7 Scenic Natural Wonders of Bayfield County

By Amy Bayer
Staff Writer

While the Apostle Islands Sea Caves garner international attention for their spectacular beauty during every season, Bayfield County has so much more to offer. A trip to the caves in the sandstone cliffs along Lake Superior's shore is always recommended, but as long as you're in that neck of the woods keep the adventure going.

The area is rich with forests, lakes and scenic overlooks that can take your breath away. Here are seven additional scenic wonders to explore on your next trip to Bayfield County.

Houghton Falls1. Houghton Falls State Nature Preserve

Houghton Falls State Nature Preserve includes a sandstone gorge along the Lake Superior shore just north of Washburn. The gorge is shaded by a canopy of trees while a charming stream cascades over rocks into a beautiful cove with clear water and a sandy bottom.

Upstream is Echo Dells, a series of cliffs and caves interspersed with small waterfalls and hiking trails. And true to its name, cathedral-like acoustics echo your words if you want to give a shout.

Whether you'd prefer to sit on the warm, brownstone ledges or hike through the pines and hemlocks for views of Chequamegon Bay and the Apostle Islands, Houghton Falls is the perfect spot to see some of the natural wonders of Bayfield County.

Rainbow Lake2. Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area

This area is so beautiful that a 6-mile section of the North Country Scenic Trail passes through its wilderness. Among some of its unique features are the narrow gauge railroad grades that were used for log hauling in the early 1900s and have since been converted into parts of the trail.

The wilderness area covers more than 6,500 acres and is filled with a dense forest and several clear-water lakes like its namesake, Rainbow Lake. The woods provide excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching, especially since this part of the state is abundant with deer, black bears, coyotes, bald eagles, loons and owls. It's also a flyway for migrating birds, who stop there for rest in spring and fall.

When you're looking to get away from it all, here is a great destination to explore incredible natural surroundings.

Twin Falls

3. Twin Falls Park

Just south of historic Port Wing along the Wisconsin Lake Superior Byway is this hidden gem located on Larson Creek. Easy to get to, but often overlooked, this park has a well-maintained trail that ends at an overlook of a picturesque waterfall cascading into a cool, stone-lined glen. Sweet and simple, this little waterfall is a natural treasure near the northern shore of Bayfield County.




Frog Bay4. Frog Bay Tribal National Park

Right along the Lake Superior shoreline on the Red Cliff Reservation, Frog Bay Tribal National Park includes pristine sandy beaches bordered by rich forestland. Hiking trails in the park provide views of the Apostle Islands' Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area, including Oak, Basswood, Hermit, Raspberry and Stockton islands. 

Adjacent to the Frog Bay estuary and wild rice beds, this land is historically significant to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who joined forces with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy to permanently protect the property for nature-based recreation, as well as traditional and spiritual tribal ceremonies. Immerse yourself in the incredible scenery of this sacred land.

Iron Bridge5. Gil Larsen Nature Trail and Iron Bridge

This hike is short, but beautiful, and located right in the city of Bayfield – along the bottom of a big ravine that cuts a swath through the city. The trail follows the creek under the historic Old Iron Bridge.

A thick forest canopy and creek make the experience feel remote, and the view of the bridge is spectacular, especially in fall when the leaves are resplendent in color. There are benches along the route to take a break and listen to the wildlife and creek bed.

Getting to the trail requires a hike down (and then back up) a steep staircase, but you won't regret it. Once you're done, you can walk over to Rice Avenue and cross the top of the bridge for another perspective of the ravine.

Lost Creek Falls6. Lost Creek Falls

The hike to Lost Creek Falls can be a little remote, but well worth the adventure. The falls, located in the woods southwest of Cornucopia, consist of an 8-foot plunge with a few feet of cascades above and below. You can even walk behind them, which is not common for waterfalls in this area.

You'll have to park at the entrance to the ATV trail and then hike a mile through the scenic terrain and over a few bridges. As an added bonus, the base of the falls is nice and open, making it a great place to take photos.


Birkie Trail7. The Birkie Trail

No visit to Bayfield County is complete without a hike along The Birkie Trail, which starts in Cable and ends in Hayward in nearby Sawyer County. While the trail is most popular for its annual winter cross-country ski extravaganza, the American Birkebeiner, 66 miles of the trail are groomed and open to the public year-round.

Head to the Cable Area, nicknamed "Trail Town USA" by the American Hiking Society, for a hike on this world-famous course. Acquaint yourself with the rolling hills and gorgeous scenery during this traditional Northwoods experience.

Want to read more? Check out these seven statewide natural wonders, and keep an eye on TravelWisconsin.com as we roll out more articles on scenic wonders by county.

This entry was posted in Natural Attractions and Parks