Wisconsin's countryside bursts into a glorious blaze of crimson, orange and gold every fall. While you can drink in this colorful palette from the comfort of your car, the most incredible views are often found at the tops of observation towers or bluffs within our state parks. Sure, you may have to work a little to get there. But the sprawling vistas you'll enjoy will be worth every drop of sweat. Here are four not-to-be missed overlooks.
Blue Mound, in the village of Blue Mounds, sits on the tallest hill in southern Wisconsin in the state's Driftless Area. Untouched by the last glacier, this region is known for its towering bluffs and narrow valleys. There are two 40-foot observation towers in the park, on its east and west ends. Both are a short walk from parking areas.
The towers showcase dramatic views of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Baraboo Bluffs and rolling countryside. Instagram lovers will appreciate the selfie stand on the east tower (share photos with the #ScenicWisconsin hashtag). If you'd prefer not to climb the towers, head to the north side of the park's picnic area, where "windows" are cut through the trees to offer lower-level, yet still impressive, views.
Copper Falls, two miles northeast of Mellen, is known for its thundering cascades and waterfalls, formed by the Bad River. Nearly nine miles of fast-flowing water course through the park, forming Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls and Red Granite Falls, with the first two being the showstoppers at about 30 feet. Adding to the drama are canyon walls soaring 60 to 100 feet skyward.
Begin your exploration on the 1.7-mile Doughboys Nature Trail, which winds around the heart of the park to lead you past Copper and Brownstone Falls. Set observation points make it easy to find the best views. There's a selfie stand here, too; share your photos on Instagram (#ScenicWisconsin). At the south end of the park, the 2.5-mile Red Granite Falls Trail winds past the park's third waterfall.
The 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail snakes through the park, too, piggybacking on the Doughboys Nature Trail at one point.
Interstate is Wisconsin's oldest state park, opened in 1900 in St. Croix Falls. The park is perched next to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and lures visitors with picturesque views of the river and the Dalles of the St. Croix, a steep, narrow gorge.
To reach the observation deck overlooking the river and gorge, head out on the .4-mile Pothole Trail, a loop path. As you hike in, watch for the ancient potholes, which are smooth, round holes in the bedrock formed by glacial meltwaters. After drinking in the rocky vista, snap some photos via the selfie stand. A large boulder marks this spot as the western terminus of the 1,150-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Loads of people travel to Wisconsin's peninsular Door County to enjoy spectacular fall color. But not everyone knows to head to Whitefish Dunes State Park on the peninsula's less-popular eastern coast. Here, the 2.8-mile Red Trail leads you to Old Baldy, the tallest sand dune in the park (and state!).
Climb up the dune, which stretches 93 feet above the water, and then to the observation platform. From here, you'll be treated to sweeping views of Lake Michigan and Clark Lake. Back on the ground, you've got more than a dozen additional miles of trail to explore, plus an expansive sandy beach.
Keep on exploring with these 15 Fall Color Hikes, From Easy to Difficult!