Hiking Willow River State Park And The Hill That Wouldn’t Quit

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While I was visiting home in October I knew I wanted to try and meet my Internet friend Susan from This Big Wild World.

And we did! We met up to go hiking at Willow Rover State Park in Hudson. I had no idea what to expect from the park, it was just on my Wisconsin bucket list and close to both of us.

We met up in the morning near the Nature Center and Little Falls Lake and headed off on the green trail.

This part wasn’t super exciting but it was beautiful seeing all the fall colors in the woods. It was a pretty cold and windy day at the start but warmed up later.

We continued on via the Willow Falls Trail (blue on the map) with occasional views of Little Falls Lake.

This part of the trail was nice but I liked the falls and the way back more I think. Eventually we made it to Willow Falls, arguably the highlight of the park.

It wasn’t terribly busy when we got to the waterfall which was nice. There were a few other people on the bridge and a couple on the rocky area below.

We decided to go down to the rocky part for another view. It wasn’t slippery but I’m sure it could be if it’s wet.

Next was the decision on whether or not we make the trek up to the observation deck. It didn’t take long to decide yes!

I can’t remember exactly how many stairs there were to get to the top but it was enough. It was cloudy when we started the hike but by now it was nice and sunny.

And also warming up quite a bit! There was a good number of people enjoying the views so after getting pictures and taking a break from the stairs, back down we went.

Instead of going back on the blue and green trails we decided to take the yellow trail. But to get there we had too take the gray trail, or as I call it, The Hill That Wouldn’t Quit.

This hill was steep and just felt like it was never ending! We trudged our way up before finally making it to the bench at the top to hydrate and commiserate with our fellow hikers.

We continued on down the yellow trail and saw the grave area of the first white settlers. It wasn’t terribly exciting.

The trail is a little more hilly on this side but not like The Hill That Wouldn’t Quit. I really liked the yellow trail, a lot more than the other side but that was still beautiful.

The leaves changing on this side were particularly beautiful! Eventually we got to a road which we briefly followed before meeting back up with the green trail.

Overall, it was a great morning hike and it was so fun getting to meet an Internet friend in real life and get to talk about blog stuff with someone who actually knows what I’m talking about!

I would definitely recommend visiting Willow River State Park if you’re in the Hudson, Stillwater, Eau Claire, or Minneapolis area.

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.

Where is Willow River State Park in Wisconsin?

If you’re looking for a state park near Stillwater, MN or a state park near Hudson, WI, Willow River is the park for you!

The park entrance is just 11 minutes from Hudson and 17 from Stillwater! The Nature Center is another 6 minutes into the park.

It’s in Wisconsin but very close to the Minnesota border making it easy too visit from the Twin Cities area, too.

I came from Eau Claire which was 1 hour and 4 minutes making it the perfect Eau Claire day trip.

Hiking at Willow River State Park

There are quite a few different hiking trails at Willow River State Park and it’s hard to go wrong when choosing one.

I won’t be including all of them here since some are small loops off of longer trails or sort of connecting trails. But I’ve got the main ones.

There are 13 miles of hiking trails and you can find a Willow River State Park map with those hiking trails here.

Distances are one way, as far as I can tell.

Little Falls Trail

This is a 0.7-mile paved trail from Little Falls Dam to the campground. We started on this at the Nature Center parking lot but didn’t go to the dam. It’s along Little Falls Lake.

Willow Falls Trail

There are two Willow Falls trails. One is 0.4 miles with the giant hill from the parking area close to the park entrance.

The other is from the campground where the Little Falls Trail ends and is one mile. This is partially along Little Falls Lake, through the woods, and along Willow River.

Pioneer Trail

This is a 1.2 mile wooded trail that takes you too the graves of the first white settlers and to an overlook of Willow Falls.

Knapweed Trail

The Knapweed Trail is a 1.1 mile trail that gets it’s name from the noxious invasive plant found here. It’s great for wildflower viewing in the summer.

Oak Ridge Trail (+ White Tail Trail)

The Oak Ridge Trail is 1.1 miles and the White Tail Trail is a 0.7 mile loop off of the Oak Ridge Trail.

The trails go through wooded hills and a field at the edge of the forest where deer can often be found.

Trout Brook Trail

This is an easy 1.4 mile trail along the lower Willow River and is pretty goood for spotting wildlife.

Burkhardt Trail

Depending on your route, this is 2-4 miles from the River Road parking lot. It follows the river bottom before going up to beautiful overlooks and down to Willow River Falls.

Nelson Farm Trail

This is a new 3.7 mile trail in the north half of the park. It has some step hills and passes through river bottom, wetlands, prairie areas, mature oak forest and old growth white pines before ending at a beautiful lake overlook.

Is hiking at Willow River in Wisconsin hard?

Mostly no but there is one hill that just would not stop. If you park at the Willow Falls parking lot, you’ll have too take this hill to the falls.

It can be avoided if you start at the Nature Center and hike along the river there and back.

Aside from that hill the hiking at Willow River State Park was nice and easy through the woods.

Is visiting Willow River State Park in Wisconsin worth it?

Yes! I loved this state park and it was even horribly busy in the fall, especially starting at the Nature Center.

It was busier on the trail from the Willow Falls parking lot and at the falls themselves.

Willow River State Park camping

There are three campgrounds in Willow River State Park: 300 Campground, 200 Campground, and 100 Campground.

300 has 70 sites for tents, trailers, and motor homes and has flush toilets and showers.

200 has 30 sites with flush and vault toilets. The 100 has 50 sites for tents to the biggest RVs, but almost no shade as the trees are young.

You can reserve sites here.

What is the waterfall in Willow River State Park called?

It’s pretty easy to remember, it’s just Willow Falls! The park itself and the falls get their name from the river flowing through the park: Willow River.

Sometimes it’s called Willow River Falls, too.

Are dogs allowed at Willow River State Park?

Yes! Willow River State Park is dog-friendly but they must be kept on a leash no longer then 6 ft at all times. And clean up after them.

Have you visited Willow River State Park in Wisconsin? What did you think of it? Do you want to go?

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