Leap through a vibrant pile of crunchy leaves, pack a picnic and bring back the magic fall memories you had as a kid. Be sure to fill up your water bottle and bring your hiking buddy as you fall for Wisconsin’s bright-colored autumn views at these 5 state parks. Uncover the unexpected, reconnect with others and satisfy your fall foliage cravings.
And don't forget to check our Fall Color Report for the latest updates on where fall colors are peaking.
Mill Bluff State Park – Camp Douglas
Colorful bluffs and rugged rock formations sprawl on either side of Interstate 90/94 with fall foliage that you can’t miss. Hidden beauty waits atop Mill Bluff if you’re adventurous enough to take on a climb of 223 stone steps up to an overlook highlighting the lush forestland as your reward. For an easier hike with the kids, try one or both of the two shorter trails on the opposite side of the Interstate that also display majestic fall color.
Natural Bridge State Park – North Freedom
It’s all right there in the name — this stunning sandstone arch is Wisconsin’s largest natural bridge and is a beauty to see in the autumntime. Breathe in the fresh fall air and see a kaleidoscope of color at every corner as you hike four miles through oak woods and native prairie. You may encounter a picture-perfect moment next to the star attraction, the sandstone arch. This natural phenomenon was created through wind erosion and includes a sprawling rock shelter at its base. Say cheese!
Nelson Dewey State Park – Cassville
Have you ever had a picnic at a park named after Wisconsin’s first governor, Nelson Dewey? Well, now’s the chance to do so as this park was once part of Nelson’s estate. This perfect combination of nature and history lines the Mississippi River and includes five hikes less than a mile each that make for short and sweet travels through a 500-foot bluff with views of the pristine Mississippi River. Catch an extraordinary vista, powerful river and spectacular colors on camera or take a photo with your hiking buddies using the selfie stand and be sure to tag us @TravelWI on your adventure.
You can feel the history in the air here, as the park is home to three sites with Native American effigy mounds (some estimated to be over 2,000 years old!) as well as Stonefield, a historical site that includes a recreated 1900-era farming village ready to explore. Grab the kids and pop into the cheese factory, saloon, and newspaper office and learn from skilled demonstrators about the livelihoods of rural Wisconsinites at the beginning of the 20th century. End your trip with a stop at Governor Dewey's home site and the State Agricultural Museum to find out exactly how the state became America’s Dairyland.
Roche-a-Cri State Park – Friendship
What better spot to travel with friends than in Friendship, Wisconsin? Pack a picnic to share and have your camera ready to capture the colorful countryside views. The Cambrian sandstone will have you in awe as you brush against rocks that once stood in Glacial Lake Wisconsin dating all the way back to the Ice Age. The 300-foot-tall rock outcropping, whose name means “Screaming Rock” in French, displays ancient Native American petroglyphs and pictographs across its face. Venture through 6 miles of hiking to soak in the fall foliage of oak, pine and maple trees and catch a glimpse of vultures soaring between Roche-a-Cri and Friendship Mound.
Straight Lake State Park – Luck
Any day is an adventure at Straight Lake State Park. See Straight Lake’s crystal waters including the Straight River, Rainbow Lake and numerous ephemeral ponds.
Take in autumnal splendor by hiking on the challenging trail that goes past Rainbow Lake or follow the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to explore several miles of the park. Keep an eye out for the park's glacial tunnel channel, considered the most impressive in the Midwest. Make sure everyone keeps their cameras close, too, for Straight Lake's abundant wildlife, which includes bald eagles, trumpeter swans and river otters.
Want to explore and take in more fall colors? Check out these 15 Fall Color Hikes for more adventure.