Wisconsin August 31, 2018
Your Kids Will Love This Easy 2-Mile Waterfall Hike Right Here In Wisconsin
Northern Wisconsin is truly chock full of magical waterfalls that you and your family would just love exploring. But one of the very best hikes in all of the state is in Copper Falls State Park. Located in Mellen, just about 25 miles south of Ashland, this gorgeous 3,000 acre state park is home to the Bad River as well as Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls and the Tyler Cascades. There’s a 1.7 mile hike called the Doughboys Nature Trail that lets you see all of them as well as the ancient lava that forms much of the landscape here.
Copper Falls State Park is home to a section of the Bad River and its tributary the Tylers Forks, which flow through a gorge and drop over several waterfalls.
Hiking here is amazing as it contains part of the North Country Trail. There are footbridges that take you up and over some of the most spectacular and interesting rock formations. The base of the gorges here is actually basalt - ancient lava from volcanoes that once covered the area. Copper was once mined in the area.
Though there are several trails to explore at Copper Falls State Park, the Doughboy Nature Trail is a 1.7-mile trail starts near the concession building and gives you a comprehensive look at the very best the park has to offer. The trail follows the Bad River and Tyler Forks and takes you by Copper and Brownstone falls and the cascades.
If your kids are up for it, there's also a 1-mile trail spur off of the Doughboy trail called CCC 692. A remnant of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the trail will take you to a 65-foot observation tower. Views from atop the tower include Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.
According to the DNR, "Ancient lava flows, deep gorges and spectacular waterfalls make Copper Falls one of Wisconsin's most scenic parks. Log buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s add to the park's charm. There is plenty to do; hiking, bicycling, picnicking, fishing and swimming."
Arguably the prettier of the two big falls here, Brownstone Falls is where the Tyler's Fork of the Bad River plunges into the Bad River Gorge. The waterfall is only 30 feet tall, but the deep gorge and the way the water has carved the rock here makes it seem bigger and even more impressive.
It can be more difficult to get a full view of Copper Falls and the path the water takes on this one is fully dependent on the height of the water as well as rainfall, time of year and snow melt. The rock here is craggy and worn and it's not difficult to squint a bit and imagine yourself in some far away or fantastical place. There's a foreboding to this area of the park, with the sharp edges, dark stone and crashing water.
This short hike does have some climbing, but the path is well-maintained and there are tons of interesting bridges and foot paths to discover.
Plus, the payoff is so worth it. You'll get to see two very different waterfalls, plus the Tyler's Fork cascades, showing the many different ways the landscape has shaped the river and vice versa.
If your family loves waterfalls, there are tons in the area. Red Granite Falls is also in Copper Falls State Park. Morgan Falls and Potato Falls are both within 20 miles. Superior Falls is about 40 miles away.
Address: 36664 Copper Falls Road, Mellen, WI 54546. A one-day admission fee or state parks sticker is required for admission.
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources page for Copper Falls State Park to get all the information you need for a visit.
If you’ve got little ones not yet quite ready for major hiking,
check out Cascade Falls, which is located right in the middle of Osceola, no hiking required!