6 Stellar Spots to Stride and Ride
we asked local experts, and this is where they recommend
Lowes Creek County Park S. Lowes Creek Road, Eau Claire • Clearly a hiking/biking fan favorite, and it’s no wonder why. This 250-acre park located just south of Eau Claire offers multi-use trails, appealing to hikers and especially mountain bikers. Mountain bikers with varying levels of skill will revel in the double track (five miles, cross country ski trail) and the challenging, twisting single-track (over six miles). The single track will take riders to all four corners of the park, winding through pine tree forests, crossing creek beds, and cruising along ridge lines. For a fun workout besides the biking or hiking, check out the Parcourse workout stations along the path. Parking pass required.
Chippewa River State Trail Access points: Phoenix Park (downtown Eau Claire), Highway 85 (west of 37), Caryville (west of Eau Claire/Dunn County line), Meridean (north of Highway O), and Tarrant Park (NE end of Durand) • This 26-mile trail connects to the Red Cedar State Trail (via a 860 foot long trestle), and finishes in the town of Durand. Why not start in Carson Park and take in the sights? As you follow this former railroad corridor along the Chippewa River, expect to see great riverside views, river bottoms, prairies, sandstone bluffs, and more. If you bike, focus on the great section between Downsville and Dunnville.
Red Cedar State Trail Depot on 11th Ave (Hwy. 29), Menomonie • Scenic, beautiful, and quiet! Prepare for the fantastic scenery and abundant wildlife: woodpeckers, songbirds, turkey, grouse, pheasants, deer, and bald eagles are routinely seen! The trail shadows the steep walls of the Red Cedar Valley for 14 miles from Menomonie to its connection with the Chippewa River State Trail (awesomeness converges). Along the way, you’ll pass through Irvington, Downsville, and the Dunnville State Wildlife Area. Open year round.
Beaver Creek Reserve Highway K, Fall Creek • 877-2212 • www.beavercreekreserve.org • Beaver Creek encompasses 360 acres of diverse habitat including upland woods, river bottom forests, wetlands, and savannah areas. The Eau Claire River borders it, and two trout streams run through the property. Begin your leisurely stroll at the Wise Nature Center and be on the lookout for deer, bear, beaver, wild turkey, golden-winged warblers, lady slippers, or jack-in-the-pulpits. The self-guided, interpretive trails, butterfly garden, feeding stations, and boardwalks will entrance you as Mother Nature gives you a big hug. Trail fee for nonmembers and children.
Devil’s Punchbowl Paradise Valley Road, Menomonie • Devil’s Punch Bowl rocks! Literally. Hikers are drawn to the unique sandstone formations. The bowl was formed out of the Eau Claire Sandstone Formation that was part of sea deposits laid down about 500 million years ago and some trace fossils have been found in the rock. Spring water falls from the sandstone cliffs, and in winter that water freezes into amazingly long ice formations. Hikers descend a 41-foot wooden stairway into the Punch Bowl and walk around inside to find the scaled cliffs, stream, and vegetation. Those who like natural oddities will love this hidden wonder.
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area 921 Brickyard Road, Menomonie • Ten miles northeast of Menomonie, Hoffman Hills offers 707 acres of preserved and restored wooded hills, wetlands, and prairie traversed with and numerous hiking and cross-country ski trails. Bird watchers are bound to find their avian friends here and get a bird’s eye view of Dunn County from the 60-foot-high, wooden observation tower. You can lunch on edible nuts, mushrooms, and berries in one of three picnic areas. Sorry, no dogs allowed!