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Look no further for the best hikes in Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley!
I don’t want to say I’m an Eau Claire hiking pro, because I’m definitely not, but I did spend my fair share of time wandering through the woods back in the day.
I spent a ton of time on the Boyd Trail when I was in high school (sorry mother) then in college I went to Hoffman Hills a few times, biked so much of the Chippewa River Trail, almost fell into the Devils punchbowl but still went back, and spent a lot of time walking the Red Cedar State Trail and the woods around it.
I went to the Top of the World, walked around Beaver Creek when I was younger on field trips, and scrambled through the River Prairie Woods before it became what it is today.
Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential.
Booking.com – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.
So all of my hiking was done without seeing it as hiking, but more of just wandering through the woods. And now there is even more hiking in the Eau Claire area that I did for the first time this year and want to go back to do next time I’m home.
I haven’t done everything on this list, but I have hiked at least some of most of them. Like, the Putnam Trail. I know I’ve been on here but I was probably ten at the time so I don’t really know if it counts because it was for family pictures, not a walk.
But the Northwest Community Loop, Lowes Creek, Lake Wissota, and the River Prairie Loop are three I definitely haven’t done at all but are at the top of my list for the next time I’m home.
This is a mix of woodsy hiking trails an paved trails for walking and/or biking. These trails are definitely some of the best things to do in Eau Claire.
Eau Claire isn’t a top hiking destination but there are plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy nature both right in town, on the edge of town, and a short drive away.
I would say everything on this list is pretty easy. Elevation gain is closer to Florida levels than Utah levels, which is nice and the only one that might be difficult is Lowes Creek, but only if you hike the entire 8+ miles. Hopefully you’ll be able to find a hike in Eau Claire for you in here and I’d love to hear any other suggestions you might have!
Best Hiking Trails In Eau Claire, WI
There are a lot of great places to go hiking in Eau Claire, WI, some new and some old. It’s a great place to experience the Midwest woods, especially in the fall.
Hoffman Hills is home to nine miles of hiking trails and a 60-foot observation tower. It’s between Menomonie and Eau Claire and would be great to visit at the same time as the Devil’s Punchbowl.
This would be a particularly great hike to do in the fall because you would get a great view of all the fall colors from the observation tower. I’ve been here a few times and always enjoyed it. I’d like to go back again next time I’m home.
The trails range in difficulty levels but none of them are extremely difficult. The hardest one just has a pretty solid hill but it’s usually the route I take to get to the tower.
Lake Wissota State Park
Ok, this is one that I may have been to when I was younger and just don’t know it, but Lake Wissota State Park is outside of Chippewa Falls and would be a great thing to do before winding down at Leinie Lodge (the Leinenkugels Brewer, if you like beer/breweries.)
There are seven miles of trails in the park for both hiking and biking. There are also nine miles of horse/bike trails in the park and you can canoe/kayak on the lake if you prefer that.
Finally, there are 18 miles of trails just for hiking. Some of these might be included in the biking part, but either way, there are more than the seven miles for just hiking.
And even better, pets are allowed as long as. they’re kept on an 8 foot (or less) leash and you clean up after them.
I love this trail and hike this almost every time I’m home. It’s short but sweet and it’s got a Geocache or two nearby. It’s about two miles round trip and pretty easy.
The most difficult part of it is that the trail itself can be a little uneven and a little slippery with leaves on the ground.
You could easily do this then hike part of the Chippewa River State Trail. It’s a great little combination and if you want to walk around downtown, this is a nice way to get there if you don’t mind a little extra walking. Even just a walk to Ramones for ice cream would be really nice.
Otter Creek Trails
I think the Otter Creek Trails at Centennial Park in Altoona are fairly new. The signs and the park all look new and I hadn’t heard of it even though it’s not far from home.
The outer loop is about two miles but there are inner trails that all connect so you could hike more or less depending on your mood and preferences.
It’s a mostly quiet trail where leashed dogs are allowed but once you get further back where it starts to loop around you can hear some traffic from the 53 Bypass but it didn’t bother me too much.
Devil’s Punchbowl is a short drive from Menomonie and not a major hiking but it is a cool little trail.
I’ve been here a few times but only have pictures from my winter visit. It’s beautiful any time of year, just be careful in the winter. I almost fell in once.
From the parking area you do have to go down some steps to get into the bowl and then you can kind of wander around down there. The main attraction is the sort of waterfall (pictured) which is to the right. It’s hard to miss.
I remember there was a fence to the left on your way down, just like, a wire one, but you may be able to wander over that way, I’m not sure (let me know if you know!). Even without a lot of hiking, I’d still recommend seeing the punchbowl.
Lowes Creek is on the southeast edge of Eau Claire and is home to 8.2 miles of hiking/biking trails. Across all 8.2 miles there is just 327 feet of elevation gain so it’s not too tough.
I have wanted to hike here, even just part of it, for years and I still haven’t. This is a great place for hiking in Eau Claire if you’re looking for a woodsy hike that isn’t right in the middle of town, and want something a little quieter.
