Hidden among the Wisconsin Northwoods, you can be treated to stunning escapes–  that is, if you look for them! Explore outdoor hidden gems near Eau Claire that you need to visit, and see the wonder that you may otherwise miss on your journey around the Eau Claire area!

Fall colors at Dells Mill in Augusta, WI

Dells Mill Museum

Dells Mill is a country store and museum for what was once a grain and flour mill in Augusta, WI. Located about 30 minutes east of Eau Claire, this historic location has become a popularly photographed scene, especially when the fall colors are at their peak. In the middle of October, it's pretty normal to see multiple photographers along the bridge snapping photos of the fall glory. And the photos always look like they belong on a puzzle! It's peaceful, charming, rustic, and utterly stunning in every season. Check out more things to do while on a day trip to Augusta here.

Buffalo Rapids Trail in Irvine Park

This new hiking trail in Chippewa Falls is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts in the Chippewa Valley! Buffalo Rapids Trail is only about 0.13 miles long but is a beautiful, relaxing walk along Duncan Creek. You can expect brief elevation changes throughout the hike and a mostly shaded trail through tall trees. You can get to this trail from the Erickson Park side of the bridge or the Bear Den bridge. On average, it takes hikers about 30 minutes to explore the Buffalo Rapids Trail making it a quick and easy place to get your legs moving. Maybe after a walk in Irvine Park, stop over at Leinie Lodge for a beer?

Two women looking at the view at the top of Mt. Simon

Mt. Simon

Race to the top of Mt. Simon for views bar beyond Eau Claire! This is another short hike that leads you through the woods, up rocks, and even along the river. This is another spot that shines when fall colors are at their peak or in the summer at sunset. Hike to the "Top of the World," or hang your hammock in the trees on your way up for a relaxing place swing alongside the river. There's much more to explore at Mt. Simon Park like a disc golf course, picnic spots, baseball fields, and a boat landing. 

Putnam Park

Putnam Park is a 230-acre Wisconsin State Natural Area part of UW-Eau Claire. The trails in this park wind through the woods of towering trees and are equally beautiful covered with snow, filled with orange, red, and yellow leaves, or in the spring and summer sunlight. Putnam Trail is a location on the Geau Outside mobile pass; check in here to work towards earning water bottles, stickers, and more!

Scenery at Big Falls County Park during the summer

Big Falls County Park

This hidden gem is tucked away between Eau Claire and Fall Creek, WI along the Eau Claire River. Big Falls County Park is made up of sandy beaches beside the rocky falls, hiking trails, picnic spots, and more. On a hot summer day, the area is filled with families and friend groups exploring the falls, climbing the rocks, playing beach games, and catching some sun. Big Falls County Park is located just down the road from Beaver Creek Reserve, a great place for people of all ages to adventure outside and learn about the nature that inhabits Eau Claire. 

Hickory Ridge

Hit the bike trails at Hickory Ridge in Bloomer, WI for a serene outdoor location you won't find anywhere else. Hickory Ridge has more than 15 miles of tracks for bikers who can ride quietly through the woods and near the ponds. This hidden gem is especially stunning in the fall as you're surrounded by beautiful colors and the sound of nature! The trails also welcome hikers and biking in the winter. After exploring the Hickory Ridge area, stop in at Bloomer Brewing Company to check off a stop on the Eau Claire Brew Pass!

A girl playing in the river in front of a bridge at the Dunnville State Wildlife Area

Dunnville State Wildlife Area

The Dunnville State Wildlife Area is another river hot spot in the summer near Menomonie, WI. This bridge and beach combo can be reached by driving down Dunnville Road or by hopping on the Red Cedar State Trail. On summer days, the shore is one big beach party with picnicking, games, and safe swimming. This hidden gem is about 30 minutes from Eau Claire by car, or you can make it a full day's experience by biking from Eau Claire on the Chippewa River State Trail to the Red Cedar State Trail. You don't want to skip out on this one because this is another location on the Geau Outside mobile pass!

Boardwalk Trail at Eau Claire Rod & Gun Park

This season, see for yourself the new trail and boardwalk connecting the Rod & Gun Park to Carson Park in Eau Claire! As if Rod & Gun Park could be more stunning, the new trails weaves through the woods and include boardwalks out to view Braun's Bay at Half Moon Lake. Hit Eau Claire's newest trail on foot, on bikes, or with electric scooter rentals from The Local Store this summer! This trail can be accessed on the south end of Rod & Gun Park.

A dad with his kid on his shoulders looking at the waterfall at Devil's Punchbowl Preserve

Devil's Punchbowl Preserve

Another gem in Menomonie, WI that's beautiful is Devil's Punchbowl Preserve. In the warmer months, walk down to the bottom of the bowl for a view of a waterfall amongst the green trees, or visit in the winter months when ice takes over the wall. Check into Devil's Punchbowl on the Geau Outside pass, and check out additional ways to explore Menomonie with breweries, restaurants, parks, and more!

Hoffman Hills Recreation Area

Hoffman Hills Recreation Area is located near Elk Mound, WI, and is another way to get an incredible view of the Chippewa Valley! The recreation area includes an observation tower to climb higher than the trees and get a view of the area. There are also trails available for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and more winter activities.

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