Eau Claire & The Great Outdoors
You know the phrase, “rain, snow, sleet, or shine”? Well, in Eau Claire, WI we get all four of those throughout the year. But, that doesn’t keep everyone from stepping outside. Eau Claire wouldn’t be the city it is without the draw of the great outdoors. Winter in Eau Claire signals cross country skiers to pull their skis out of the attic and as the months move along and the temperatures begin to rise, summer screams for people to slather on their sunscreen and drag their tubes into the Chippewa River. So, we guess we can say that the outdoors in Eau Claire are open rain, snow, sleet, or shine! Here are some of Eau Claire’s top outdoor activities. What adventure will you embark on in the great outdoors of Eau Claire this season?
Join us for a fun day outside at Carson Park! There is no shortage of things to do here. It all just comes down to what you’re in the mood for! If you’re searching for some peace and tranquility, you can try fishing from Braun’s Bay or Half Moon Lake. If you’re in need of a fun beach day, then Half Moon Lake has a beach for you to catch some rays. Maybe the kids are due for a day out of the house. Carson Park has trails of all sorts for the family to get in touch with nature. There’s even a skate park a short walk away for those who like to ride in style on wheels. If you’re in need of wheels or other outdoor equipment, check out Riverside Bike and Skate, Passion Board Shop, Erik’s Bike and Skate, or even UW-Eau Claire’s Environmental Adventure Center. The Chippewa Valley Museum is tucked away at Carson Park as well if you and the family want to learn more about the history of the Chippewa Valley! Before you leave, you must take a photo with the infamous Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues at Wisconsin Logging Camp, formerly Paul Bunyan Logging Camp. If you make it down to Carson Park during the fall when the air is crisp and the leaves are crunchy, you can catch high-school and UW-Eau Claire football games in action. To help us sum up all you can do at Carson Park, here’s your bucket list for your next trip!
Making a trip to Putnam Park? Make sure you say, “Go Blugolds!” while you’re here because the park is actually owned by UW-Eau Claire. You can typically find people and students taking hikes, going on runs, and riding their bikes on Putnam trail. Let’s join them! Putnam Park is also home to Putnam Rock which the university tour guides will tell you is known as the “kissing rock”. Need we say why? Let’s just say it is quite the romantic spot to watch a sunset over the Chippewa River with your special someone! If you’re looking for some more company, you may spot a few ducks here! Little Niagra, which flows into the Chippewa River, is a notorious spot for ducks to congregate on UW-Eau Claire’s campus. It’s just a short walk away from Putnam Rock and is surely a highlight of many on-campus students’ day!
What is River Prairie? Better yet, what is it not? River Prairie is everything! Only a short, three-mile drive from downtown Eau Claire, River Prairie Park stands right beside the Eau Claire River and is the right place to go when you want to get a taste of Altoona, WI. The park is home to three amphitheaters, a stream for kids to splash around in, and plenty of green space with measured out social distancing circles. You can sprawl out on the grass for a picnic or dine outside at the restaurants that outline the area of the park: Cowboy Jack’s, 44 North, and Za51.
Phoenix Park sits right at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers making it the place to be in Eau Claire. As the Chippewa River State Trail and the Old Abe State Trail begin here, not a day goes by without a runner or a biker passing through. Others escape the land and head straight for the water taking their tubes or kayaks into what the locals nicknamed the river, “The Chip”. Even bobbers poke out above the water while people fish along the river banks. It’s important to always practice common safety tips while out on or near the water. Make sure you prepare ahead of time by checking the water levels, wearing life jackets, applying sunscreen, and acting appropriately. We want the river to be a fun place for all! On a sunny Saturday, you’ll find the local farmers selling their fresh produce and flowers at the farmer’s market at the Phoenix Park Pavilion and dogs walking their humans. Even when snow completely smothers the ground, lights leave Phoenix Park in a magical glow during the holidays with strings of lights wrapping around tree branches and colors shining from the bridge. This park is a must-see for your outdoor adventures.
