top-visited Wisconsin state park Devil’s Lake. But this lesser-known treasure is tucked away an hour south in another of our largest state parks, Governor Dodge.
Take a gorgeous drive through this 5,300-acre park, just north of Dodgeville’s city limits, to reach the half-mile trail to Stephens Falls. After an easy, wooded walk to a scenic overlook, rustic stone steps will take you to the base in Lost Canyon, where the falls trickle down a sheer, mossy rock slab.
Explore more of Governor Dodge’s quintessentially rugged land, typical of the Driftless Area, by continuing along nearly 40 miles of connecting trails, or go for a swim at one of the park’s two lakes.