Where to See Fall Foliage in Wisconsin

Rib Mountain State Park is an excellent spot to take in Wisconsin’s autumnal colors
Rib Mountain State Park is an excellent spot to take in Wisconsin’s autumnal colors | © Spring Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mike Title
2 October 2020

When fall comes to Wisconsin, trees start to turn various shades of red, orange and yellow, electrifying the region, and all kinds of activities take place, attracting people from near and far. The maple, tamarack and oak trees in the forests, Milwaukee and smaller towns start to show their autumnal colors at the end of September or early October. Here, Culture Trip picks the best places to see fall foliage in the Badger State.

Lake of the Clouds

Natural Feature
Map View

On the famous Escarpment Trail in Michigan (about an hour’s drive from the northern Wisconsin border), Lake of the Clouds is as dreamy as it sounds. The views from the Porcupine Mountains down onto the lake are something you have to earn, but they’re well worth the hike. During peak fall, the summit is often packed with people wanting to take in the swathes of thick multicolored woodland that photographs as well as you can imagine at this time of year.

Holy Hill, Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians

Natural Feature
Map View

Approximately 35mi (56km) northwest of Milwaukee is where you’ll find Holy Hill, Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, which is a renowned pilgrimage site for Catholics. It’s also a great place for leaf peepers looking to find peace in nature’s beauty and the incredible architecture of the church itself. By climbing the 178 steps in the observation tower, you’ll see inspiring views of the land, awash with fall colors. There are several picnic areas to make the most of your visit, but watch out for those wild turkeys.

Lake Geneva

Natural Feature
Map View
Geneva Lake, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
© Clint Farlinger / Alamy Stock Photo

Near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, about 80mi (129km) northwest of Chicago, Lake Geneva is an escape for many big-city residents who need to leave the stresses of urban life behind them. In fall, this eager town is as busy as ever, and you can enjoy walking along the 26mi (42km) Lake Geneva Shore Path. Taking in the views across the lake as the trees transform is a welcoming way to bring in the change of seasons. The Studio Winery is well worth a visit for its arts, live music and, of course, a drop or two of local vino.

High Cliff State Park

Park
Map View

High Cliff State Park lies on the east banks of Lake Winnebago in northeast Wisconsin. With less footfall than other state parks in the region, it’s possible to appreciate the glowing-red maples with a freedom that is most welcome at this time of year. The high cliffs are worth a climb 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. However, you can seek out trails of all levels of difficulty.

Rib Mountain State Park

Park
Map View
Near Wausau, Rib Mountain State Park is home to the tallest hill in Wisconsin and 1,600 acres (647ha) of outstanding fall colors come October when the season is in full swing. Once you hike to its highest point, you’ll find a 60ft (18m) observation tower, from which you can stare out across the scenery. Being around 2bn years old, you will not be the first to have climbed the hill, but knowing that you are standing on one of the oldest rocks on Earth will add some extra spice to your day.

Lakeside Park Lighthouse

Architectural Landmark
Map View

The Lakeside Park Lighthouse, on the southern banks of Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, is a famous landmark in these parts. Its location provides a perfect way to spend the day admiring the fiery colors of fall as summer finally comes to an end. If you climb the wooden staircase to the top, you’ll see remarkable views across the lake. The park itself is brimming with trees shedding their leaves, swaying in autumnal color. It’s also a great place to admire the sunset.

These recommendations were updated on October 2, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.