Where to Go This Weekend: Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago

Leafing it all behind
We’re getting into fall foliage territory, that last, colorful gasp before the annual monochrome of winter takes hold. Take a hike near the shores of Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago, and you may find the first fire-hued signs of leaf fall. You’ll definitely find a limestone cliff that (theoretically) you could follow all the way to Niagara Falls.

A winding road in High Cliff State Park
Before the fall: A road winds through the High Cliff State Park.
 

On the Ledge

Near tiny Sherwood, Wisconsin, you’ll find the 137,000 watery acres that make up Lake Winnebago. Above the eastern shores, “The Ledge” runs through High Cliff State Park. The formal name for the approximately 440-million-year-old limestone cliff: the Niagara escarpment, a natural monument that extends northeast from Wisconsin for 1,000 miles, dead-ending in Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls rests, so say geologists, on this epic swath of bedrock. Without it, the massive waterway simply wouldn’t be.

In High Cliff Park, you’ll find forests, caves, bats, ancient effigy mounds, and migratory birds. Drive the lower road of High Cliff State Park, and you’ll get a clear view of the ledge as it runs the length of the park. Park in the upper lot near the pavilion (and the 12-foot-tall statue of Winnebago Chief Red Bird) and you can pick up a 3.8-mile walking trail that runs for a mile along a wooded section atop the ledge before descending to the shoreline. For an easier walk, try the 1.5-mile Butterfly Pond Trail, which starts at Lower Cliff Road and circles the pond. The 1.3-mile Forest Management Trail takes walkers through woodlots in various stages of growth.

For an unobstructed bird’s-eye view, scale the upper park’s Lookout Tower where on a clear day, views to the north, west, and south stretch for 30 miles. As the leaves approach their peak colors, expect to see yellows and reds among the birch, sumac, and sugar maples.

GO High Cliff State Park, N7630 State Park Rd., Sherwood; 920-989-1106, www.dnr.state.wi.us.

Where to stay: The Franklin Street Inn (318 E. Franklin St., Appleton; 920-993-1711, franklinstreetinn.com) has four luxurious rooms, starting at $99 a night. The Radisson Paper Valley Hotel (333 W. College Ave., Appleton; 920-733-8000) is clean and spacious, with rates that start at $149 a night.

Where to eat: Park-adjacent dining is available at the High Cliff Restaurant (W5095 Golf Course Rd., Sherwood; 920-989-1050, highcliffrestaurant.com), where steaks, seafood, and golf course views are available. For Indian cuisine, try Sai Ram (253 W. Northland Ave., Appleton; 920-733-3003, sairamindiancuisine.net), where curry options abound for vegetarian and carnivores.

 

Photograph: Courtesy of High Cliff State Park

 

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