Last week I was assigned to hike some of the hidden trails in Eau Claire with two of my Visit Eau Claire co-workers, Berit Breed and MacKayla John. I took the liberty of changing it from “Hidden Trails” to “Hidden Gems” in my blog title because it seemed fitting.

Before we embarked on this journey, we needed sustenance, of course. So we grabbed lunch at the Dogg Haus on Water Street. This place sells build your own AND specialty hot dogs. The toppings range from your typical ketchup and mustard all the way to salsa and barbeque sauce. For those weak of stomach, like me, the build your own might seem like a safer option.

Stuffed full of our dogs of choice, we headed over to Putnam Trail near the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s lower campus. The first thing we encountered was a tiny waterfall, known as “Little Niagara”. I have been to Niagara Falls, and I can vouch for the fact that it was ALMOST as cool. The coolest part, though, is that it’s right in your backyard! After climbing some trees and riverbanks, we journeyed to the next hidden trail.

The next path just so happens to be the Boyd Park Trail off of Main Street on the east side of Eau Claire. While walking along the flowering meadow and listening to the competing sounds of birds and crickets chirping, we noticed a dirt trail leading into the woods. The meadow was relaxing, but we were ready for an adventure, so we took a chance and delved deeper into the forest. This path meandered along the Eau Claire River. We kept walking and eventually came to a completely empty park. It was surreal to be the only people in the whole place. It was almost as if no one else knew about it, so I’m here to share with you my newfound secret. I soon found out this place is called Archer Park, perhaps where all the Katnisses in training practiced their archery back in the day. We just kept walking until we hit a golf course, which we later found out was the Eau Claire Country Club. Although there were a few Y’s in the road, we didn’t get lost on the way back. Success all around.

Follow the red brick road? The last path we hiked, was a short red brick road with a long story. While the shortest in length of the paths we hiked, East Side Hill had the longest timeline. Eau Claire’s East Side Hill, starting at the corner of South Dewey and Emery Street, was used as a shortcut to take cattle from downtown up to the top of the bluff and graze in the Forest Hill Cemetery in the 19th century. The cattle eventually stopped using the path, and the people followed by example. For years and years, this landmark was untouched and mostly unknown, and up until last year, it was covered by about 4 inches of mulch. A local Eagle Scout took on this path as his project and rounded up more than 60 volunteers to help with its restoration. What a touching story of a community effort to bring back some history of the town we live in.

I highly recommend going out and hiking one or all of these hidden gems. Put on your hiking shoes, grab some friends and choose your path.