Eau Claire Fall Color Routes
The Chippewa Valley is the perfect place to visit to surround yourself in the colors of fall and experience all the seasonal activities you wait all year to do. Matter of fact, Travel Awaits named Eau Claire and our neighboring city, Chippewa Falls, as places for "the most scenic Wisconsin fall foliage road trip". The third week in October is typically the best time to view the fall colors in our neck of the woods. Before you start the engine to your car, take a look at the Fall Color Report to know when the exact peak time is. Locals are so grateful for the beautiful fall scenes that transform Eau Claire and we want you to experience it all at the best time too. To help guide your trip, we recommend the following routes and picturesque stops throughout our area.
HIGHWAY 37 TOWARD MONDOVI
Along the Way
Holiday Inn Express Eau Claire West is located right off Hwy 37 and the I-94 exit (#65) making it a convenient place to stay as you embark on your fall adventures.
If you're hungry for those classic Wisconsin supper club favorites, make a stop at 4 Mile Restaurant & Bar. Their fish fry will knock your socks off. If you're craving something a little more international, check out Shanghai Bistro located right off Hwy 37 on Craig Rd. They are a hip bistro that offers Chinese food, sushi, and several Japanese beers on tap.
While driving along Hwy 37 in Eau Claire, you'll pass by Silver Spring Foods, Inc. While this isn't a place to necessarily stop, it's cool for you to know that Eau Claire, WI is the largest grower and processor of horseradish in the WORLD! So next time you see a Silver Spring product on the shelves at your local grocery store, you'll know exactly where it came from!
Not too far from Hwy 37 as well is the UW-Eau Claire college campus. This school lays claim to being Wisconsin's most beautiful campus, so there is no doubt that this is a great area to explore in the fall. The newly renovated Garfield Avenue and the view of Eau Claire from the top of UW-Eau Claire's hill always have visitors talking!
HIGHWAY 85 TOWARD DURAND
Along the Way
After getting off Hwy 85, you'll need to get onto Hwy 37 to enter into Eau Claire. Not far from the intersection is Best Western Plus Eau Claire Conference Center - a great place to book a room as you continue to experience fall in Eau Claire.
While you're in Durand, make a trip over to Corral Bar & Riverside Grill for a meal. You'll be able to dine right along the Chippewa River and also get a little (or we should actually say big) piece of history. Their "Orton Room" has a 9-foot high by 55-feet long multi-sheet full-color paper advertisement that was used back in 1885 to promote the Great Anglo-American Circus. This is believed to be the only surviving billboard for the Great Anglo-America Circus and Menagerie making this piece of art and history extremely special.
Instead of exploring this fall color route by car, consider doing it by foot or bike! The Chippewa River State Trail that begins in Eau Claire goes all the way to Durand.
Toward the start of fall/end of summer, you can also find a sunflower field along this route! Babbette's Seeds of Hop is located right off Hwy 85 and has fields of sunflowers planted on both sides of the road. One field is located at S5875 Fuller Rd and the other is at W5725 State Rd. To learn more about this sunflower project and the people behind it, check out this blog: Babbette's Seeds of Hope: Fields of Gold.
HIGHWAY 93 TOWARD LA CROSSE
Along the Way
Sometimes long drives can be exhausting. Nothing a little coffee won't fix. Once you arrive to Eau Claire, make a stop at Kahvi Coffeehouse + Cafe located right off Hwy 93 and try their signature Fika Mocha.
Rather than being tired, you also could be just the opposite - ready to party! If that's the case, Infinity Beverages Winery and Distillery is located just down the road right off Hwy 93 as well. Here you can taste several different wines and signature cocktails too. Talk about a party!
Get your last few rounds of golf in before winter comes! Hickory Hills Golf Course is located right on Hwy 93 and is consistently voted as the best golf course in Eau Claire by locals each year.
For the ones out there with a green thumb, find some time to stop at Down to Earth Garden Center. Walking through their building and greenhouses is like exploring a mini jungle - you're bound to find a little plant pal to take home with you.
HIGHWAY 12 TOWARD AUGUSTA
Along the Way
If you're making the drive in the morning, park the car over at Altoona Family Restaurant for some breakfast/brunch! Their food and hospitality makes you feel like you never even left your home's kitchen.