Like Lowes Creek, Beaver Creek is a great place to hike close to town that isn’t right in town so it’s quieter. I have been here but it was always for field trips in school. I know I’ve been on the trails but it was probably 15+ years ago.
The blue and orange trails (according to AllTrails) is just over two miles and pretty easy. However, there are quite a few other short trails on the north and south Campuses (right by each other, you don’t need to drive anywhere else) for more hiking opportunities.
You can even hike to Big Falls from here, less than a mile away! Seeing all the different (if short) trails makes me want to go there even more next time I’m home. This is a great area for cross country skiing in the winter, too!
Town of Union Conservancy
Another great place for hiking in Eau Claire, technically on the edge of it, it the new Town of Union Conservancy!
We didn’t get to hike here as much as I wanted because it was too close to sunset (we couldn’t find it, don’t listen to AllTrails) but I liked what we did see.
There is a beautiful river view and cozy little wooded trails that are (mostly) well marked. We hiked a little over a mile but there is quite a bit more that we didn’t get to see.
One trail does say it’s very difficult but the others seem to be on the easier side. I will definitely be going back earlier in the day to do a lot more hiking here. And I want to see how difficult that difficult trail actually is.
My favorite Eau Claire shops and restaurants
Northwest Community Park Loop
The Northwest Community Park is not a park I had heard of until my visit home in October. It’s on the opposite side of the Chippewa River from Riverview Park. it has about six miles of trails all interconnected.
This sounds like a popular biking trail so watch out for that if you’re jut hiking. It also sounds like it’s not super well marked but I’ll update this a little better once I get to do it next time I’m home.
It has 423 feet of elevation gain and is right in town along the river. It would be beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing, too.
The Putnam Trail is right downtown and another one right by a river. It’s near the UWEC campus and can take you through neighborhoods in the area. It does have some stairs but isn’t too busy.
It’s just 1.3 miles round trip with only 65 feet of elevation gain, so it’s nice and easy. There are some little side trails to explore but most of them don’t really go anywhere.
Red Cedar Trail
The Red Cedar State Trail is a 15-mile paved bike trail connecting Menomonie to the Chippewa River State Trail near Dunnville. Even if you’re not biking, it’s a great easy trail for walking.
In college I spent a lot of time walking the Red Cedar trail and wandering the woods and country woods around it. It’s a beautiful trail, especially in the fall, and a lot of it is along the Red Cedar River.
Chippewa River State Trail
The Chippewa River State Trail is 38 miles and goes from Lake Hallie to Durand! I didn’t realize it started that far out of Eau Claire or that it went all the way to Durand!
I always wanted to bike to Menomonie on here but never actually made it, which isn’t surprising because that would have been like 60 miles round-trip.
But, I did spend tons of time on this trail between Boyd Park and Carson Park and I love it. It also takes you through Phoenix Park if you want to visit downtown, too. I primarily use it for biking but I do enjoy walking on here between Boyd and downtown.
River Prairie Trails
I hiked a lot at River Prairie while it was still woods and not developed at all. I’ve been back but not to hike in the trails. There are three miles of easy, paved trails here.
Most of it is through residential/business areas but there is a section along the river, which is nice. It’s beautiful in the fall and it would be nice to even just do the river portion followed by a coffee or dinner nearby. Be sure to stop by and see the singing trolls next to Cowboy Jack’s!
Big Falls County Park
Big Falls is probably technically a waterfall but don’t expect something like out in North Carolina at this stop. Another stop along a river, Big Falls is a great short hike, more of a walk, outside of town, near Beaver Creek.
From the parking area there is a short paved walk to the shore where you can continue on closer to the falls. I would say the whole thing was no more than a mile round-trip.
There are some beaches here and some swimming spots but I would be cautious swimming, especially if the water is high.
The current can be strong. It’s still a great little place to visit and get your feet wet though while enjoying the outdoors and doing a little walking.
Top of the World
You can find the Top of the World over at Mt. Simon where you can spend an afternoon frolfing (frisbee golfing) before hiking up for sunset. 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 so I couldn’t say for sure.
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.
What to bring hiking in Eau Claire
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.
Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.
Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case.
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Eau Claire, WI hotels
The Lismore – Check out this fancy new hotel in downtown Eau Claire! They have a cool coffee shop and restaurant right there on-site.
The Oxbow – If you’re looking for a charming boutique hotel in downtown Eau Claire, this is the spot for you. It’s slightly tucked away from the main downtown street, but you can easily walk there in no time.
Econolodge – Need a reliable option close to the mall? This chain hotel is conveniently located right off the Interstate, a bit closer to the mall than downtown.
Residence Inn – You’ll find this hotel off Highway 53 on the northeast side of Eau Claire. It might be a bit out of the way, but it still looks pretty nice!
Candlewood Suites – Want a great hotel on the southeast side of Eau Claire? This one’s a winner! It’s right off the Interstate, near the mall, and away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Definitely worth considering!
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Have you done any of these hikes? Which ones? Are there any other hikes in Eau Claire (or nearby) that I should check out?