Fall in Wisconsin sees trees turn vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow, electrifying the state and attracting visitors from far and wide. The maple, tamarack and oak trees start to show their autumnal colors at the end of September and into early October, and although the forests are a prime place to see them up close, the whole state is full of fall foliage. Ready for a look at the leaves? Here’s where’s best in the Midwest.
Leaf-peep at the Lake of the Clouds
Start an hour’s drive from the northern Wisconsin border, on Michigan’s Escarpment Trail, and you’ll find Lake of the Clouds to be as dreamy as it sounds. The views from the Porcupine Mountains down onto the lake are something you have to earn, but they’re worth the hike. During peak fall, the summit is often packed with people taking in the swathes of thick, multicolored woodland that photograph as well as you can imagine at this time of year.
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Worship the foliage at Holy Hill
Approximately 35mi (56km) northwest of Milwaukee are Holy Hill and the tree-shrouded National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, a renowned pilgrimage site for Catholics. It’s also a great place for leaf-peepers looking to find sanctuary in nature and the incredible architecture of the church itself. Climb the 178 steps in the observation tower to glimpse inspiring views of the colorful canopy, awash with fall tones. There are several picnic spots to make the most of your visit, but watch out for the wild turkeys.
Fall for Lake Geneva
In southeastern Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is an escape for many city-dwellers from across the Illinois border in Chicago, desperate to leave the stress of urban life behind them. In fall, this town is as busy as ever, and you can enjoy hiking along the 26mi (42km) Geneva Lake Shore Path. Take in the views across the lake as the trees transform, ticking off Gilded Age mansions as you go. Afterwards, head to Studio Winery, a great place for live music and locally grown blends from the small on-site vineyard and Stevens Point area.
Seek autumn calm in High Cliff State Park
High Cliff State Park lies on the eastern banks of Lake Winnebago in east Wisconsin. With less footfall than other state parks in the region, it’s possible to appreciate the glowing red maples in relative seclusion at this time of year. The titular cliffs are worth climbing for great views across the trees, but if you prefer a stroll rather than a hike, the popular Butterfly Pond Trail is an easy walk.
Time travel at Rib Mountain State Park
Near the city of Wausau, which straddles the Wisconsin River, Rib Mountain State Park is home to the tallest hill in the state and 1,600 acres (647ha) of outstanding fall colors come October. Once you hike to its highest point, you’ll find a 60ft (18m) observation tower for taking in the scenery. As it’s around 2bn years old, you won’t be the first to have climbed the hill, but knowing you’re standing on one of the oldest rocks on Earth adds fresh perspective for everyone who makes the ascent.
Spy the canopy at Lakeside Park Lighthouse
The Lakeside Park Lighthouse, on the southern banks of Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, is a lauded landmark in these parts. Its location lets you admire the fiery colors of fall as summer comes to an end, and you can climb the wooden staircase to watch it happen across the lake. The park itself is brimming with trees, shifting their chameleon-like colors and swaying in the breeze. Go here at dusk: it’s a great place to catch the sunset.
Inspired to visit Lake Geneva? Find one of its best cheap hotels, or one of its best pet-friendly hotels, bookable on Culture Trip. And for even more to do in Wisconsin, check out the state’s must-visit historic sites.
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