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Even before I left for my trip to visit home I had a giant list of posts I wanted to write, including this one. think the midwest is an underrated fall destination and II wanted to find the best places to see fall foliage in Eau Claire.
Sure, I grew up there and knew a lot of the spots but I never went to them to see the leaves specifically and that was my mission this time. And I made it to all but two places on this list while I was there!
I’ve been to all but two of them though, Hoffman Hills was in the fall, just a long time ago (back in college) and the Top of the World at Mt. Simon was even before that but in the summer. I couldn’t not include them though.
I’ve technically been to Beaver Creek but it was for school and mostly in the building part, not the trails. Lowes Creek is the only one I haven’t been to but it’s on the top of my list for next time.
I’ve included a few specific hikes, hiking areas, and city parks for a variety of leaf peeping places in Eau Claire to choose from. I’ve kept it in the Chippewa Valley but if you’re willing to drive a little further, Interstate State Park, Devils Lake State Park, and Willow River State Park are all really great places to see fall colors in Wisconsin, too.
Eau Claire, WI hotels
Would it be a list of places to see fall colors in Eau Claire without Dells Mill? Yes but it’s a must-see. This stop is actually in Augusta, which I’m not sure if it counts as the Chippewa Valley, but it’s a good little stop.
This is free to visit but they ask for donations from photographers since it’s very popular for that. There’s also a little store in the old mill but it’s not a regular store. It’s kind of like an antique store but more chaotic.
Dells Mill is a nice quick stop and just around the corner is a short walk to see it from across the pond. From the mill parking area, turn left when you leave then take the next left. Not far down that road you’ll see a wood sign on the let and there’s a small path to the pond shore.
Actual time spent here was no more than 30 minutes but you’ll probably need 1.5 hours for this including the drive from Eau Claire which is about 30 minutes each way.
Lowes Creek is popular for mountain biking but is great for hiking, too. It has over eight miles of trails that are perfect if you want to do a lot of hiking. It’s a moderate trail with 328 feet of elevation gain.
If you want a hike in the woods, look no further. This is the only place on my list I’ve never been, even when I was younger, but it’s at the top of my list to see the next time I’m home.
Carson Park is a great place to enjoy fall colors in Eau Claire because there are so many spots to choose from. There is the playground/stadium area, the little train area, the Brauns Bay Pavilion, the museum, and all kinds of benches along the park roads.
Plus there are some sculptures in the park that are part of the DIY sculpture tour around downtown Eau Claire! And they were actually some of my favorite sculptures that we stopped at. You can always pop into the museum while you’re here enjoying the foliage.
Boyd Park footbridge
I’m including the footbridge at Boyd and the S bridge closer to the library in one place. It would be a wonderful walk from one to the other so you could enjoy the colors from each bridge and along the bike trail.
I absolutely love this area (I may be biased since I spent so much time here growing up) but it really is beautiful. If you’re short on time, you can just stop at one bridge, or both and just drive between them.
Either way, it’s one of. my favorite places to enjoy fall foliage in Eau Claire and you get sweeping views of the trees along the river.
While you’re at Boyd, you can also hike the Boyd Trail to Archery Park!. This is a short trail, just 1-1.5 miles round trip and could easily be combined with the footbridges.
This is an easy trail right in town and perfect if you want to be immersed in the trees instead of looking out at a big view, though you can follow it up with a great view from the bridge.
In the last 13 years River Prairie has popped off. Back in high school (the 13 years) I would go wander through the woods here on some random trails with a couple of my friends. Then iit started to get cleared out a liittle bit.
Then it cleared out a lot. And I left then I came home and it had a few businesses and now it’s practically a village. It has a some restaurants, a coffee shop, some businesses, apartments, a park area, musical trolls, and a paved trail along the river!
This is a wonderful place to enjoy the leaves changing in Eau Claire and after taking a stroll on the easy paved trail, you can enjoy lunch and a coffee!
Town of Union Conservancy
The Town of Union Conservancy is a newly opened hiking area just outside of Eau Claire. AllTrails has a two mile loop on there but there are few iinner trails that are different lengths.
There isn’t tons of information on this since it’s so new and it’s a place I want to go back to so I can write more about it. Either way, this is a great place to enjoy the changing leaves in Eau Claire with a wander through the woods and a beautiful view of the Chippewa River.