If you're making the drive toward the later end of the day, consider having dinner at Connell's Club 12 in Fall Creek. This is one supper club that you cannot leave until you've ordered an Old Fashioned.
While we're on "supper clubs", we might as well throw in another typical Wisconsin stop... a brewery! Ombibulous Brewing Company is located right off Hwy 12 and offers cold, crisp beers along with a very "speakeasy" atmosphere that's worth experiencing.
HIGHWAY 68 & 64 TOWARD CORNELL
Along the Way
After getting on/off Hwy 178, you will be on Hwy 53. On the northern side of Eau Claire right off this road are Fairfield Inn & Suites and Residence Inn, both Marriot hotels and both of equal quality and service.
As you travel north/south on Hwy 53 before/after getting on Hwy 178, you'll pass by River Prairie Park in Altoona, WI. River Prairie is a unique business district that offers outdoor play space for kids (a super neat splash pad too!), insanely good restaurants that all offer outdoor seating, and trails that run alongside the Eau Claire River offering beautiful fall scenery. River Prairie is also home to the annual "Ginormous Pumpkin Festival". In 2021, the festival will take place on Saturday, September 25. We don't want to give too much away, but this is one of those events that will literally have you saying, "Oh my GOURD!".
A rustic road is a lightly traveled scenic highway that is beautifully landscaped. You can seek beautiful countryside and farmland on this route while you admire the fall colors.
1. "Rustic Road" in Chippewa County - County Hwy E between Chippewa Falls and Holcombe | Google Map
2. "Rustic Road" in Meridean, WI - County Hwy O off Highway 85 | Google Map
Other Picturesque Fall Stops in Eau Claire, WI
When it's time to stretch the legs and you feel like exploring by foot, there are several spots throughout Eau Claire and the surrounding areas that offer scenic views worth seeing during the fall. Plus, just driving by and looking through the window does not give the fall scenes found in the Chippewa Valley justice. While you make your way down these roads, pull over and grab your camera to capture Eau Claire transitioning into a whole new season of life.
Mt. Simon is nicknamed "The Top of the World" in Eau Claire because that's exactly how you feel after you've hiked to the top. Needless to say, the view from above the treetops gives you a clear look at all the yellows, oranges and reds that have consumed the leaves.
UW-Eau Claire prides itself on being known as Wisconsin's most beautiful campus. You can find pretty sights from several angles of campus. When you stand at the top of the hill on upper campus, it feels like you can see all of Eau Claire. Putnam Trail runs through the campus as well and the path is always turned into different shades of yellows and oranges in the fall. There's lots to fall in love with at UWEC (no pun intended).
Say, "Hello" to fall at River Prairie! Between the trail along the Eau Claire River that gets coated with leaves and the hanging lights throughout the park that dim the park when the days get shorter, you get the perfect little fall sanctuary. River Prairie is also home to the annual Ginormous Pumpkin Festival that gets people in that fall mood by late September. No doubts that you'll get your fall color fix here!
Osseo also has a few sights up its sleeve to see. The Buena Vista Scenic Overlook gives you the perfect window of Wisconsin's farmlands and rolling hills. You can even see the treetops of Trempealeau County at the horizon. This is a great place to come appreciate the four seasons the Midwest gets each year.
No one said that experiencing fall in Eau Claire can only be done by foot or by car. Bike works too! For the people that want to see the colors of fall while pedaling, the Chippewa River State Trail has 30 miles worth of fall foliage for you to gawk at. Plus, the Old Abe State Trail adds another 28 miles if you just can't be-LEAF what you see!
There is no view in Eau Claire quite like the one from the Town of Union Conservancy. With a little hike through the woods, you'll find yourself surrounded by warm-colored trees standing above the Chippewa River with leaves falling to the ground around you. Sit back on the bench and soak it all in; time goes by fast and before you know, the trees will be bare and winter will come knocking on our door.
A hike through Carson Park will give you those fall feels you've been searching for. Bundle up in your coziest boots, sweaters and scarves because the crisp fall air greets you here. The leaves and pine needles fall to the ground and the sun peaks in between tree branches leaving Carson Park looking like a scene from your favorite fall movie.