Whether you’re up for a beautiful drive or you love leaf peeping, the fall is a great time for a scenic Wisconsin road trip. There are many itineraries you could create, but we chose one that goes across the state, starting in picturesque La Crosse in the west heading east to Fond du Lac right on scenic Lake Winnebago. You can linger awhile in some spots and make a short and lovely visit in others. The choice is yours based on your interests and time. We’ll give you the best of the best for the most scenic Wisconsin fall foliage road trip.
La Crosse is a beautiful city on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Visit cultural attractions like the Dahl Auto Museum or check out the Antique Center of La Crosse for hidden treasures. Riverside International Friendship Gardens features country-themed gardens of sister cities in China, Germany, France, Russia, Norway, and Ireland in appreciation of their diverse cultures. Just for fun, beer lovers will want to see the World’s Largest Six Pack, repainted and updated for a refresh in 2023.
When it comes to fall foliage views, La Crosse has many options. Grandad Bluff Park offers amazing views of the Mississippi River Valley including the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Enjoy the fall colors, take a short hike, or relax all day. Great River State Trail runs 24 miles along an abandoned railroad line. Here, you can walk or bike among the colors. Riverside Park has lots of events as well as beautiful fall leaves. For a preview, have a sneak peek at the La Crosse Rivercam, which shows you what’s happening in real time.
For a taste of international travel just about 90 minutes from La Crosse, head up to Stockholm, Wisconsin. It’s a tiny village in Pepin County on the picturesque shores of Lake Pepin. Immigrants from Sweden founded Stockholm and named it after the old country’s capital. Calling itself “a small village with a big heart,” Stockholm is filled with delightful surprises.
Stockholm Pie and General Store is legendary. It’s noted as having the best pie in Wisconsin according to TastingTable.com and was named one of 18 legendary pie shops in America by USA Today. Shoppers will appreciate the many boutiques with handmade items from personal accessories to Amish furniture, fashionable apparel, handcrafts, and art. Stop by Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace for authentic Scandinavian gifts.
Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will want to drive about six miles more to nearby Pepin, where the Little House on the Prairie author was born. A museum, a replica of the Little House in the Big Woods, a covered wagon, and related items fill the scene. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful fall foliage in the area. If you want something more, visit Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area to see gorgeous views from the natural lookout. If you’re lucky, you may see a peregrine falcon, bald eagle, or other raptors in the area.
Drive another 90 minutes or so, and you will be rewarded with a stop in Chippewa Falls. In this lovely city, a friendly smile is just one of the many local ingredients. There’s much to do and see here. Orchards, wineries and breweries, arts centers, and more provide hours of fun. If you want to spend the night, there are many accommodation options, from hotels and motels to camping, bed and breakfasts, and even cabins and cottages. Waterfront dining is great here, too. Loopy’s Grill and Saloon is a casual spot located right on the Chippewa River. Wissota High Shores Supper Club offers a classic supper club experience, including a Friday fish fry.
If you’re like us, you’ll enjoy taking a self-guided walking tour of Chippewa Falls’s downtown to see its historic homes and buildings. Chippewa Falls is loaded with parks, trails, and waterways. There are many ways to explore the outdoors, including hiking, biking, camping, fishing, boating, snow sports, and more. Of course, Chippewa County is a great place to see the fall colors and there are several different fall color routes you can take for the perfect leaf-peeping drive.
Some 15 minutes away, Eau Claire, which defines itself as an independent-minded university town, takes pride in its cultural renaissance. A creative and fiercely diverse city, Eau Claire offers amazing experiences for you to enjoy on a visit. Whether you’re into geocaching, antiquing, wine, beer, or spirits, art tours, or even a game of Kubb, Eau Claire has something for you. Food options are plentiful and include lots of great outdoor dining. Music and galleries, shopping, and other attractions make downtown Eau Claire hum.
