View of the season’s spectacle from the top of Rib Mountain in Wausau, Wisconsin
View of the season’s spectacle from the top of Rib Mountain in Wausau, Wisconsin

Here Come the Reds, Oranges, and Yellows

Wisconsin offers many ways to see the changing colors. Here are three of the best right now—on consecutive days this weekend:

  1. Start your weekend on Friday with a relaxed view from the comfort of a train via the twilight excursion through scenic Baraboo Hills on a former branch line of the Chicago and North Western Railroad. The hour-long, 7-mile round trip ride includes dinner aboard a refurbished 1915 diesel-powered locomotive. Reservations required; tickets are $80.
    GO Mid-Continent Railway Museum, E8948 Museum Rd., North Freedom, 800-930-1385,
  2. For an up close view from the ground, head north to Montello, about 50 miles from North Freedom, on Saturday morning. From 10 a.m. until noon, a naturalist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services will lead a stroll through Marquette County’s 1,054-acre Fox River National Wildlife Refuge (usually not open to the public) to view fall flora and fauna. The hike begins in the parking lot of John Muir County Park and winds through sedge meadows, wetland habitats, and oak savannas.
    GO For more information, go to or call 608-297-9746.
  3. For a bird’s-eye view of the leaves, make Rib Mountain State Park in Wausau (about a two hours north of Montello) your Sunday destination. From 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 14, take a chair lift to the mountaintop in the park’s Granite Peak Ski Area for a panoramic stroll on the hiking trails there. Lift tickets are $8.
    GO Comet Sky Ride, Granite Peak Ski Area, 3605 N. Mountain Road, Wausau, 715-845-2846,

Where to stay: The Blue Door Inn (331 S. Main St., Alma, 507-313-2741, has suites and river views in a converted 19th century house on the banks of the Mississippi; rates range from $75 to $175 a night. Along the river in Alma’s downtown historic district, the Hotel de Ville (305 N. Main St., Alma, 612-203-8219, offers a suites and rooms in three restored turn-of-the-century buildings that date back to as early as 1867; rates start at $70 a night.

Where to dine: Pier 4 Café and Smokehouse (600 N. Main St., Alma, 608-685-4964, offers full breakfast and a roster of BBQ platters (ribs, brisket, pulled pork) and sandwiches for lunch (the meats are all rubbed with the restaurant’s own blend of spices). The Red Eye Brewing Company (612 Washington St., Wausau, 715-843-7334, serves its own line of microbrews, organic veggie burgers, and locally sourced pub food.


Photograph: Courtesy of Rib Mountain State Park