• Wis Outdoor Explorer

Council Grounds State Park Review

The geese were enjoying the sun as much as we were.

The spring season is definitely starting to move into Wisconsin. The birds are chirping and the days are getting warmer with temps we haven’t seen since last October. This is the time of year that spring fever sets in and all I want to do is get outside and do something. I don’t care what I’m doing, I just want to be outside so I can enjoy the incoming spring season.

When the weather is as nice as it has been, my family likes to get out and do some hiking. Honestly, hiking this time of year can be tough. With as much snow as we’ve had and the slowly melting snow, it can make hiking trails a mess. But when you have an itch to get out, you have to scratch it. To help us with that, our family decided to take a short trip to Merrill and visit our first State Park of the Year, Council Grounds State Park.

The blacktop driveway made for an easy hike on an early spring day.

Council Grounds State Park offers over 500 acres of beautifully wooded land along side the Wisconsin River. Located just west of Merrill, Council Grounds is located just off of highway 107. The park offers several miles of hiking trails, an expansive beach area and camping sites.

On this day, we were looking to just do a little hiking around the park. We knew that the hiking trails winding around inside the park were going to be pretty difficult to navigate and we were right. If we would have had some snowshoes we could have hiked inside the park, but we didn’t so we did the next best thing.

One of the great things, in my opinion, about Council Grounds is the park's 2.5-mile main road. It’s a popular choice for hikers and walkers during the winter months. It’s a blacktop road that winds through the park and along the Wisconsin River. If you don’t want to walk the road, you’ll still see some beautiful scenery as you drive through the park. The weather was so nice on this day that we parked the truck and started walking the road.

Our first stop was off the road and through some snow to the dam that separates Lake Alexander from the Wisconsin River. You can’t walk completely out on the dam, but you can walk onto it enough to get some good pictures of the lake and the river. There is a staircase that leads you down a little closer to the base of the dam and you’ll be able to see the water coming through a bit better.

We hopped back on the road and walked along the Wisconsin River stopping every so often to get some pictures and count the number of geese that have stopped for a rest on their way back up north, another good sign of spring. There was one spot that offered a staircase down to a beach area that we were able to take advantage of and enjoy getting closer to the water. The surface of the beach was still snow and ice covered but it made for a lot of fun for our girls to play on for a bit.

When we got back up the road, we finished our walk along the Wisconsin River and followed it back into the wooded park area. Our walk through the woods, lead us back to where we started at the truck. It wasn’t a difficult hike along the road, but it was perfect for a nice spring day hike. I would also say that from the looks of the trails running throughout the park, they probably wouldn’t be to challenging either.

That’s what makes Council Grounds State Park so special. It’s the perfect park for anyone looking to take a leisurely stroll with family, friends and pets. On this day, we met lots of different people with the same idea that we had. We were all just getting out and enjoying the beautiful spring day. We couldn’t get on any of the trails throughout the woods and I’m sure we’ll head back and give them a try. If you’re looking for a great place to take an early spring hike along the scenic Wisconsin River that I highly recommend Council Grounds.

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