Recreation Outdoors

Hiking? Biking? Camping? Here Are Our Readers’ Favorite Outdoor Spots

We asked about the best places to be active in the Chippewa Valley. Here’s what you said.

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

Big Falls County Park
Big Falls County Park, our readers’ pick for Best Beach.

When we create Volume One's annual Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll, we not only ask our readers (that’s you!) to vote for their favorite bands, bars, cheese curds but also their favorite bodies of water, hiking trails, and beaches. The Chippewa Valley is blessed with some awesome outdoor recreational areas and opportunities, and here’s what voters said were the best of them all.


BEST TRAIL FOR BIKING

1st Place: Chippewa River State Trail
2nd Place: Lowes Creek County Park
3rd Place: Red Cedar State Trail

Biking is not only a beloved pastime in the area, but something we were actually still able to do in the past year year! Readers voted the Chippewa River State Trail at the top, which is no surprise with its beautiful views of the Confluence, peaceful prairies, and sandstone bluffs. Lowes Creek County Park, located 1.5 miles south of Eau Claire, also provides a trout stream and Parcourse Fitness Course. Running 14.5 miles, the Red Cedar State Trail begins in Menomonie and runs through marshland bottoms, forests, and farmlands before connecting with the Chippewa River State Trail. Bike on! –Ashly Curtis


BEST TRAIL FOR HIKING

1st Place: Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Trail
2nd Place: Hoffman Hills State Rec. Area
3rd Place: Beaver Creek Reserve

So, you got sweet hiking boots for Christmas, or maybe you’ve had them forever. The Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Trail (13394 County Highway M, New Auburn) can get you and your boots out on trails to see kettle lakes, hummocks, and wildlife. There’s also the Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area (740th Street, Menomonie) where you can explore 700 acres of wetlands and prairie, or the 60-foot-high observation tower, which is currently closed for the winter. Don’t miss Beaver Creek Reserve (S1 County Highway K, Fall Creek) with more than 9 miles of trail traversing 400 acres of diverse habitat. –Will Seward


BEST BEACH

1st Place: Big Falls County Park
2nd Place: Ray’s Beach on Lake Wissota
3rd Place: Lake Wazee

Big Falls County Park (600 Big Falls Forest Road, Fall Creek) tops the list for best beach yet again! After a short walk through the trees, time seems to stand still. The beauty is so big, it’s hard to look away. Generations of Valley residents know it’s hard to beat Ray’s Beach on the south side of Lake Wissota (18124 County Highway X, Chippewa Falls), where fun memories can be made that last a lifetime. Lake Wazee (N6302 Brockway Road, Black River Falls) boasts wide-open sandy bottoms and water so blue you’d better not forget shades. –Cullen Ryan


BEST BODY OF WATER FOR RECREATION

1st Place: Lake Wissota
2nd Place: Chippewa River 
3rd Place: Lake Altoona

Volume One readers made the most of this challenging year, and they made it clear that the best place to make the best of the year was Lake Wissota, where you can cast a line for everything from panfish to sturgeon, or just stare at the horizon while enjoying warm days and nights. The Chippewa River comes in next, with 183 miles of kayaking and canoeing paradise, with slow-moving waters perfect for tubing with your best buds. Lake Altoona also made our list, with public access and warm sand ready for all. –Cullen Ryan


BEST CAMPGROUND

1st Place: Coon Fork County Park
2nd Place: O’Neil Creek Campground
3rd Place: Brunet Island State Park


If you spent a night under the stars in the past year, you ought to see the stars at these three local campgrounds. Coon Fork County Park in Augusta is where the nature trails and camping are unmatched; it’s the little slice of heaven we all needed this year. O’Neil Creek Campground is an RV owner’s dream, with a general store, mini golf, train rides, and fun for the whole family. Our readers also loved Brunet Island State Park, complete with picnic areas, playgrounds, swimming, hiking, and plenty of campsites. –Cullen Ryan