9 day trip destinations to see the best fall foliage

In Dane County, fall foliage hit its peak on Oct. 11, according to the 2021 Foliage Prediction Map. But some counties up north have already started to peak, with more to come soon.
Colorful views of fall foliage at Devil's Lake State Park
Photo by Gaby Vinick
See the changing fall foliage, with colorful bursts of red, yellow and orange leaves at Devil's Lake State Park.

Leaves are finally trading their green chlorophyll layers for shades of red, orange and yellow. In Dane County, fall foliage hit its peak on Oct. 11, according to the 2021 Foliage Prediction Map. But some counties up north have already started to peak, with more to come soon.

With school back in session, apple-picking at its peak and football season in full swing, there is no better time to plan your scenic fall colors road trip. This season, get a hike in, explore woodlands and take in the breathtaking fall foliage around Wisconsin:

Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo
Is it any surprise Devil’s Lake is on the list? Wisconsin’s most visited state park is only getting bigger after the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board authorized a 220-acre land purchase in June. Its brilliant, saffron-colored leaves shine on the sparkling water. Venture out on a hike and find a good vantage point. On your drive there, make a pit stop in DeForest to snap a shot with Pinkie the Pink Elephant, a fun tourist attraction. S5795 Park Road, Baraboo, 608-356-8301, dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/devilslake

Cave Point County Park, Door County
Door County is a huge tourist destination for people near and far in Wisconsin. Since officials say Cave Point County Park is “perhaps the most iconic natural landscape,” it’s worth the trek up northeast. Take the three-mile path along the Black Trail, which loops around Bailey’s Harbor. As Lake Michigan water crashes against the shoreline, enjoy colorful views of birch, maple and beech trees. While experts say the trail is easy (beginners, don’t worry), it never hurts to wear hiking boots. 5360 Schauer Road, Sturgeon Bay, 920-823-2400, co.door.wi.gov/554/Cave-Point-County-Park

RELATED: 7 Great Fall Hiking Spots Near Madison

Potawatomi State Park, Door County
Before you snap a shot of the beech, sugar maple and basswood tree leaves, journey through the Tower Trail for the best views at the top of the Old Ski Hill. While the observation tower is closed, the hill remains one of the best spots to experience all that this changing season can offer. 3740 Park Drive, Sturgeon Bay, 920-746-2890, dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/potawatomi 

Sheboygan Broughton Marsh Park, Elkhart Lake
Right in the heart of Sheboygan County and two hours north of Milwaukee, this northeastern lake boasts stunning landscapes. Beyond its rustling leaves and clear waters, Elkhart’s rich history also attracts visitors. First named the Great Heart Lake by the Potawatomi Indians, inspired by its shape of an elk’s heart, the village holds a reputation as the “legendary getaway since 1894.” The Potawatomi also believed the water — which is more than 100 feet deep — had curing qualities, according to village stories. Spend a weekend touring the village, play a round of golf at the Quit Qui Oc Golf Course or travel through the 30-acre Broughton Sheboygan Marsh Park. There, find campsites, playgrounds and opportunities to rent a rowboat, canoe or fish. Encircling the glassy waters are groves of trees resplendent with color. Hike along the Ice Age National Trail and take in the auburn- and golden-hued leaves glistening above the hills. Finally, stand atop the state’s tallest tower, which is 80 feet high, for panoramic views. W7039 County Road Sr – Elkhart Lake, bit.ly/3BNQW7X

Kettle Moraine State Forest and Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

Kettle MoraineSome things just never change. The same geologic features, illustrious glaciers, lakes and rolling hills that entranced inspectors surveying the land in 1946 still capture hearts today. Kettle Moraine State Forest is divided into northern and southern units, connected by the Ice Age Trail and surrounded with lakes, bogs and wetlands. There is plenty of room for exploration in this state forest that covers more than 22,000 acres. See the eskers, moraines, kettles and kames on a day hike or camp out at any of its 350-plus sites. 877-355-4278, elkhartlake.com 

Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo
Bike around Mirror Lake, which sits three miles outside of Wisconsin Dells. Traversing any one of its 14 trails — more than 19 miles total, some long and others short — is sure to be a joyride. In Badgers gameday spirit, enjoy views of red and white pines and black oaks from the ground, or, better yet, from the water atop a standup paddleboard. E10320 Fern Dell Road, Baraboo, 608-254-2333, dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/mirrorlake 

RELATED: Hiking the paths less traveled near Madison

Governor Dodge State Park, Dodgeville
Governer Dodge 3
Begin your journey chasing the waterfall at Stephens’ Falls, which connects to a pool and the three-mile Lost Canyon Trail. There, you can take a brisk walk to the beat of the leaves crunching beneath your feet and discover bountiful rock formations, adorned with ravines. Camp out at the Cox Hollow Lake campground or try a steeper, more difficult climb at the Pine Cliff Trail. 4175 WI-23, Dodgeville, 608-935-2315, dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/govdodge 

Lakeside Park Lighthouse, Fond du Lac
Another idyllic leaf-peeping spot, the historic Lakeside Park Lighthouse offers gorgeous views of the changing foliage and Lake Winnebago. Constructed during the Great Depression, it holds special meaning as a symbol of pride in the surrounding community. Lighthouse Drive, Fond du Lac, 920-923-3010, lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=578 

Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau
Scores of Wisconsinites flock to Rib Mountain State Park, the third-highest point in Wisconsin. For the best views of the maple tree leaves, take a Granite Peak chairlift ride up to the top of the mountain. 2324-3252 State Park Road, Wausau, 715-842-2522, dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/ribmt 

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