And if you want to dive deep into the beautiful fall Wisconsin colors, Eau Claire provides great suggestions for fall color scenic driving routes as well as where to go for ideal scenic views. We like stretching our legs at times. If you do, too, you can walk, hike, or bike through the colors. While Eau Claire is known for its plentiful bridges, the Chippewa River Water Trail will thrill any canoe, kayak, or tubing enthusiast. Whether you go horseback riding, leaf peeping, walking, biking, kayaking, hiking, or just driving around, Eau Claire has plenty of ways to enjoy its fall colors. There are also fun tours in the area to take, like exploring the Leinenkugel brewery, discovering the unique Crystal Cave, a self-guided sculpture tour, various audio tours, and many others.
A lovely two-hour drive will get you into the wonderful town of Stevens Point. Beer aficionados will recognize the name from the brewery, which makes a popular local Midwestern brand. And while there are many adult beverages to enjoy in Stevens Point, there’s also a ton of other fun stuff to see and do. Shopping for antiques, craft items, and local art is lots of fun. If, like us, you’re a kid at heart, you’ll love Gepetto’s Workshop, which specializes in nostalgic and collectible toys. We love our farmers in Wisconsin, and Stevens Point Farmers Market is the longest-running market in Wisconsin and goes through October. Bakeries, restaurants, cafés, and bars in Stevens Point are filled with local flavors.
For a dose of Wisconsin fall colors, head to local favorite Green Circle Trail. It’s 27 miles of scenery that covers everything from rivers and forests to parks and wetlands. For bird lovers like us, their birding trail is fantastic. Schmeeckle Reserve may have a funny name, but it’s an absolute treasure. A conservancy on the UW-Stevens Point campus, this 280-acre wonderland has trails, boardwalks, and a 24-acre lake. Wildlife watching opportunities are plentiful, too. Whether you want to play on the land or the water, bring your camera because you’ll undoubtedly see something worth remembering.
With a name like Oshkosh, it has to be a fun city. So it’s no surprise that there are many delightful activities waiting for you when you head east for about two hours. Start with the Oshkosh Scavenger Hunt and check off the places you visit as you go. Aviation fans will love the EAA Aviation Museum with its impressive exhibits exploring all eras of flight. The beautiful and historic Paine Art Center and Gardens showcases an art, architecture, and botanical experience all in one gorgeous estate. You’ll find great food to eat and breweries, wineries, bars, and pubs to get your drink on. Shoppers will be in heaven with unique downtown shops, while bargain hunters will want to head straight for the Outlet Shoppes at Oshkosh, which has 40 name-brand stores. Satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious treats from Ardy and Eds Drive In or Leon’s Frozen Custard.
Work off those calories on one of the incredible trails. From Wiouwash Trail to the Oshkosh Riverwalk and Terrell’s Island Trail, enjoy the outdoors. Visit Asylum Point Lighthouse or Bray’s Point Lighthouse for great views and to experience fall color in Oshkosh. To spark your imagination, you can even print and enjoy some coloring pages from local artists right now.
Fond Du Lac
Finish off your scenic Wisconsin fall foliage road trip in a most picturesque Wisconsin town. Less than half an hour from Oshkosh, Fond du Lac rests beside Lake Winnebago, one of the largest inland lakes in the nation. Water activities like fishing, boating, stand-up paddleboarding, and windsurfing are popular here. Dining includes popular spots like The BackYard Grill and Bar and Gino’s Italian. Step back in time for a great breakfast or lunch with a side of nostalgia at The Diner. To enjoy ice cream in a scenic setting, stop by Kelley Country Creamery. We’re sure you’ll be glad you did.
Complete your scenic Wisconsin fall foliage road trip with a blast of beauty. The mother of all scenic routes, the beautiful Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive covers 115 miles and goes through six counties, including Fond du Lac County. It highlights fall colors and is loved by motorcyclists and drivers alike for its breathtaking scenery.
Wisconsin offers incredible beauty and scenic road trips in any season. But something about fall in Wisconsin with its spectacular colorful leaves makes a fall foliage road trip especially joyous for us. We hope it is for you, too.