Let's Take a Day Trip to Copper Falls
Like most of you, I lead a pretty busy life. As my three girls get older, they continue to get involved in more activities. My wife’s job also keeps her busy working long hours and most weekends. When we get a weekend where the stars align to the point where we have no commitments, we plan a day trip.
This day trip happened to fall on a beautiful weekend in September. The sun was shining and the temperatures were in the mid 60’s. It was a perfect day to visit Copper Falls State Park near Mellon, Wisconsin.
According to the Wisconsin DNR website, Copper Falls State Park was created in 1929. With over 3000 acres, the ancient lava flows, deep gorges and spectacular waterfalls make this one of the state's most scenic parks.
One of the advantages of living in central Wisconsin is…being central. We are only three hours from our north and south boarders and about two and a half hours from our east and west boarders. This makes doing a day trip anywhere in the state so much easier. We packed some drinks, snacks and a picnic lunch and we were on our way north around 7:30am. The drive is a fairly easy one and depending on the direction you are coming from, you can take a few different ways. But no matter which way you take, you’ll end up in the small town of Mellen, Wisconsin. If you’re coming from the south, you’ll drive through town until you get to highway 169. You’ll stay on HWY 169 for just over a mile and half until you come to the entrance of Copper Falls State Park. You have to drive in a little way to get to the ranger station and if you need a pass, this is where you’ll get it. If you have a season pass, you can drive straight through. You’re going to want to continue to drive to the back part of the park. This is where a majority of the trails and falls are located.
On this day, we reached the park around 10:30am, we made a couple of bathroom stops along the way but still make good time. As we got out of the car, the fresh cool air of the Northwoods told you that fall had over taken summer. We grabbed our snacks, cameras and light jackets and headed for the trail head. One of the great things about hiking with my daughters is how excited the get seeing new things. The trail starts with a bridge that crossed over the Bad River. It’s really a great start because you get an early feel for the power of the rushing water. We continued our journey on the trail until we reached Copper Falls. I was amazed how powerful the water rushed down the falls and the white noise of the falls has such a soothing sound. We, of course, took a lot of pictures and some videos. My two oldest daughters use a couple of point and shoot cameras and I enjoy helping them learn the basics of photography. They get so excited taking pictures and showing me their shots, it’s the part of hiking I enjoy the most.
We continued down the trail following along side the Bad River until we got to Brownstone Falls. This is were the Tyler Forks River meets the Bad River. The Brownstone Falls I thought was even more impressive than the Copper Falls. The steep walls of rock surrounding the falls tell the story of how long these falls have been cutting away at them.
Continuing along the trail you cross another bridge over the Bad River looking towards Devil’s Gate and begin the hike back to Brownstone Falls. The second view of the Brownstone was much better than the first. There were better opportunities to get some great shots with a couple of well-placed observation decks.
The last bridge crosses over the Tyler Forks River and you make your way back to an alternative view of Copper Falls before heading back to the trail head.
I was really impressed with the well-maintained trails, bridges and look out decks. It made walking the trails very easy for my whole family. There were a few sections were climbing the trail are a little steep, but if you take your time, you’ll be fine. There is a concession stand where you purchase souvenirs and food. On this day, we packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed the beautiful day on one of the many picnic tables available to guest of Copper Falls.
After lunch, we did check out the observation tower, but I would suggest that you skip this. The trees around the tower have grown taller than the tower, obstructing your view. Don’t feel bad for not making the climb to the top.
Before we left for the day, we decided to check out the Red Granite falls. The trail was a bit longer than trials around Copper and Brookstone, but it allows pets where the other did not. The family didn’t enjoy this hike as much, but I think it was more due to how tired the girls were getting and it had warmed up to the point where the mosquitos where starting to come out. The falls were a little tougher to see, but we still enjoyed the journey as much as we could.
Copper Falls State Park is a great place to hike and spend the day. There is so much to see around the falls. The trails offer a relatively easy hike all the way around. The park is well maintained and is really what Wisconsin State parks are truly all about. Clean, scenic and an absolutely great way to spend a day. If you haven’t been to Copper Fall State Park, make sure you put it to the top of your list.