October 10, 2004

Where to see fall foliage in the Madison area.

Here is some great foliage-viewing advice just sent to the Law School email list by a colleague who polled the law school staff for suggestions (and gave me permission to copy this):
Devil's Lake. When you first enter the park, and you look at the lake, the trail on the right side of the lake is actually easier to hike -- more family and "out of shape people" friendly. The trail on the left side of the lake is more challenging, so it depends on what level of work out you want.

On the way, check out Ski Hi Apple Orchard, just south of Baraboo on Ski Hi Road (turn right going north on Highway 12, shortly after the end of the 4-lanes). Grab a bag of apples and a couple caramel apples, then take Ski Hi Road over to Devil's Lake State Park.

Parfrey's Glen, on the way to Devil's Lake, if you take the Merrimac Ferry. From the north side of the ferry, take Bluff Rd. north to DL, turn left. The parking lot for Parfrey's Glen is 1-2 miles from the intersection on the right. It is marked and a State Park fee area. There is a 1 or 1.5 mile walk from the parking lot to the Glen. Very well maintained trail and beautiful.

Baraboo Bluffs

Indian Lake County Park, on Hwy 19 west of Hwy 12. [closeby and a popular choice]

Gibralter's Rock, near Lodi. The drive up through Lodi or along the Wisconsin River from Sauk City is nice in itself. Both towns have nice eating places. But the real star is the Rock. There is a parking place near the bottom, then a stiff climb up about 400'. There is a sheer 200'cliff to the south, looking back toward Madison. Especially beautiful at sunset. Gibralter's Rock is just south of the ferry. Take 113 towards Lodi, turn west of V, and then the second left on VA. The rest will be self-explanatory. You have to park and walk the last half mile or so to the top of Gibralter's Rock.

Blue Mounds, west of Mt. Horeb. Also the adjoining Brigham County Park The north facing slope of Brigham is predominantly maple and therefore colorful in the fall.

Kettle Moraine. There is a path you can walk completely around Lake Geneva, It's beautiful anytime, but especially in fall. Fewer tourists as well. If you walk it completely it's 28 miles. You could park at Fontana, Williams Bay or Lake Geneva, walk awhile and come back. I'd take 90 down to Hwy11, through Delavan and then head east on Hwy 50 to Lake Geneva. On 50 look for Snake Road, take that, it's a pretty winding road, the Wrigley's estate is on it (Green Gables), it will hook back up to 50, take that into Lake Geneva. Park near the library (on 50) and walk west towards Williams Bay, that section has the oldest, and I think, prettiest homes. Lots of trees and colors. Walk until you feel like turning around and come back and eat in Lake Geneva.

For a drive, Hwy J west of Hwy 78 (just north of Mt. Horeb).
UPDATED to fix some bad links. Blogger has been acting up today. I'm really glad to get this info because yesterday, on a foliage drive, I just used the old method of driving out into the country, getting lost, then trying to find my way home again. If people email me with more advice--e.g., where to eat in Lake Geneva--I'll update this post.

ADDED: When I hear "Indian Lake," I think of this. Don't you?

ANOTHER UPDATE: An emailer offers this:
There is an eatery called Popeye's (NOT to be confused with the chicken chain!) across the street from the pier in downtown Lake Geneva that has some pretty good eats. On the west shore, Chuck's in Fontana has both an upstairs formal dining area with decent food and a downstairs bar where the racing sailors hang out. (I understand that one night the America's Cup served as the tip jar. I missed that party, unfortunately.)

Something else for people headed that way to consider might be the Elegant Farmer outside Mukwonago. It's a country store with lots of the usual stuff but they sell these apple pies baked in a bag that are excellent.
UPDATE ADDED IN OCTOBER 2005: I came back to this post to figure out where to drive and figured other people would too, so I'm going to add an email that I just got:
I grew up in Lake Geneva and your recent post about the fall colors made me downright nostalgic. I agree that the walk between LG and Williams Bay is the best stretch. One of the spots on that walk, Swedish Covenant Church bible camp Covenant Harbor, was run by the father of one of my best friends growing up.

Anyway, to supplement your eatery list, I would add Scuttlebutts. I don't think much of Popeyes, feeling it to be a little too much of a factory for true Lake Geneva. Scuttlebutts, where my brother toiled in the kitchen for two summers some years ago, is just down the street from Popeyes and a much more pleasant experience. Every seat in the (admittedly) small house gets a view of the lake.
UPDATE ADDED IN JULY 2012: I fixed a lot of links that had gone bad, with help from an emailer.

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