If staying down low doesn’t excite you, then maybe try going up high? Mt. Simon is actually one of the highest points in Eau Claire and is nicknamed as the “Top of The World”! That makes for a great hike up a hill that leads to an incredible view year-round of tree tops and the Chippewa River. During the summers, you can find adrenaline junkies jumping into the river from Mt. Simon with a swinging rope. If you’re not up for a climb, Mt. Simon Park lies right down below the hill. You’ll find more trails, a playground for kids to run around on, and several amenities for outdoor sports like volleyball, pickleball, and disc golf! Mt. Simon is a dream for all outdoor enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for the perfect place outdoors to just sit back and relax, then, Owen Park is it! Lined with trees but with plenty of green space, Owen Park is the ideal place in Eau Claire to tie up your portable hammock. If you bring along a book, your journal, and some of your favorite snacks, you’re bound to get some R and R here. But if you’re someone that is always on the go, Owen Park has access to the Chippewa River State Trail as well for whatever pace you may be going.
Perhaps Big Falls County Park is where you will embark on your next outdoor adventure in Eau Claire! You can do it all here: hike, fish, swim, and sunbathe! Big Falls got its name from the waterfalls that you can find here, just a short 20-minute drive from Eau Claire. During the summers, you can find people splashing around in the water and laying on the sandy beach, but autumn brings some unbeatable views. As the trees change, Big Falls is a great place to go and get a peek at Eau Claire’s fall foliage. Guess you’ll have to make a trip here during both seasons to get the best of both worlds! ;)
With only a short drive from the city of Eau Claire to Town of Union, you can get a whole new perspective on the natural beauty that surrounds Eau Claire County. The hiking trails at Town of Union Conservancy bring you up to a 150-foot bluff that overlooks the Lower Chippewa River. What a sight to see here! Year-round you can take in the beauty found at this location. During the winters, you can snowshoe up here and get a look at the blanket of snow that lays atop the trees. The conservancy is also a great place to go to do some bird watching!
For the movers and shakers that are active all year round, Pinehurst Park is the destination for you! This park is definitely for the snow bunnies out there. There’s a general skating rink along with a hockey rink for those who like to spend their time on the ice. Pinehurst Park also has some awesome terrain for snowboarding, hills groomed for sledding, and cross country skiing trails. Pinehurst is also a go-to park for mountain biking during the warmer seasons. Needless to say, Pinehurst Park will definitely get your adrenaline pumping!
Beaver Creek Reserve is a kid and parent favorite. It is where people of all ages can come to learn about nature and the habitats that surround Eau Claire. The reserve offers 9 miles of trails to step foot on including spaces for cross country skiing and snowshoeing! If you’re heading here during spring or summer, try out geocaching! If that isn’t on your bucket list of things to do, don’t fret. There are enough activities at Beaver Creek to last you a whole week!
Calling all the “sweater weather” fans and pumpkin spice latte addicts! Sounds like fall is your favorite season. What is fall without going to an apple orchard? Eau Claire is home to several unique orchards that 1) grow some tasty apples, 2) are perfect to snap a photo at for your next Insta post, and 3) have lots more to do than just pick apples. You can pet farm animals at Ferguson’s, or hop on a free wagon ride at Autumn Harvest Winery and Orchard. You are guaranteed to fall in love with it all (yes, pun certainly intended ;)). After getting your apple fix, make a trip over to Dells Mill out in Augusta, WI. Fun fact: it’s the most photographed place in Wisconsin!
Did you know that Eau Claire is home to the second-largest sculpture tour in the nation? That’s right; we have art lining our streets made by the most talented local and international artists that make the arts and culture scene in Eau Claire thrive. With over 50 sculptures between downtown Eau Claire and the Water Street District, you can make your own art crawl through the city 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Which one is your favorite?!