Weekends are for exploring and this past weekend I not only commandeered but also third-wheeled my roommates hiking date with her boyfriend. It was a beautiful Sunday, and we were off to Willow River State Park in Hudson, Wisconsin. For anyone who lives in the Twin Cities area, it is the PERFECT day trip, especially for a Sunday, because it’s a short, 40 minute drive from Minneapolis and one is able to purchase beer, (for example, some New Glarus deliciousness) on a Sunday as soon as you cross the St. Croix.
*sigh* Hopefully Minnesota catches on and repeals the ban on liquor stores being open on Sunday’s, but for now, at least we know that if times are desperate, Wisconsin isn’t that far away. Although sometimes we all wished it was.
Just kidding! Ok enough praising/hating on Wisconsin, let’s talk about the hike.
Parking for a day is $10, which is cheap when split amongst members of the car. We drove right in and meandered around the entrance to the park to find a parking spot, near the now-drained lake basin and the lower falls dam.
We hiked about 2 miles before reaching the falls, and the trails are well-maintained and the signage is pretty obvious. The falls were super busy! At first I was hesitant to wade my way into a gushing waterfall, but huge families with tons of little kids seemed to be running through the water with no problems, so we kicked off our hiking shoes and jumped (or walked, rather) right into the waterfall.
After swimming around and cooling off, we ate some snacks that we had packed as a makeshift lunch and the proceeded on the hiking trail, which ended up being a loop just over 5 miles (total) back to the car. The trails are fairly mild, although some of the uphill and downhill treks got to be a bit exhausting, and I definitely could feel the burn in my legs the next day.
Willow River State Park is an awesome place to escape to for a day to get out of the city and enjoy nature without having to plan much. I would recommend bringing a towel, wearing a swimsuit underneath hiking clothes, wearing hiking boots or tennis shoes, bring some sunscreen as parts of the hike are not covered by trees and don’t forget some snacks. And on your way home, pick up some good ol’ Wisconsin cheese curds and Spotted Cow, since, you know, when in Rome…