15 Fall Color Hikes in Wisconsin, From Easy to Difficult

Wisconsin’s brilliant fall foliage display is one of the state’s top attractions, and we want to make sure you get to explore as much as you can. Here are some ideas for where to hike throughout the state based on your skill level and travel companions.

Be sure to check our Fall Color Report starting in September for the latest information on areas showing peak foliage.

Easy and Most Accessible Hikes

Make sure everyone enjoys fall to the fullest with these low-difficulty trails with many accessible features.

Hiawatha - Bearskin State Trail – Minocqua

Bear Skin

The Hiawatha-Bearskin Trail is two great trails rolled into one! Both parts of a former railroad line that transported lumber from the Northwoods to Chicago, this 32-mile route is made up of hard-packed granite and is mostly level with long, flat, straight stretches. Featuring lakes, creeks and springs, the trail is lined by magnificent trees that in autumn transport you to another world. Begin at either trailhead in Tomahawk or Minocqua – both start with wood plank bridges that will carry you straight into nature.

Sentinel Trail at Peninsula State Park – Fish Creek

This two-mile loop is a local favorite and provides an easy walk for people and on-leash pets. Journey through Peninsula State Park past stands of maple, beech and pine trees whose beauty peaks in the fall. A 0.6-mile portion of the trail is graveled. Access begins at Eagle Tower, where an 850-foot, wheelchair accessible canopy walk winds gradually above the tree line to the top of the tower for a breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Michigan that everyone can enjoy.

Green Tree Loop at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center – Milwaukee

There are approximately six miles of trails throughout the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center north of Milwaukee that hosts habitats ranging from meadows to lakeshore to woods. While all of the loops are relatively flat, the Green Tree Accessible Trail is paved with asphalt and crushed gravel and provides access to an observation tower looking out over miles of the preserve and Lake Michigan. At the end of this trail is the Mystery Lake boardwalk that’s made of smooth wood and gets you up close and personal with Green Herons, Tree Swallows, and the occasional curious turtle.

Easy to Moderate Hikes

Watch your step! These trails are generally low impact but are not easily accessible to wheeled equipment.

Bay View Trail at Big Bay State Park – La Pointe

Big Bay

If you’re in search of a beautiful coastal stroll, buzz up to Madeline Island for this 1.3-mile trail along the gorgeous shoreline of Lake Superior. The hardwoods and birch trees burst with vibrant color in the fall months and Big Bay State Park is a perfect place to picnic with friends on the beach or bring your binoculars for excellent bird watching. A mile-long wooden boardwalk offers an additional opportunity to take in the autumn splendor.

Monches Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail – Hartland

Experience part of the famous Ice Age Trail with this segment located in the hardwood forest north of Hartland that offers some of the most spectacular fall hiking in the state. The 2.7-mile one-way hike follows the route of the Oconomowoc River and includes idyllic views of clear water and small bubbling brooks against a backdrop of stunning oaks and aspens.

Sand Cave Trail & Little Sand Cave Loop at Wyalusing State Park – Bagley

Safely explore the ravines and ledges of Wyalusing State Park on this 2-mile out and back trail. Survey both Big Sand Cave and Little Sand Cave, two washed-out areas of limestone with clear trickling waterfalls. At the halfway point, catch your breath while taking in an expansive view of the Wisconsin River through fall-colored brush.

Moderate Hikes

For those travelers looking to grow their hiking skills, check out these trails that mix brief difficult stretches including hills or narrow paths in with easier flat sections.

Old Settlers Trail at Wildcat Mountain State Park – Ontario

Just the drive to Wildcat Mountain State Park will have you catching your breath as you wind up and around hairpin turns through dreamy fall hues. Start your hike from either the northern end of the upper picnic area or the nature building and make sure your crew is ready for a workout, as this 2.5-mile loop covers almost 400 feet of elevation difference. If you’re visiting in later fall, the trees may be bare enough to see the valleys of Vernon County below from the trail, but if the colorful leaves are still holding on, make sure to take the accessible 0.4-mile trail to the Taylor Hollow Overlook for an unforgettable vista.

