Your guide to Wisconsin’s best fall color secrets

Be amazed

Three events worth the road trip

It’s no secret that Wisconsin is one of the best places to take in fall colors but there are some spots that many travelers miss. These are places where you can take in better fall beauty while avoiding the crowds that flock to other fall sights. Here are three best bets for enjoying the best beauty – and the best serenity – of the Wisconsin fall season.

Rustic Roads

Wisconsin’s designated Rustic Roads are always good bets for discovering fall color – you can find them in 59 counties and they all are scenic and lightly traveled. Two of the best for a fall color drive can be found in the northern part of the state. In Northwestern Wisconsin Rustic Road #114 will take you deep into the Blue Hills of Rusk County. This area is the remnants of a mountain range older than the Rockies. The reason for the name is immediately apparent to anyone who travels into the area. When you drive into the area in the morning, you can see the hills receding into the distance in various shades of blue.

In the Northern Wisconsin community of Sayner-Star Lake, you’ll find a historic road that will take you through a canopy of massive hardwoods. Rustic Road #60 passes near old logging camps and a saw mill. The road twists and turns; according to one local legend, the bends in the roads are intentional, added long ago to help catch runaway horses. Whether or not that tale is true, the curves add some scenic twists to this picturesque fall color drive.

Wisconsin River Cruises

In Rhinelander, the Wilderness Queen takes passengers on breathtaking color cruises on the Wisconsin River. It’s a unique and relaxing way to celebrate the season. Take in the fall color spectacle as you float past dense hardwood forests teeming with wildlife. The colors are spectacular and so is the wildlife; bald eagles are frequently sighted from the Queen’s spacious deck.

Wild areas

Just north of West Bend, you’ve find a beautiful area sculpted by glaciers. The Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is just 45 minutes northwest of Milwaukee. Here you can hike into a fall wonderland. The area was formed by glaciers which changed the landscape, adding kettles and eskers, ridges and cliffs. This time of year, the hills take on shades of red and orange.

Explore the Parnell Tower Loop Trail, a 3.5-mile loop with a series of steps leading to the highest point in the forest. You can climb the 60-foot observation tower for a stunning view of the fall colors.

In northern Wisconsin, Vilas County is a destination for color seekers who like to explore by foot or bicycle. There are 240,000 acres of public land to explore as well as 60 designated multi-use trails. Download the free Map It Vilas County trails app to find scenic spots like Awassa Nature Preserve & Hiking Trail, a beautiful place to experience the wonder of the fall season.

In northern Vilas County, Land O’ Lakes is a place where adventures go beyond. Just outside of town, you’ll find trails that skirt wilderness lakes and heads into old-growth forest.



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