Consider this your fair warning: as beautiful as an Up North summer is, this region is about to get impossibly beautiful with the arrival of autumn and the amazing colors the new season brings to our forests. And you're going to want to explore the Northwoods all you can before this magical season ends. Here are 17 unique ways you can get the most amazing views before the leaves begin to fall.
On the Ground
1. Go for a drive along one of the Rustic Roads.
Temperatures are just right for a road trip through northern Wisconsin, whether your preferred vehicle is a car, bicycle, or motorcycle. The Rustic Roads are lightly traveled routes that ensure a peaceful and picturesque journey. The State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation's website contains Rustic Road maps and information about historical markers, native plants, and hiking and biking trails you’ll pass along the way. If you have photographic evidence that you rode your motorcycle on at least 10 of Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads, you will be eligible to receive a Rustic Roads Motorcycle Tour patch, and if you travel on 25 or more, you’ll be eligible for a special state certificate.
2. Go geocaching.
Geocaching is the act of searching for hidden objects by coordinates listed on a website. The hidden geocache often contains a log sheet and an object or objects. Geocachers typically leave their names and a small item and take a small item as a token from the cache. This family-friendly activity turns your trip Up North into a treasure hunt and is a great way to explore beyond obvious tourist attractions. Check out geocaching.com to see where geocaches are hidden where you’re traveling—Up North and beyond!
3. Take a tour of Ashland's historical murals.
Take a trip through history in Ashland’s eight-block Main Street district for the 20th anniversary of the historic murals of Ashland by artists Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen. Enjoy a trolley tour on September 6, and stick around for the Mural Fest and Car Show on September 7. Your walking feet will be warmed up so you can enjoy a scenic walk on the rail trail along Chequamegon Bay between festivities.
4. Hop on your motorcycle and join the Tomahawk Fall Ride.
The Tomahawk Fall Ride is one of the largest motorcycle rallies in Wisconsin, drawing more than 40,000 riders to Tomahawk each September, as a major fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Will you join the rally? The event features live entertainment and showcases the newest motorcycles and accessories from Harley-Davidson, which has two manufacturing facilities in Tomahawk.
5. Go on an off-road adventure.
Whether you have your own ATV or UTV or rent one locally and head out for a self-guided trip or prefer to have an experienced tour guide by your side, you cannot go wrong! But for a unique experience, we recommend the Northwoods Zip Line's first-of-its-kind Argo tour over 16 miles of scenic trails on a 900-acre trophy deer farm.
6. Ride your ride out on the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail.
Winding through the Northern Highland American Legion Forest, along placid lakes, and beside rippled rivers, the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail System takes riders on 52 miles of paved trails, connecting St. Germain, Sayner, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, and Mercer. When you need a break from riding under the autumnal canopy, rest with your riding buddies at one of the trail's several scenic picnic areas.
7. Board the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad for a scenic ride through northwestern Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Trego has an unforgettable journey just waiting for you and your traveling companions. Trips range from a short, kid-friendly sightseeing train ride or pizza dinner ride to dinner or wine & cheese ride for the grown-ups or a special, overnight B&B-like stay on the train. You'll be mesmerized by the foliage and river views as your train swiftly chugs along the rails.
On the Water
8. Get your hands on a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, and take to one of the region's thousands of lakes.
It might be a little chilly to go swimming, but the weather’s perfect to paddle out on the water. In the post–Labor Day “locals’ summer” season of early September, you’ll enjoy the benefit of less motorized boat traffic on the waterways, to boot.
9. Book a pontoon cruise.
Minocqua Pontoon Cruises offer four scheduled daily cruises through October. These trips are great opportunities to relax, learn about the area, and view some incredible scenes. You'll have the chance to view eagles and loons and many historical boathouses on your cruise.
10. Take a tour of one of the region's cranberry marshes during harvest season.
Cranberry growers flood the marshes to facilitate the harvest, and densely packed expanses of vibrant, floating red berries are an unforgettable sight. Lake Nokomis Cranberries (Eagle River) offers tours from late September to mid-October. Walking is minimal on these tours because a comfortable bus brings you to each stop along the way.
11. View the wreckage of famous shipwrecks and the spectacular Pictured Rocks during a Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour.
Take a two-hour tour along the breathtaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Musining (U.P. Michigan) with Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours. In addition to having a close-up view of the historic East Channel Lighthouse and caves and cliffs of Grand Island, you'll learn about two famous shipwrecks on this fully narrated trip. Through the floor of the glass-bottom boat, you'll see remnants of the sunken ships on the bottom of the lake.
12. Schedule an angling trip with Dark Waters.
Would you like to have the fly fishing trip of a lifetime? Schedule a trip with Dark Waters Fly Shop's guide services for an unforgettable trip in the heart of the Upper Peninsula. The guide will cater to your experience level and favorite species. Half-day and full-day trips are available.
13. Experience a chair lift ride on Granite Peak.
Gaze upon the flame-hued foliage and Wausau's twinkling town lights during a relaxing chair lift ride over Granite Peak. Although the chair lift moves speedily during ski season, it is slowed way down during these scenic fall rides so everyone can safely and comfortably get on and off the chair lift.
14. Enjoy the stunning view from the highest point in Wisconsin.
Enjoy the sweeping view of the surrounding wilderness from the highest natural point in Wisconsin, Timm's Hill (1,951 feet above sea level), in Price County. Climb the wooden structure on Timm's Hill for an even more elevated perspective of the spectacular fall foliage. The site also connects to the 1,200-mile-long Ice Age Trail, which winds throughout the state of Wisconsin.
15. Make the ascent to the top Copper Peak for a Superior view.
Ascend to the top of Copper Peak, the only ski flying hill outside of Europe, for an exquisite view of Lake Superior and far beyond. On the Copper Peak Adventure Ride, visitors take an 800-foot chair lift ride to the hill's crest and then continue on an 18-story elevator ascent to the main observation deck. Feeling even more daring? From the observation deck, you have the option to walk an additional eight stories to the top starting gate. From the tippy top, you will have an awe-inspiring, unobstructed view of over 2,500 square miles; visibility can reach to Canada on a clear day! Plan your trip to take Copper Peak Adventure Ride until mid-October.
16. Fly through the brilliant canopy on a zip line tour.
In addition to their awesome Argo tours, Northwoods Zip Line, as their name suggests, also offers epic zip line adventures. The course has nine different zip lines and five adventure bridges. Fly for 1,000 feet, amidst the vibrant foliage and over a pristine lake in your adventure with Northwoods Zip Line.
17. Take an airplane tour of the Eagle River area.
With Scenic Air Tours, an experienced pilot with more than 28,000 hours of flying time will narrate your bird's eye view of Eagle River and the surrounding areas. Be sure to bring your camera for the unique photo opportunities of the world's largest chain of freshwater lakes and the glorious foliage and countryside you'll see on this 30-minute adventure.