Burkhardt Trail at Willow River State Park – Hudson

Choose your own autumn adventure in this state park near Hudson. The Burkhardt Trail begins along the Willow River and diverges into either a longer 3.5-mile scenic loop or 1-mile out and back path (the Pink Route) straight to the gorgeous Willow Falls, where a steep staircase lets you experience the natural majesty up close. Both paths guarantee crunchy fall leaves and exceptional views of the river gorge.

Timms Hill County Park – Ogema

Climb to the highest geological point in the state at almost 20,000 feet above sea level. Timms Hill County Park near Ogema offers a short but steep 0.4-mile hike to its observation tower that showcases an astounding 30-mile view of the Wisconsin Northwoods. To keep the adventure going, hop on a portion of the Ice Age Trail that runs through the park and make your fall hike one to remember.

Moderate to Difficult Hikes

Hiking At Devil's Lake

Want to enjoy the fall scenery while challenging yourself in a new way? Try these hikes to warm up in the crip autumn air.

East Bluff Trail at Devil’s Lake State Park – Baraboo

Devil’s Lake near Baraboo is known for its steep, beautiful bluffs and fall is the perfect time to experience them for yourself. The East Bluff trail is only 1.7 miles long but has a total elevation gain of 500 feet and the mountain views to prove it. Snap a photo of Elephant Rock on your way up and be sure to pack plenty of snacks for you and your crew.

Red and Yellow Trails at Rib Mountain State Park – Wausau

Visiting the billion-year-old rock formation in Rib Mountain State Park makes for a fall hiking trip unlike any other. For a longer hike through towering birch and maples, take the 4.4-mile long Yellow Trail. For a mix of scenery and access to a dramatic rock quarry, the Red Trail will be more your speed at 2.1 miles long. For maybe the best view of all, hop on the Granite Peak ski chairlift and feel the fall breeze on your face without breaking a sweat.

Big Manitou Falls and Manitou Falls Trail at Pattison State Park – Superior

Enjoy 2 waterfalls on one autumn hike at Pattison State Park, including Wisconsin’s highest waterfall. This 4.0-mile trail explores the hardwood forest along the Black River and allows on-leash dogs to keep you company along the way. It’s not far from the parking lot to reach Big Manitou Falls, which cascades 165 feet and is the state’s largest. From there, follow the trail upstream for a workout that will be rewarded with another gorgeous waterfall splashing into more fall splendor, Little Manitou Falls.

Difficult Hikes

Lace up your hiking shoes and make sure your water bottle is full before taking on these exhilarating trails with some steep inclines and narrow passages.

Perrot Ridge Trail at Perrot State Park – Trempealeau

This hike in this Perrot State Park along the Mississippi River starts calmly enough through low prairie before leading you steeply up to Perrot Ridge along the dramatic rock bluffs. The trail then leads through a river ravine that will have you surrounded with autumn colors unlike anywhere else.

St. Peter’s Dome and Morgan Falls – Marengo

These popular trails are located just west of Mellen. The first 0.6-mile stretch is flat and leads right to the 70-foot-high Morgan Falls. This section was reconstructed in 2002 with an accessible wooden boardwalk and bridge so that everyone can catch a glimpse of the majesty. For those who are looking for the more adventurous hike, stay on the trail for an additional 1.2 miles to head toward St. Peter’s Dome (known as “Old Baldy” to the locals). The trail becomes rugged with exposed rocks and steep climbs, and the view at the very end provides a breathtaking overlook of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.

Wildcat & Norway Pine Trails at Black River State Forest – Black River Falls

Combined, these trails in the Black River State Forest provide more than five miles of rugged hiking through a forest of kaleidoscopic jack pine, oak, aspen and maple. The system is shared with mountain bikers and the occasional elk and involves numerous hills and valleys, but you’re guaranteed to be rewarded with incredible fall color vistas.

To keep the fall fun going for as long as possible, check out these 11 Fall Camping Spots in Southern Wisconsin. 

Ready for your next autumn adventure? See real-time, local fall color conditions with Wisconsin's Fall Color Report.
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