My favorite time of the year is right now. Fall is my favorite season. The days are usually warm and the nights are cool. And, of course, in Wisconsin we get to enjoy the beautiful fall colors. If you want to enjoy fall colors earlier head up to northern Wisconsin in September. I’m sure some of the areas up north are close to their peak right now. You can’t beat the fall scenery in the northern part of our state, but we also have some great spots for color much closer to home.
October is the best time for enjoying fall colors in southern Wisconsin. The peak time is usually mid-October. This week’s column will highlight some of my favorite spots to take in these beautiful fall colors.
Walkers and bikers will enjoy the scenic Upper Yahara River Trail that stretches about three miles along the Yahara River in the DeForest/Windsor area. The trail head is located on Windsor Road near Conservancy Place. From there it crosses the river at various points and ends in DeForest near Sunnybrook Park and South Street. The trail is made up of a 10-foot wide porous asphalt path, along with some boardwalk crossings in wetland areas. Walk quietly and keep a sharp eye out for the many deer along this trail.
One of my favorite fall car rides is to drive to Lodi and the Gibraltar Park. Just a short ways north of Lodi just off Hwy. 113 you will find this popular spot. It’s just a short hike from the parking lot up to the overlook. Hikers will take the Ice Age Trail to reach Gibraltar. For more information: visit www.iceagetrail.org
After enjoying the beautiful views from Gibraltar, head to the Merrimac Ferry and a ride across Lake Wisconsin. From Merrimac you can enjoy a ride through the Baraboo Bluff area, including Devil’s Lake State Park.
Take the ferry back to Okee and travel Hwy. V along the Wisconsin River. Hwy. V ends at Hwy. 51. Take 51 south until you reach Hwy. CS at the north edge of Poynette. Turn left (east) on CS.
A few miles down the road you will come to the MacKenzie Center with hiking trails, wildlife zoo, picnic tables and beautiful fall scenery. For the best views climb the observation tower. The center is open everyday from 10 a.m.to 4 p.m. through October.
Some other southern Wisconsin areas that are well known for their fall colors are the northern Kettle Moraine area, the Driftless Region outside of Richland Center, and the many state and county parks in the southern part of our state.
A few years ago Molly and I were driving to a meeting at Richland Center. A road work detour took us off the main highway and through some of the most picturesque rural scenery that I have ever witnessed. I wish I could remember the roads that I travelled on that sunny October afternoon many years ago.
Fall colors are more dramatic from the top of a high hill. For many years I thought Rib Mountain was the highest peak in Wisconsin. Actually Rib Mountain is the third highest peak in the state. A few years ago we were talking with another couple from out of state in a hotel breakfast area. Every year they planned their vacations to climb the highest peak in each state. They told us that Wisconsin’s highest point was Timm’s Hill in Ogema at 1,951.5 feet above sea level. The second highest peak was Pearson Hill only a few miles away and is less than a foot shorter than Timms Hill. Rib Mountain is a measly 1,924 feet high. This area is not southern Wisconsin — it is about a three hour drive and 200 miles north of DeForest.
If you want to see some of the best fall colors that Wisconsin has to offer, I suggest you look at the October/November issue of Our Wisconsin magazine. You will see page after page of beautiful color pictures of fall colors from throughout the state. Wisconsin is beautiful in all seasons but this is especially true in the fall.