The radiance of autumn is upon us. Trees are bursting with red, orange, and yellow leaves. With the changing of seasons, it’s time to get outdoors and experience Mother Nature’s wonders. In my opinion, there’s no better place to take in the fall colors than the Northwoods.
While Door County is also exploding with wonderous fall foliage, there’s something about God’s Country that sets it apart from anywhere else in Northeast Wisconsin. Perhaps it’s the sense of isolation and lack of FIBs.
For me, there’s nothing quite like sitting next to a waterfall and watching a season in change. The solitude and beauty of Marinette County’s parks, rivers, and lakes is unmatched as the colors turn in late September and early October.
Take a drive and see the majestic changes for yourself. You may find your new favorite spot along your journey. If you’re not familiar with the territory, here are six can’t miss places I recommend for taking in the fall frondescence.
1. Caldron Falls, High Falls and the Peshtigo River
Anywhere near the water is a perfect spot to view the color wheel of fall. The vibrant hues reflected on the water add to the awe-inspiring beauty of autumn.
You can view the changing season from shore, but why not get in the water? After all, winter is just a few weeks away, and this might be your last chance to take in some canoeing or kayaking before the snow falls. So load up your vessel and drive on up to the Northwoods and check out one of these beautiful bodies of water for yourself.
The Peshtigo River links High Falls and Caldron Falls. However, because of hydroelectric dams, you’ll have to portage your watercraft if want to jump from one to the next. I recommend experiencing each individually, a day at a time.
If you’re viewing these waterways from shore, there are a number of hiking paths and areas for people of all abilities to enjoy the fall colors. And whatever you do, don’t forget your camera. Whether you’re a professional photographer or amateur shutterbug, you’ll find plenty of scenic locations for landscape shots. The vibrance of the leaves is also a nice compliment if you’re into portrait photography. I made my wife, Roxy, freeze to death while I took the photo of her in the gallery below.
2. Gov. Thompson State Park
Founded in 2000, Gov. Thompson State Park is 2,800 acres and features two small kettle lakes and 6.5 miles of shoreline along the Caldron Falls Reservoir.
The park has campsites and well-groomed hiking trails. It’s also pet friendly. Last fall, my wife and I took our dog, Franny, for a hike through the woods. It was our first visit to Gov. Thompson State Park and we weren’t disappointed. Even Franny was in awe of the fall colors. Look at that face!
Daily admission is $7, but I would recommend purchasing a state parks sticker for $25. Those are honored through Dec. 31. It’s always good to buy these stickers early in the year so you can get 12 months of enjoyment.
3. McClintock Park
The rest of the parks on this list also cost a small fee to get into. The daily fee is $3, but if you’re up for the week or frequent the Northwoods, a $12 Marinette County parks sticker is available.
McClintock Park has four bridges that span over the roaring rapids of the upper Peshtigo River. This park is 320 acres of pure beauty.
It’s also a great spot for a fall picnic and includes a 10-site rustic campground ($10 per site per night). And if you’re into four-wheeling, the campground has direct ATV trail access, so you can zip by those brilliant trees and experience a kaleidoscope of colors.
4. Goodman Park and Strong Falls
You may be asking yourself, “I’ve already been to one waterfall, will the drive really be worth it?” The answer is YES!
Goodman Park, located west of Athelstane, is a favorite of locals and those who have cabins Up North. The park is just a bit smaller than McClintock, but features huge boulders that make a great backdrop for your photos. The huge red pines at Goodman also add a bit of diversity if you’re on a fall scenery adventure. Plus, the bridge over Strong Falls lets you hear the roar of the rapids from right in the middle of the upper Peshtigo River.
Goodman Park has two lodges for day-use rental, a picnic area, playground, and hiking trail. There are also 15 no-electricity campground sites right on the river. Or if you’re looking for a bit more comfort, a rental cabin for overnight stays.
5. Veteran’s Memorial Park
Veteran’s Memorial Park is one of my favorite spring trout fishing spots. But it’s also a great location to scope out the fall foliage.
While the rapids aren’t as wild as McClintock or Goodman, Veteran’s Memorial Park is the perfect spot for a little self meditation as you’re hiking along the river.
I personally think it’s the best park Marinette County, perhaps because of the memories I’ve created there. Whether hooking a brook trout in early May with my father or watching my wife tiptoe on a log across the river, I have nothing but fondness for this park.
I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. And remember, if you buy a day pass for any of the Marinette County parks, you can hop from one to the next all for three bucks.
6. Thunder Mountain Overlook
Thunder Mountain is a place of lore in Marinette County. It’s home to the super private 3,300 acre Thunder Mountain Ranch which was founded by the Wrigley family (yes, the chewing gum people). While the ranch is surely glorious with its own airstrip, golf course, and restaurant. . . Thunder Mountain Overlook, which is accessible to the public, is place you can’t put a price tag on.
With three miles of scenic hiking and mountain biking trails of varying terrain, the Overlook offers a stupendous panoramic view of Marinette County in the fall.
I hope you enjoy the breathtaking view. Thunder Mountain will hopefully leave you at a loss for words.
If you get an opportunity to scope out the changing colors in the Northwoods this fall, please comment about your experience below. WhooNEW would love to know where you stopped to see Mother Nature in all of her glory. And if you have a photo you would like to share, we would love to see it posted on our Facebook wall.
Slideshow – Fall Colors in the Northwoods