I don’t know what it’s like during the day, but we were here right at sunset and one part of the trail was so buggy, it was not great. But I liked the other parts and it was sort of well-marked.
My favorite Eau Claire shops and restaurants
Next up is The Castle in Elk Mound. This is a short drive from Eau Claire on I94 and you can even see The Castle from the interstate over on the hill. You can drive right up to it and climb up to enjoy the view of the surrounding area.
We caught this past peak so a lot of the trees were bare but it was still a great view. There are a lot of farms around here so it’s not just a sea of trees but it would make a great side stop on your way to Hoffman Hills.
You might be able to hike up here but I haven’t done that and I don’t know distance, difficulty, or where the trail would be, though it does look like there might be one on the right before the turn to drive up. If you’ve done this, let me know how it is/what it’s like!
Hoffman Hills is between Eau Claire and Menomonie and have over nine miles of hiking trails and a 60-foot observation tower for prime fall foliage viewing.
There are hiking trails for all levels and the climb to the top of the observation tower is definitely worth it. We were there past peak (as you can see) but just imagine that when the trees still have their leaves? Beautiful! If you like snowshoeing, this is a great place for that, too.
Another new-ish hiking area in Eau Claire is Centennial Park, home to the Otter Creek Trails. The outer loop is a little over two miles but there are a lot of interconnecting trails to make the hike longer or shorter.
This is a great place to enjoy the leaves changing in Eau Claire where you can be immersed in the trees and relax on the shores of Otter Creek (if you can find a good spot for that.)
Another great place to enjoy fall foliage in the Chippewa Valley is Big Falls, a county park a short drive from town. There is a short walk from the parking area to the falls then you can walk along the shore to get closer to them.
You can access both sides of the river (north and south) but we just went to the south side. There are some nice beaches here which would be great for a picnic lunch while you enjoy the leaves.
In the heart of downtown you’ll find Phoenix Park, a great place to enjoy fall colors in Eau Claire without having to hike. You can walk through the park and over the footbridge for a different view of the river.
And throughout the park and area near the Pablo Center you can see some of the sculptures that are part of the sculpture tour. Thanks to it’s proximity to downtown, it makes a great addition to an afternoon perusing shops.
Top of the World
Over at Mt. Simon you can spend an afternoon frolfing (frisbee golfing) then hiking up to the Top of the World. The view from the top is wonderful (pictured above) and definitely worth the hike.
I honestly have no idea how long the trail is, but I do remember it’s a little steep. When you get to the parking area, go as far back as you can and the trail is at the end of the parking lot. I feel like it’s easy to find but I haven’t been there in probably 13 years?
I do know it’s not a terribly long hike, I would guess less than two miles roundtrip. There may be other hiking trails here as well, but I couldn’t really find much about this other than this.
Rod and Gun Park
Another park perfect for a relaxing visit and minimal walking is Rod and Gun, not far from Carson Park. Really, it’s just across from Brauns Bay Pavillion.
There is no fee for the park and it’s popular for portraits thanks to it’s scenery. It has some playground equipment, picnic areas, dirt paths, a little pond and water features, all with beautiful colors in the fall.
Beaver Creek Preserve was a popular field trip destination in elementary and middle school and I know I’ve been on some of the trails here but my main memories of it are in the building and the beaver display you get to walk through.
But, they do have trails which are wonderful for enjoying the fall foliage! AllTrails says the blue and orange trails are 2.2 easy miles through the woods.
I would like to go back and hike this next time I’m home so I actually know what it’s like. It’s also great for snowshoeing if you want to come back in the winter.
Eau Claire, WI Books
- Wisconsin Legends & Lore
- Storied & Scandalous Wisconsin: A History of Mischief and Menace, Heroes and Heartbreak
- Little Faith
- Beneath the Bonfire: Stories
- Shotgun Lovesongs
- The Jesus Cow
- Best Tent Camping: Wisconsin: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization
- Monsters of Wisconsin: Mysterious Creatures in the Badger State
- Moon Wisconsin: Lakeside Getaways, Scenic Drives, Outdoor Recreation
- Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History
- A Dog Lover’s Guide to Hiking Wisconsin’s State Parks
- The Wisconsin Supper Clubs Story: An Illustrated History, with Relish
- Haunted Wisconsin: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Badger State
Have you been to any of these places? Which ones? What is your favorite place to enjoy fall foliage in Eau Claire?